Slideshow image

This blog post is Part 4 of a series entitled, "(re)born to Lead" by Pastor Jeffrey Dean Smith of Donelson First in Nashville, TN. 

Message Date: October 30, 2022

Click here to view this message!


In the book of Matthew, we find the greatest recorded sermon ever given by our Lord. We, churchgoers, call this The Sermon of the Mount. In this robust message, Jesus tackles a plethora of topics including humility, mercy, peace, murder, adultery, divorce, honesty, love, taking care of the poor, fasting, and prayer.  

Toward the end of this message, Jesus makes a drastic turn revealing that there will be many, many who will never spend eternity in heaven with His Father:

Matthew 7:13-14  

Jesus then briefly speaks of true and false prophets. And, then He gets right back to talking about those who will and will not spend eternity with Him:

Matthew 7:21-23  

It is clear Jesus wants to communicate: Many more humans will spend eternity away from God than with God.  

Let’s just pause here… listen to these 6 words again...6 words that should break us church!  

Matthew 7:14 - - “... and only a few find it.”  

Last week we spoke of this very thing – the brutal reality of what hell will be. And so when Jesus communicates that many more humans will spend eternity away from God than with God, I hope that this stirs within you a deeper desire, and of much greater importance, a heavy burden, to be a (re)born leader who leads others to eternity with God. After making this eerie statement of those who will perish in hell, did Jesus then tell us as (re)born leaders to change our message & beliefs in order to appease the new ways of this broken world? For instance, did Jesus then say: “When Christianity becomes unpopular, only preach on the parts of scripture that are easily digestible and make everyone feel good. Skip the rest.”  

Did Jesus then say: “Since people will want Christianity and God to be more appealing, move the markers – be more inclusive and accept any lifestyle that makes people feel accepted.”

Or did Jesus then say: “As the world moves forward, let emotion lead the way as a point of reference for all that is good and acceptable rather than the truths I have spoken, and my Father’s Word I will leave with you.”  

Did Jesus also say: “Don’t be too vocal and loud when sharing your faith about me because I want you to be inclusive so as not to offend anyone.”  

Did Jesus say: “One more My follower, be sure to remain silent in the face of political and moral decline because, as Christians, it is better to be seen as nice and non-judgmental.”  

Is this actually anything close to what Jesus said? No, he concluded this Sermon by stating:

Matthew 7:24-29  

Jesus states what will happen – many people will die & spend eternity separated in hell.  

But make note: Though this is horrific, and though this is THE GREATEST tragedy of humanity, Jesus DOES NOT then conclude that our response as Christians should be to change what we believe nor how we live. Instead, in verse 24, he essentially says, “Put to practice what I have told you to do!”  

Do you notice the response of the crowd? They are amazed! Why?  

Because of the “authority” by which Jesus leads!  

Again, listen to the response of those listening to Jesus on this day:

Matthew 7:28-29  

Authority (Greek) = to lead with conviction or persuasion  

This is the same Greek word that would be used to describe a lawyer who is delivering closing arguments before a judge or jury - - leading in the room with conviction or persuasion. Such a lawyer knows that there is a client he is representing who is in need of his “leading with conviction and persuasion.” Imagine this lawyer in the courtroom. After his counterpart delivers remarks to defend their side, this lawyer realizes, “If I say nothing, my client loses.” This lawyer realizes: “I must speak! I do not have the luxury of remaining silent. In this moment, I MUST LEAD, and I must do so with CONVICTION AND PERSUASION!”

As a (re)born Christian, I cannot keep silent. I cannot live passively. I do not have such a luxury. Because if I say nothing, I am actually saying a lot. My silence says that Christ is not worth defending.  

Here’s a critical question for us that will shape the rest of this series and the content from which I will teach: 

Why are we not having a greater impact on culture as Christians?

The truth: We are not leading like Christians. Not true, New Testament Christians.  

How do you define a NT Christian?’s both personal and impactful.

New Testament Christian = a (re)born leader embracing the process of complete surrender for continuous impact.  

There was a personal process these leaders allowed that transformed them into people who lived the unthinkable life! Yes...unthinkable! These men knew they would eventually die for their allegiance to Jesus. After all, they watched Him die! They knew what was to come. Yet, after the resurrection of the Savior, they each embraced a life of complete surrender for continuous impact.  

Think of Peter running for his life when the Lord was on trial. But, from the time of the resurrection of Jesus Christ forward, he embraced a fearless resolve to never look back with regret and to never look ahead in fear. Peter truly became the rock upon which the NT church was built.  

Think of Saul arresting and killing Christians. After embracing the process of complete surrender that began on the road to Damascus, Saul became Paul and as he became a (re)born leader, he wrote half of the New Testament letters and changed the world.  

Both Peter and Paul became fearless orators for the Lord. The two died as martyrs during the persecution of Christians under emperor Nero. It is believed that Paul was beheaded, and Peter was crucified, upside down, at his request.  

Andrew went to the “land of the man eaters” which is most likely what is now the Soviet Union. He was the first to bring the gospel to their land. Others most likely would not go because this was known as a land where foreigners were captured, killed, and eaten - - cannibalism! Andrew also preached in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, and Greece, even though it was illegal as Christians to do so. It is believed this is where he was crucified. Thomas, the one who once doubted Jesus had been resurrected, would travel as far as India to lead a country toward the saving message of Jesus. He fearlessly led as an outspoken follower of Christ. At his death, it is said that the spears of 4 soldiers were driven through his body.  

I could go on and on about these New Testament (re)born leaders who led with bravery and a never-give-in mentality!   

Christians of the New Testament were not concerned with appeasing others. Christians of the New Testament were not concerned with statistics, surveys, or keeping people in seats. They were concerned with proclaiming “Jesus saves” and, the brutal reality that unless one receives Jesus as Savior, that person won’t inherit the kingdom of God.  

This is exactly what Jesus was saying at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. 

Our enemy wants us to believe that as the world changes, we should change. Our enemy wants us to believe that as the moral compass over right and wrong changes, that we as Christians should also change. This is a lie.  

Christians of the New Testament never changed for the sake of culture. They never compromised what they believed nor how they led to save face, to make friends, to get votes, and to score followers. These leaders sacrificed everything, walked away from everything, and knew in the end they would lose everything and eventually die for it. And they did so willingly!  

This is the mark of a (re)born leader – one who chooses to live as did the New Testament Christians.  

This is how one of the greatest New Testament leaders, Paul, could write: I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:20-21  

It goes without saying these New Testament leaders impacted the world immensely!  

So, why...why are we not having the same impact today in the world as did these early Christians? I dare say most of us do not go through the day asking, “What can I do today to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ?” I dare say most of us do not go through the day by asking, “With whom can I share the love of Jesus with this day?” I dare say most of us do not go through the day by asking, “How can I be a (re)born leader today that leads others to be the very best, to do the very best, and to live as a New Testament matter the cost?”   

Am I living as a New Testament Christian? Am I leading as a New Testament Christian?  

How do you answer these 2 questions? Here’s what I believe:

Every Christ-follower can live + lead as a New Testament Christian. Not every Christ-follower chooses to live + lead as a New Testament Christian. If I have been (re)born, I have the anointing of God within me to lead as a New Testament leader.

New Testament leaders are what we need from the Church. New Testament leaders are in short supply. A google search of the word “leader” populates a result of 5,340,000,000 options.  

The world has always been in search of great leaders. So too the church.  

Throughout the Bible, leaders were sought:

1 Samuel 13:14: But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command. 

Jeremiah 5:1: Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.  

Ezekiel 22:30: I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.

I wholeheartedly believe these 2 realities: 

The Church will be most influential when God’s people choose to be strong New Testament leaders. Not passive. Not silent. Not asleep. The Church will forfeit her influence without such leadership.

We are going to spend the next few weeks talking through specific attributes of a (re)born New Testament leader.  

Earlier this week, I began accumulating a list of attributes that reflect Godly leadership. I want to begin walking you through this list with 2 words today. (The first 2 words on this list just might be the hardest 2! I will spend the majority of our time today on word #1)

A (re)born New Testament leader:  

1. Surrenders  

Surrender is one of those words that we hear of often in church, but I’m not so sure we consider the full weight of the responsibility associated with such.  

I begin with this word because I actually believe it can be the hardest attribute for the Christian leader to apply to his/her life.  

Solomon penned in Proverbs 23:26: My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways.  

Give (Hebrew) = surrender  

I wonder how many here can say that you have allowed your eyes to delight in ways that are less than honoring to God?  

I find it interesting that Solomon, who we believe penned these words, did not say, “give me, or surrender to me, your eyes.” Even though man’s eyes can look to things or people of this world for delight, the focus of the surrender here is NOT on his eyes.  

Instead, it is on what? - - The HEART of a man.  

This Proverb is a reminder to us that it is the heart of man that is in most need of “surrendering.”  

And once this happens, such a surrender will then allow for one’s heart to delight in the ways of the Lord...even at the risk of losing everything...including one’s life for the sake of Christ!  

Jesus Himself, the greatest leader to have ever led, said these truly difficult words which are recorded in the book of John:  

He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30  

I know in my life the things that I want, I often strive to attain. I want to succeed at work, so I’ll work hard. I want to stay in shape, so I run. (Even though my knees don’t especially appreciate this choice.) I want to be a good parent, so I spend time with my daughters. I want my fescue grass to be lush and green, so I feed it and prune weeds, and water it. We as humans are programmed to do the things we want to do to get what we want in life, while at the same time, we too are programmed to not do the things we don’t want to do when we know the end result keeps us from fulfilling our desires, which, at times, if we are being fully honest, can be selfish and lustful.  

As fallen humans, this is our natural inclination.  

Think about it - - no one really wants to say “No” to what feels good or to what appears to offer an endgame of momentary satisfaction.  

For example, when facing arrogance, no one really wants to respond with humility, but this is exactly what Scripture says:  

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

When having been mistreated, mischaracterized, or improperly labeled, one’s natural response is not to turn the other cheek, is it? But again, this is exactly what Scripture says:

Matthew 5:38 reads: You have heard that it was said, Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  

A rich young ruler found himself facing a dilemma, thus choosing to visit Jesus in conversation. He asked Him, “What must I do to get eternal life?” Matthew 19:16-22  

How sad. This very rich man could not make the hard, very hard, choice to leave behind the things important to him and to surrender what was necessary to be a follower of Jesus.  

You see...surrender is hard. Really hard. And I think on some level, it is something with which we all can struggle.  

Leading as a (re)born leader begins with my willingness to surrender.        

Remember the definition of a New Testament Christian:  

New Testament Christian = a (re)born leader embracing the process of complete surrender for continuous impact.

One cannot truly influence having not first surrendered! Jesus was able to have a life of authentic influence as the world’s greatest leader because He was fully surrendered to the will of the Father. This is why, before fearlessly enduring the Cross, He could pray:  

Abba Father, he said, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will. Mark 14:36  

Back to this story of the rich man for a moment: Do you notice what Jesus tells the rich man to do? He tells him to go and to sell all his possessions. But it doesn’t end there.  

He then tells him to go and give his money to the poor.  

Jesus proves to us in this one story that: The obedient side of surrender for the (re)born leader always leads to impact. Had the rich man chosen to surrender that which he held closely, the end result of his choice to obediently surrender would have impacted the poor in his community!  

Again, the result of one choosing to surrender is impact.

surrender = impact   

 On a more personal & intimate level, I want to ask you to ask yourself:

What shall I surrender in order to be the (re)born New Testament leader God desires?  

If you pray, truly pray and ask, God will reveal this answer to you.  

And, then, secondly, God will invoke within you the ability, like Jesus, to be fully:    

2. Loyal  

A (re)born New Testament leader is loyal.  

At customers were asked to rate their loyalty to their favorite brands.  

The Top 10 brands with whom customers claim allegiance: ( -2022-10)

10. Lowes

9. Nike

8. Coca-Cola

7. Mcdonald's

6. Costco

5. Kroger

4. Apple

3. Target

2. Amazon

1. Wal Mart  

When answering this question, “Why are you loyal to these brands?” Any idea what word was chosen more than “price?”

Overwhelmingly, customers responded with one word: Trust.  

I asked myself this week this question: To what or to whom am I loyal?

I believe that I am loyal to: Amy. The girls. My family. This church. My friends.

Interestingly, look at what Jesus says about total loyalty to Him:      

Luke 14:26: If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters - yes, even their own life - such a person cannot be my disciple.  

In order to lead like a New Testament leader, I must be willing to give up everything for Jesus. Loyalty to Jesus requires a commitment and faithfulness that proclaims, “Jesus first!” even above my family.  

“Jeffrey, you are saying that, when faced with the decision of loyalty to Jesus or loyalty to my wife, I must choose Jesus? Jeffrey, you are saying that, when faced with the decision of loyalty to Jesus or loyalty to my children, I must choose Jesus? Jeffrey, you are saying that, when faced with the decision of loyalty to Jesus or loyalty to my family, I must choose Jesus?”

No! I am not saying this. But Jesus said this!

It is in this sense that we are “hating” a father, mother, spouse, child, and the entirety of our family as we draw a line of allegiance to Jesus. Following the statement that we must “hate” our father and mother, Jesus continues by relaying two stories:  

Luke 14:28-33

Obviously, neither the man building the home nor the king going to war first took the time to count the cost before making the commitment. Neither understood the magnitude of such decisions.  

Such illustrations help cement Jesus’s difficult statement about hating one's mother and father: 

True New Testament leadership requires my complete loyalty. Such loyalty demands my full consideration. Such loyalty is costly.  

And I asked you to ask yourself an important question as it relates to the first word: surrender.  

I want to do the same here with the word: loyal.  

How can I be more loyal in my commitment to be the (re)born New Testament leader God desires?     


Jeffrey Dean Smith is a husband, father to Bailey & Brynnan, author, and the Senior Pastor at Donelson First in Nashville, TN. If you are in Music City, meet Jeffrey and enjoy iced tea on the front lawn each Sunday at 10:30a.