Humanism promotes potential. Kingdom promotes purpose. Humanism deifies determination. Kingdom disciples destiny.
Immediately you begin to apply grace like gravy on mashed tators upon personal potential, you are misappropriating spiritual provision. God is not investing grace into your life so you can be whatever you want to be. Grace is making you the person God created you to be so you can what God called you to do.
Paul says, “I am what I am by the grace of God.” He is not saying that he can be whatever he wants to be and grace will enable him to grasp greater gobs of personal potential. He is saying this in the context of radical personal transformation, the repentance aspect of “I change to be changed” that produces something of destiny foreign to the pursuit of potential.
Potential is so vast and uncharted that a person can explore it for centuries – much longer than their life span – and remain a novice to its extremities. Destiny is so defined that only God can reveal it, enable its realization through transformational experiences, and empower its highest expressions and experiences.
The most selfish and self-centered can become experts at potential while being ignorant of destiny; prove themselves worthy to the world and strangers to God. The most gifted can perform masterfully with personal potential, even spiritual potential, and hear Jesus say, “Who are you? I don’t know you. How did you get in here?” at the summing up of kingdom strategies.
Leadership and Destiny
So, humanism longs for leadership that encourages personal potential, feeds and strengthens the sense of personal performance that excites the soul. Humanistic thinking defines a good leader by what they can do to get me where I want to go and help me do what I want to do. Humanistic motivations would be consistent with the prodigal son’s demand for his inheritance because the purpose of a father would be to give me what I want, what’s coming to me, so I can explore personal potential.
Jesus contrasts potential with purpose. Jesus disciples destiny. Jesus ignores potential, irrelevant to purpose, distracting from destiny, and satisfying to flesh but deadly to spirit. The very thing that humanism celebrates, Jesus is out to put to death!
So much of our modern approach to leadership has drunk the sweet wine of humanism that we have come to despise discipling or redefined it as preparation for “being all you can be” in the sense of potential, not in the fulfillment of purpose. Humanism is often so fully blended that we cannot distinguish the former flavors of kingdom discipling, or these flavors are so camouflaged by humanistic sweeteners that we cannot tell if they are even in the mix.
The first step of discipling is following. If one doesn’t follow a discipling leader, no discipling can occur. Discipling is not distance learning in the sense that discipling is a salad bar or dessert bar from which a person can take samples or pick and choose what best fits the mood or salivates the taste buds. Discipling demands discipline. Humanism asks for Santa Claus. Jesus points to a Cross.
Immediately you begin to follow a discipling leader, you are leaving behind your previous best efforts at realizing personal potential. In no case did a disciple follow Jesus to further their previous efforts at “being the best they could be.” They were each asked to leave that effort in order to pursue being someone they were not and never had the first clue they could be.
Humanism continued to motivate their minds even after they followed Jesus. They continually attempted to redefine His mission and destiny with humanistic potential-driven advice. “Speak plainly, Master,” they said, “you can’t expect the crowds to get what You are selling if You speak in parable and code.” Mary’s other children explained that He needed to spend more time in Jerusalem where the political action was, and His disciples were part of that thinking as well. “When you come into Your Kingdom, then I will be…”
He explains, “I am trying to kill you so you can live. I want you to give up your life so you can rescue it. I will give you a Cross to carry so you’ll get the Message into your personal experience. Success is being like your Leader; if I suffer, you will suffer also. You are happy and satisfied when you are rejected and persecute for selling out to righteousness.”
They are still thinking, “I am gonna be famous, powerful, rich, and recognized sitting next to the Master when He is crowned Messiah!” They project their humanistic definition of potential upon His eternal purpose. He says, “I will be rejected and killed.” They say, “No way! We’re riding this gravy train to the palace!” Even after Resurrection, forty days of explaining kingdom to them, they ask, “OK, are You gonna restore the kingdom to Israel?” Laughable looking back now, but Jesus must have thought, “You are about to meet reality and it will feel like being slapped in the face with a wet squirrel.”
Kingdom Leadership and Destiny
In kingdom, leaders are equipped to see with spiritual eyes. Leaders should be able to see what God wants, what God has created, what God is calling for in us, and grasp that with strong hands to set it into place so it can begin to function.
For example, I have had people not called to be a prophetic or a preacher come to me and say, “I want to be. I have prophetic gifts and I can speak pretty good.” Sorry! Not my call. [Pun intended.] No one can train you to be and do something in the kingdom you are not created to be and called to do. Kingdom leadership invests heavenly assets toward heavenly goals. Kingdom leadership recognizes the King’s plans and positions people to fulfill the orders of the King.
If you are called to preach, you can preach. No amount of public speaking training or communication skill development will call you. While preachers can be trained for improvement and effectiveness, they can be trained to do what they are not called to do. Exhorters may not be preachers. Communicators may not be preachers. Teachers may not be preachers. Preaching is a special kingdom science and discipline that can only function at the request and appointment of the King.
That is an example of the confusion that can frustrate the kingdom when humanism and personal potential march in the streets demanding to be heard. Potential says, “I have a voice, so I have the potential to preach. I hear the voice of God, so I have the potential to be a prophet. I have leadership skills, so I should be seen as an apostle.” Measuring a leader’s response to your life by your own estimation of potential creates false expectations that leader cannot fulfill as a kingdom leader.
Destiny is God’s way of mapping potential, creating the boundaries of your inheritance, and allotting you a portion with which to do business that will establish and expand kingdom. Leaders can equip and position you to produce, but they cannot assign or appoint you that portion. Potential is a vast ocean upon which you will get lost and drift; destiny is a destination you can call home, a place where you can build, grow, and mature, and the address to which God mails your gifts and grace.