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#15 Who's In Charge

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WHO’S IN CHARGE?

(A Chosen People – Series in I Peter)

Westgate Chapel 2/25/01                                         I Peter 5:1-4

PROPOSITION:  The apostle Peter calls the followers of Christ to a co-laboring in ministry, a pure  heart in ministry, and to the reward of ministry.

I. introduction

-     WE are in the process of learning from the apostle Peter…how to be followers of Christ in a world that is hostile to the things of God.

-     THIS letter of Peter’s was written about 67 AD, right before the Christian communities in the Roman empire were plunged into incredible persecution and suffering.

-     HOW do you follow Christ, how do you live like Jesus lived when all hell is breaking loose around you?

-     SO Peter does his best to warn them.

-     IN the chapter of I Peter that we just finished last Sunday, Peter has written them things like…

      “The end of all things is near.” (I Peter 4:7)

      “…do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering...” (I Peter 4:12)

      “…it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God..” (I Peter 4:17)

-     THEN, right on the heels of instructing them about how to handle suffering, and seemingly out of the blue, in I Peter 5:1 (page 1203) the apostle writes,

      “To the elders among you…”

-     WELL, it really isn’t out of the blue at all. It is perfectly consistent with the subject of the trials and struggles of the Christian faith, because elders are the New Testament church leaders who…

*     …fed the local believers in the Word of God and the apostle’s teaching.

*     …provided guidance and direction for the local church.

*     …offered encouragement to those who had grown weary and had dropped out.

*     …cast and kept alive the vision of what it meant to be God’s people.

*     …called for perseverance when some wanted to quit.

*     …handled discipline when it was needed.

-     THE elders where the leaders in the local church who held things together in a world that was falling apart.

-     THEY were really going to be needed in the days of persecution and suffering that was coming…so Peter call them front and center for some teaching.

-     AND to keep the rest of us from falling asleep this morning….since we have five elders and ten pastors who function as elders….I think this passage could be easily applied to any spiritual leadership in the home, in the work place, or in your ministry role.

ii.   CO-laboring in ministry

-     PETER writes,

      “To the elders among you…”

-     THE first reference in the Bible to elders is in the Old Testament.

*     In Numbers 11:16-30, 70 elders were called out of the tribes to assist Moses in the leadership of Israel. They were problem solvers.

*     In 2 Kings 6:32, when Israel was away from God, it was the elders teamed up with Elisha and the prophets to call the nation back to God.

*     They advised the kings of Israel.

*     They were colleagues with the princes in the administration of Israel.

*     It was the elders who dispensed justice for the people at the gates of the towns and villages.

*     They administered the synagogues.

*     And in Revelation 24 elders surround the throne of God and bow down and worship.

-     IN the New Testament the elders are the basic leadership structure of the church.

*     In Acts, wherever the apostles go to plant churches they appoint elders to lead that local church.

*     The apostle Paul writes to his colleague, Titus, and says,

      “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.”

*     In Acts 11:30, Paul and Barnabas arrive in Jerusalem and deliver the offerings for the needy into the hands of the elders.

*     In Acts 15, at a time of crisis in the church concerning ministry to the Gentiles, the elders are involved with the apostles in the deliberations.

*     In James 5:14, the elders minister healing prayer to the sick.

*     In I Timothy 5:17, they direct the affairs of the church and some of the teach and preach.

-     YOU’VE got the picture, now Peter continues,

      “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed:” (I Peter 5:1)

-     RATHER than appeal to his superior position as an apostle, Peter appeals to them as a fellow-elder.

-     THE reason for this humility in leadership is because Peter come to his role in the church through great personal brokenness.

-     THERE is no other way to be effective in ministry in the church of Jesus, no matter what your position or calling, unless you come by way of brokenness.

-     AND we get a hint in the next phrase where that brokenness and humility come from. Peter says he is a…

      “…a witness of Christ's sufferings.”

-     YOU bet he was.

-     AND you can also be sure that he never recalled those vivid memories of the Roman whip tearing Christ’s flesh, and the crown of thorns, and the cries of agony….but what he also remembered those words he wished he could erase, the night he denied Jesus three times and with cursing.

-     HOW could he ever live that failure down?

-     HOW could he ever be useful again?

-     BUT remember, after the cross and Christ’s resurrection, Jesus had tracked Peter down to the fishing boats on the Sea of Galilee, and over breakfast Jesus had restored Peter and said,

      “Take care of my sheep.” (John 21:16)

-     THAT was why Peter is humble in his appeal to the elders in Asia Minor.

-     HE is their co-laborer in the work of the ministry.

-     BUT notice that with plenty of confidence he also looks ahead and declares that he…

      “…will share in the glory to be revealed.”

-     THAT’S the glory of God’s kingdom that will come down from heaven at the end of time.

 

iii.  a pure heart in ministry         

-     THEN Peter spells out some of the heart conditions of those who serve as elders, and the rest of us might as well listen in because this applies to all in ministry.

-     VERSE 2a,

      “Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers…”

-     THERE are a few things worth noting in this part of the verse.

-     FIRST is that we are called to be shepherds.

-     THAT had to take Peter back to the day on the beach with Jesus. Almost the exact words Jesus had said to him… “be shepherds.”

-     THAT is the word from which we get “pastor.”

-     THE shepherd’s task is to…

*     Feed.

*     Protect.

*     Lead to green pastures and beside still waters.

*     Discipline.

*     Comfort.

*     Heal.

-     ANOTHER thing worth noting in this verse is that it is God’s flock.

-     THAT is a sobering thought.

-     I HAVE known many people, in many roles in the Body of Christ, who have acted as if their church, or their ministry was their own possession….I have been one of those people.

-     THE sheep belong to Him!

-     ALL ministry leadership is simply there to provide care and oversight….and the accountability for our stewardship and oversight of the sheep will be required of us by the owner of the sheep.

-     THAT is why Paul writes about ministry in the church, in I Corinthians 3:10,

      “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.”

-     PETER goes on to address three critical heart conditions necessary for elders and godly leaders in verse 2.

-     AND the first has to do with the reason you and I are in ministry..

                           “…not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be.”

•     Not acting like it is something unpleasant.

•     Not acting as if the work of the Lord is wearisome.

•     Not acting as if it is a burden.

•     Or with resentment.

•     But like you are willing and joyful about serving. Happy. Pleasant.

-     THE second heart issue that Peter tackles has to do with motive. Last part of verse 2,

      “…not greedy for money, but eager to serve;”

•     Not doing ministry for what is in it for you.

•     That doesn’t have to be money, although I know pastors who have their salaries tied by percentage to attendance or giving.

•     It could be for recognition, or titles, or power.

•     And you don’t have to be rich to be greedy for money. Some of the people who have the most problem with money don’t have any.

•     The love of money, which Jesus said is the root of all evil, is an equal opportunity employer. Rich and poor are plagued by this obsessive love for money.

•     Instead, Peter says, we minister simply because we are eager to serve….because of all that Jesus has done for us.

-     THEN the last heart issue that Peter brings up for elders is in verse 3,

      “…not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”

•     Not taking the little authority you have and using it to dominate the people in your little sphere of influence.

•     “Lording it over” involves scorn, tyranny, and abuse of those you are supposed to be leading (Customs official with Tim Westerfield).

•     Proverbs 30:22 says that one of the things under which the earth trembles is,

      “…a servant who becomes king.”

•     Prestige and power are huge motivators in leadership that every one of us is vulnerable to.

•     Instead Peter says that the elders are to be examples to the flock…..in the love and selfless character of the shepherd.

•     Which shepherd? Jesus.

•     One book I read recently on pastoring says that we should be parables rather than role models.

-     A role model stands up front as a hero.
-     The problem is that when you stand up front you can be put on a pedestal and block the view.
-     The word parable, comes from the root word for parallel….which is what a parable is. It is a story that is told on one track that only illustrates the truth on a parallel track.
-     If you and I are parables, as we follow Christ, people can follow the truth on a parallel track and have their horizon full of Jesus instead of you and me.
-     That way if we fall, they still have Jesus in full view.

-     THOSE are the heart issues of eldership and for that matter any ministry in the Body of Christ.

 

iv. the reward of ministry

-     FINALLY the apostle tell us about the reward for caring for God’s flock, in I Peter 5:4.

      “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

-     PETER had seen that glory on several occasions.

*     On the Mount of Transfiguration.

*     In the upper room right after Christ’s resurrection.

*     On the day of His ascension into the heavens.

*     Again in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost.

-     THE word used here for crown, is not the crown of kings but the laurel wreath placed on the heads of Olympic winners or military conquerors.

-     THAT is what awaits those who faithfully discharge their duties to the family of God.

-     IN I Corinthians 15:58 Paul writes,

      “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

-     IN I Corinthians 3:8 he writes,

      “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.”

 

v. conclusion

-     BEYOND the lessons in this passage for all of us who serve you as pastors and elders, the lessons are there for all of us in our families and ministries…

1.   Let’s be fellow-elders, co-laborers in the work of God’s kingdom.

2.   Let’s have a pure heart.

•     Not coerced, but willing.

•     Not what’s in it for me, but eager to serve.

•     Not bossy and demeaning of others, but being a parable leading others to Christ.

3.   And in faith we look forward to a reward that is not of this world, but awaiting us in glory.

 

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