Sun, Nov 11, 2001


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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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MATTHEW 23:1-12

Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 23 as we look at what true spiritual leadership is not to be and what true spiritual leadership is to be. And as you are turning there, listen to how leaders, how servants can affect people’s lives, not only in a positive manner, but also negatively as you will see.

You should not take a position of leadership in the church unless you are prepared to be honest, pure, and loving in your lifestyle. You see, leadership is a privilege, and with that privilege comes responsibility. God holds teachers of His truth doubly responsible because we who lead are in a position where we can either draw people to Christ or drive them away from Him.

This is vividly illustrated for us in the life of the famous author Mark Twain. You see, church leaders were largely to blame for his becoming hostile to the Bible and the Christian faith. As Mark Twain grew up, he knew elders and deacons who owned slaves and abused them. He heard men using foul language and saw them practice dishonesty during the week after speaking piously in church on Sunday. He listened to ministers use the bible to justify slavery. Although he saw genuine love for the Lord Jesus in some people, including his mother and his wife, he was so disturbed by the bad teaching and poor example of church leaders that he became bitter toward the things of God.

It truly is a privilege to be a pastor, a elder, a deacon, a Sunday School teacher, a usher, a Bible club leader or whatever capacity you are serving in the body of Christ. But it is also a awesome responsibility. Let’s make sure we attract people to the Savior rather than turn them away.

You see, the religious leaders of Jesus day not only rejected the Messiah, they were also encouraging others to do the same, to follow them. And in Matthew chapter 23 Jesus is going to rebuke these religious leaders for their actions and He will give a series of 8 woe’s or judgments upon them. But before He does that, He speaks about their false leadership and then what true leadership is all about. So with that said, let’s read through our text this morning beginning in verse 1 of Matthew chapter 23 and then we will break these verses down and see what the Lord has in store for us, lessons we can apply to our own lives.

MATTHEW 23:1-12

When we picture Jesus many times, we see Him as this meek, gentile, kind of a Casper milk toast man. But the reality is He spoke forth the truth and at times it was harsh, it did cut right to the heart of the matter. He did not hold back, He did not pull any punches, but just spoke the truth. And for these religious leaders, they heard the truth and rejected the truth, and Jesus is now condemning them for their hypocrisy and will ultimately condemn them to Hell in the latter part of this chapter for rejecting the Messiah!

And please understand that these lessons, these principles are not just for leaders, but I truly believe we can all apply them to our spiritual walk. In fact, we are all servants, and thus, these do all apply to us. You see, I believe the key is as simple as this, "There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit." (Emerson). But the reality today is just the opposite. People want that attention, that glory, they want those titles and-so-on. And as we are going to see in our study this morning, these religious leaders wanted all the attention, all the glory, all the titles. And we will see Jesus come against their actions, and for those who are heading down that path today, He is coming against what you are doing with the hope that you will get back on track and see what true spiritual leadership is all about. So with that said, let’s begin to break these verses down and see what the Lord has for us this morning.


As the common people looked at these Scribes and Pharisees they saw holy men of God. They felt if anyone would make it into heaven it would be a Scribe and a Pharisee. But as Jesus looked upon these religious leaders He saw their heart. You see, this verse can be translated, "[they] have seated themselves in Moses’ seat."

Thus, what we are seeing here is false spiritual leadership as these religious leaders placed themselves into these seats, these positions, and not God. They added what they wanted to God’s Word and yet they had no authority to do that. And how many times do Christians do the same thing by telling people what they can and can’t wear. What they can and can’t watch. What they can and can’t listen to, and the list goes on. They have placed themselves in a seat of authority over others, playing the Holy Spirit, and Jesus did not approve of it back then, and He does not approve of it today!

You see, these things are not done in love, they are not done according to the Word of God, and the reality is, as I have said, they have placed themselves in this position, this seat, and God has not. This is a false spiritual authority that they have claimed for themselves and it is not of God!

And folks, it does not end there. You see, there are many things that are born out of false spiritual leadership. I don’t want to call these things fruit, because they are not of God, but it surely is a work of the flesh as you will see.


Notice what is taking place here. They were teaching the Mosaic Law, God’s Word, and Jesus is saying that is good, you need to listen and obey God’s Word. You see, that was not the problem. The problem arose when these religious leaders refused to do it themselves. They lack integrity. They talked the talk but did not walk the walk, just the opposite of what God wants. Your walk needs to match your talk! It is as James says, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22.

Again, we as Christians must be careful in this area. If we take on false spiritual leadership, one of the things that is born out of this self appointed authority is a lack of integrity. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

Several years ago I had a group of people come against me because I like a variety of Christian music, from contemporary praise to Christian Rock. In fact, some have left the church because of this issue. Now you can like or dislike any kind of music, that is not the problem. The problem comes when they make this into a Law, "Thou shall not listen to Christian Rock music!" That is what it boiled down to, and as you can tell, I did not agree with that, for I don’t believe the Scriptures support that kind of thinking. And yet these same people that have such a hard time with this music, thinking it is against the Scriptures, refuse to talk with me. They refuse to forgive, they refuse to love as God has commanded us to. You see, there truly is a lack of integrity and folks, we all need to be careful in this area for we can easily tell people what to do and yet, by our actions, we are not walking as we should, going against God’s Word in our actions! Be careful.


Picture in your mind what is going on here. These religious leaders were placing heavy burdens upon the people. What are these heavy burdens? They were extra biblical traditions that they placed upon the shoulders of people until the people broke! They could no longer carry the weight of these things, and these religious leaders were to help the people, they were to help bring them to God, but instead they were hurting them and driving them from God. They lacked sympathy for the people and kept weighing them down instead of lifting them up. They refused to lift a finger to assist the people but just kept pilling on the burdens until the people broke, were frustrated, and they turned from God!

We too can weigh people down with all kinds of rules and regulations we place upon their shoulders. We need to point people to Jesus so they can rest in Him instead of being weighed down by earthly things. It is as Peter tells us in I Peter 4:8-10, "And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." Instead of weighing people down, we are to lift them up, to minister to them, to care for them in the love of Jesus Christ. We are not better, we are not holier than anyone. We are all sinners saved by the grace of God, and let us not forget that!

Thus, we have seen so far that false spiritual leadership lacks integrity, it lacks sympathy, and there is still more negative aspects that false spiritual leadership brings, as we are going to see.


Notice where all the attention is, upon these false spiritual leaders. They love all the attention they can get. And this is seen in four different ways.

The first is these leather straps they used to hold their phylacteries. They broadened, enlarged these straps. Now in case you don’t know what a phylactery is, let me tell you. It is a leather box that contains a parchment with the following Scriptures written on it in four columns; Exodus 13:1-10, Exodus 13:11-16, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Deuteronomy 11:13-21. Now they wore these phylacteries on their right hand and/or their forehead. Can you imagine these huge leather straps holding these leather boxes in place with the idea of drawing attention to yourself, to make yourself more spiritual looking? That is what they were doing, and personally, it would not look spiritual, but silly to me. But it is amazing what we think makes us look more spiritual, isn’t it?

How about you? Do you wear those Christian tee-shirts to show people how spiritual you are or to point people to Jesus? Do you carry the big King James Bible so everyone can see it or do you use it like a sword sharing the truths of God as you point people to Jesus using the Word of God? Do you use Christian jargon, Christian lingo to impress people or to show them a spiritual truth about Jesus? Do you see how easy it is to fall prey to this!

The second thing they did to draw attention to themselves is they lengthened the blue tassels on the corners of their robes. The blue tassels were to remind them of heaven. But it seems that they enlarged these tassels for all to see and they would then come to the conclusion that these were godly men who were heading for heaven. Wrong conclusion!

How about you? Are you hassling people about going to Hell while you tell them how good you are and that you have your reserved seat in heaven? What are you boasting in, you didn’t do anything to obtain heaven. The only thing you added to your salvation is your sin. Jesus did all the rest, He saved you and me completely. And thus, our boasting is not in us, but in Him! You see, the focus is not us, it is Jesus, don’t lose sight of that in all you are doing!

The third thing they liked was the best seats at the various feasts, at the various gatherings so everyone could see how important they were. They loved that kind of attention and to be seated anywhere else would not give them the attention they wanted.

How about you? Do you love to be honored when you go to places? We had one musical guest that was frustrated because he didn’t stay at the pastor’s house, my house, because he said, "I have more in common with the pastor than the people!" Really. I got news for you, I am not that special, I am just like you, and if you can’t talk with the people, than you can’t talk with me, because I am a people, or should I say a person like everyone else! The glory, the attention is to be upon God and not upon us!

The fourth thing they loved were the titles! Rabbi, teacher and-so-on. You see, when someone called out to them using these titles, others would turn to see who this was that was being called by this title. And thus, attention was drawn to them. They loved the title, they loved the honor, they loved the attention and they lacked humility!

How about you? Do you like that kind of attention? I have had people get angry with me because I have not placed them in a leadership position in the church. They wanted the title, they wanted the recognition, but when it came to consistency in the church, they thought that was legalistic! Go figure? They wanted the title, they wanted the recognition, but they didn’t realize that leadership is just being a servant, a slave. They did not want the responsibility that came with the position, just the title, the attention. Humility is important in our Christian walk, because without it we tend to exalt self instead of God. It is as James 4:10 says, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." You see, you humbly serve and God will use you for His glory. The way up is down and the way down is up!

You may remember the story of the young preacher who was going to give his first message. And he was good. He was smooth. He knew what to say and when to say it. And as he strutted up to the pulpit to speak, things fell apart. He started to speak and forgot what he was going to say. He stumbled through his notes. Nothing seemed to fit, nothing seemed to make sense. And as he finished he left the pulpit in tears, broken. And a old pastor’s wife said "What happened?" And he turned to his wife and said, "If he would have gone up as he came down he would have come down as he went up!" HUMILITY!

Do you see what false spiritual leadership leads to and how ugly it really is? False spiritual leadership leads to a lack of integrity - they talk the talk but don’t walk the walk! False spiritual leadership leads to a lack of sympathy - placing burdens upon people instead of lifting them up and helping them. And lastly, false spiritual leadership leads to a lack of humility - a love of self, drawing attention to themselves instead of giving God the glory and ministering to others.

Now that is what spiritual leadership is not to be. And as we move on we are going to see Jesus show us what true spiritual leadership is all about. These things should be manifested in our lives.


Now before we get into these verses, let me share with you what Jesus said about true spiritual leadership in Matthew 20:25-28. He said, "...‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave– just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’"

Notice, true spiritual leadership is not lording over people, taking advantage of people, but serving others, being a slave to the needs of others, reaching out and ministering to people. The worlds view of leadership is the exact opposite, and thus, in the church we tend to think the world has established these principles and we might as well apply them to our lives, and we end up lording over people, just the opposite of what Jesus said. "If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be a servant of all!" as the song goes.

Why Christians have a hard time with this is simple, it is called PRIDE! It is not of God for Jesus says that He left us a example to follow, Himself! The God of all creation had every right to be served, to be honored, to be taken care of, but He didn’t accept those things, He came to serve, to lay His life down for us. And thus, if we are to follow His example, that is what we are to do.

MATTHEW 23:8-12

Notice what Jesus is saying true spiritual leadership is all about. Jesus is saying true spiritual leadership avoids these elevated titles, those fancy names, and just accepts the lowliest of tasks if that is what is needed to be done.

As a pastor I clean toilets, vacuum, do copying and collating, clean rooms, take out the trash because those are things that need to be done. Please, I am not boasting but I am trying to show you that I am no better, or worse, than you! I am a servant just like you! For some reason we have professionalized the role of a pastor and thus, they think they are to be taken care of, like a CEO of a company, even having a executive bathroom! The executive bathroom here doesn’t have a ceiling, it was blown out a few weeks ago and not by someone in the bathroom! But think about it like this, would you professionalize a salve? "I am a professional slave!" Of course not! And that is what we are, servants, slaves for Christ!

Now don’t come to the wrong conclusion that we are not to respect people, because we are. But don’t use titles to set yourself above others. God has placed each of us in different ministries within the body of Christ, but we are all one, no one is more important than someone else in the body of Christ. Thus, if you want to be great in God’s kingdom, get your resume together, it is good to know someone, and fight and claw your way till you get to the top. No, not at all. Jesus says if you want to be great in His kingdom, then be a servant to all! And you know what will happen? He will raise you up! I have seen God raise people up for the ministry and the way I saw them was in service, just like Stephen and Philip who were waiting on tables for the Lord and God raised them up mightily in His service! And He will do the same with us!

I like the way that Paul put it in Philippians 2:1-5. He said, "Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."

Put on the mind of Christ, look out for others, minister to them, and as you do God will take care of you for God is a debtor to no man. But if you are going to be a servant, you must humble yourself first! True greatness is found in serving others!

And folks, it is not always easy. The enemy will try to discourage you, cause you to stumble, to make you think you deserve more, and if you listen to that garbage, you will find yourself on the shelf, not used by God! Whatever you are called to do, keep in mind that the calling is going to be subject to extreme testing. You need to be committed to the cause of Christ or you will drop out of the race!

True spiritual leadership will help people, and false spiritual leadership will hurt people. Thus, which one do you think the enemy wants you to follow and which one do you think God wants you to follow? Be wise, be humble, be a servant.

Let me leave you this morning with these words to encourage you not to give up, but to fight the good fight, to finish the race, to go for the prize of the upward call that God has placed before you. The story goes like this:


In typical fashion, when George Allen moved to Washington, D.C., as head coach of the Redskins, he promised the nation’s capital the moon. He told them it would be just a few seasons before he would develop the Redskins into a championship football team. He promised them the Super Bowl by the second season.

The team had a brilliant preseason that first year. Then, early in the regular season, they won several amazing victories. It appeared the Redskins were to be lifted from their common role of loser to the uncommon role of winner. As time passed, however, the inevitable occurred. They began to lose and lose and lose. The blame fell, at least in part, not on Coach George Allen, but on a quarterback named Sonny Jurgenson, in my opinion one of the most gifted and effective quarterbacks to ever play the game. Jurgenson possesses a quality I deeply admire: personal security. It seems as though no one can intimidate Sonny Jurgenson.

One day after another defeat, Sonny was getting ready to take a shower and go home. A sportswriter leaned over to him in the locker room and said, "Say, Sonny, be honest now. Don’t all these off-the-wall remarks we write and all this public flack disturb you? Doesn’t it make you want to quit when people throw things at your from the stands and when you get those dirty letters?"

Sonny just leaned back, gave a big, toothless grin, and sighed, "No, not really, I don’t want to quit. I’ve been in this game long enough to know that every quarterback, every week of the season, spends his time either in the penthouse or the outhouse."

Sonny’s comment points out an important fact. It is true that if you are a leader, you spend your time either on the top or on the bottom. You seldom know what it’s like to be in between. You are either the hero or the villain. You are respected or you are virtually hated. People in leadership must live on the yo-yo of public opinion, under the gun of verbal jabs as well as on the crest of the great admiration. Being "in the outhouse" is a lot more difficult than those choice times "in the penthouse." It’s when we are under verbal attack of the intimidating public that we show our colors.

I have discovered, after a number of years in the ministry, that this is true even in the spiritual realm. You commit yourself to a life of faith, you declare before God and man that you are going to walk with Him regardless, and suddenly, it happens! The enemy turns every gun he can upon you to blast you out of the saddle, to make you finish your season in defeat, to have you think that it’s really not worth it after all.

- Charles Swindoll, Hand Me Another Brick

I will tell you this, it is worth it, don’t give up! If things seem difficult for you right now, that ministry, service is tough, hold on to this verse and let it comfort your heart and encourage you to forge ahead. The Lord said in Isaiah 41:10, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." Never give up, the Lord is with you and He will use those tough times to draw you close to Him and to build up the inner man. The key to ministry folks, is humility. Serve the Lord with a joyful heart and God’s people with a joyful heart and you will be blessed, for you are honoring God in your actions! Set the path for people to follow!

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