As I prepare to teach my staff tomorrow on the subject of leadership, I sit here thinking about the problem that all humanity faces, our slavery to our sin nature, which we inherit from our parents. Do you understand how the cycle of sin works? Are you still stuck in that cycle? Do you know how to lead people out of that cycle?
All of mankind is born into this cycle of sin because of original sin. We all inherit a sin nature from our parents. Sin is in us and it begins to manifest itself from an early age. I have written this before but I believe that it is worth writing again. We see inherited sin in children through the fact that we do not have to teach them to lie, steal, be selfish, harm others etc. Instead, as parents, we have to teach them not to do these things.
This week, as a staff, we are covering the topic of leadership by looking at the book of Judges. The cycle of sin is clearly shown in Judges and God uses leaders to teach people how to break the cycle of sin.
I. The cycle of sin
In Judges 3, we see a clear picture of the cycle of sin in the lives of the people. There had been a period of strong leadership in Israel, Moses, Joshua and Caleb, yet that period was over. There was no real leader to take the torch. As a result, everyone did what was right in his own eyes and chaos reigned. The cycle of sin started and continued from one generation to the next. Here is a little picture of what society was like. In Judges 17-20, here is a list of the sins prevalent in society, practiced openly.
The nation of Israel was enslaved to idolatry, greed, aggression, and sexual immorality.. The priests are up for hire. They no longer lead people into a personal relationship with God. In fact, the priests are cohabitating and the parents of the children who are cohabitating do not say anything to their kids about it. Violence is rampant. Murder is second nature. Homosexuality is promoted and practiced openly. This ultimately leads the people to civil war, fighting against each other instead of fighting against their enemies.
Now, do we see any connections today?
- Relativism is in style today (everyone does what is right in his own eyes)
- The leadership is up for hire
- Idolatry is rampant
- Sexual immoralityis accepted
- Violence is everywhere from video games to classrooms
- Life is cheap (abortion)
- Murder is second nature (we rename it but it is still murder)
The cycle of sin is alive and well today, passing down from one generation to the next. How do we break the cycle of sin?
II. Breaking sin’s cycle
God has promised us in His Word that He has given us all that we need for life and godliness, in His Word. This is where we need to turn if we want to learn how to break the cycle of sin in our daily lives as well as in our societies.
In the Gospel of Matthew chapter one, we learn the following:
21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Part of the reason that Jesus came to this earth was to be crucified to pay the price for our sins, to be buried, and to resurrect in order to set us free from sin’s power over us, from sin’s death grip on our lives. The cycle of sin is broken by Christ via His resurrection.
Jesus also teaches the way that He keeps us free from sin’s grip. In John 8:30-36, we find the following discussion between Jesus and a group Jews, some believers and some nonbelievers. According to John 8, how are we set free and how do we stay free?
- Believe in Jesus Christ
- Be a disciple of Jesus Christ
- Continue in the Word of God
- Know the Truth of the Word
- Live according to the Truth of the Word
Jesus is the One who sets us free from sin’s deadly cycle and His Word keeps us free. Have you been set free by Christ? Are you following Christ via His Word so that you can stay free? Why is it important that I stay in the Word in order to stay free? The answer is summed up in one word, “idols”. An idol is anything good or bad that takes God’s place in your life. Anything that takes your focus off of your relationship with God. An idol can be a bad habit. It can also be a good habit. It could be a hobby. It could also be something noble, like your family. If any of these things distract you from following Christ day by day then they become an idol. In Exodus 34:11-16, God tells His people that in order to follow Him fully, they must remove all of the idols from their lives. In the New Testament, John speaks of guarding ourselves from idols and idolatry. In his first epistle, John teaches about knowing God, loving Him, and obeying Him. The very last verse of his epistle teaches to guard ourselves from idols. Upon first glance, it seems like John is introducing a random, new subject. But, upon further thought, it is clear that the thing that is going to keep you from knowing God, loving Him, and obeying Him is an idol. If you stay connected to Christ through His Word, He will reveal the idols in your life and keep you from taking on more. How does this tie in with leadership?
III. Leaders help break sin’s cycle
Leaders do not break the cycle of sin but since they have had the cycle of sin broken in their own lives, they lead others to the source, to God who is able to break the cycle and keep us free. If we turn back to Judges 3, we see that God raises up leaders to lead the people to freedom. There are three leaders mentioned in this text whom God uses to set the people free. We have much to learn from them about leadership. The main thing is, a leader must have already experienced freedom in Christ so that he can lead others to the source of freedom. He is an example of living in freedom as well as teaching others the path to freedom.
- Othniel – He was mentored by a great leader. He watched his mentor who was courageous as he walked with the Lord and served his people. When there was a need, the people had fallen into the cycle of sin, he stepped up and lead them to freedom. God called him and he immediately answered the call. He led from the front, motivating the people to go with him to victory and freedom.
- Ehud – This leader had a physical deformity yet he did not let that stop him from leading the people to freedom. He is mentioned as being a left-handed man but the reason that he is left-handed is because he did not have the use of his right hand. Leadership does not depend on the abilities of the leader. Leadership depends on the willingness of the leader to walk with God in obedience. A good leader studies the problem that is before him, makes a plan to overcome the problem, and works according to that plan. He take initiative and is brave and courageous. He is an example and he rallies the people to action.
- Shamgar – He was called by God during a very difficult time. All the people around him were afraid but he was not afraid. He knew his calling and was ready to obey God. There were no other leaders who were willing to step up. He overcame the fear that everyone faced. He was also innovative, using whatever he had at his disposal to lead the people to victory. He was not hindered by lack of resources. He did not even have weapons to fight the enemies so he used the oxgoad as a weapon.
God is looking for people who want to walk with Him so that He can manifest Himself in them and through them, equipping them to lead the people around them to victory over sin’s deadly cycle.