INTRODUCTION – I was grieved this last week to hear from a dear friend of yet another local congregation (not anywhere near here) being torn apart because of ungodliness and worldliness among the elder board or elder team.
Another friend wrote me this last week telling me of his grief in learning that a good friend of his had quit walking with the Lord.
God’s will and full intention is that the elders of His church – wherever in the world a corporate expression of Christ’s church finds itself – thrive in the carrying out of their ministry, and that they end their race strong and well, and that Christ’s church is safe and secure under their leadership and care as a result.
God’s will and full intention for every believer in His church is that they also thrive in the fulfillment of their calling, that they experience the fullness of Christ and the Holy Spirit in ever greater measure, and that they end their race strong and well.
Whether you are an elder or not this morning, I want to share a few things with you from I Peter chapter 5 vs. 1-4 – that if followed – will ensure that elders finish strong and that they will be greeted by our wonderful Savior with a “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter in to the joy of your Master.”
Then I’ll share some things from the rest of the chapter that will help all of us finish our races well and strong.
vs. 1-4 – How Elders Can Thrive and End Well
A. Identity always precedes authority & significantly affects our authority. Notice how Peter speaks of himself in vs. 1.
1. “fellow elder” – not chief elder, though he certainly could have drawn attention to the high calling on his life and his many ministry accomplishments, and the many face to face experiences and encounters he had with the Savior.
2. witness of the sufferings (not miracles) of Christ. Nothing wrong with miracles. But nothing marked Peter like watching the Son of God and long awaited Messiah lay His life down day after day after day – enduring all kinds of physical hardships; enduring the ever increasing resistance and rejection of His people – the Jews; enduring the betrayals and denials of His chosen 12; enduring the unjust trials that led to His crucifixion; enduring all the mocking, maligning, and unrestrained venom of His enemies; and finally the scourging and crucifixion. Peter of course didn’t comprehend its significance before the resurrection. But he certainly did after the resurrection. And I believe every day after that Jesus’s sufferings became more and more precious to Peter, and were a constant focus of His meditations and his proclamations.
3. partaker of the glory that is to be revealed; hasn’t been revealed yet, but Peter seems to almost taste it now. Ultimately Peter’s hope was not in a large church, a greater anointing and greater influence or in a secure retirement, but in his promised sharing as a joint heir of the glory that is now our risen Savior’s. He of course had a foretaste of that on the Mount of Transfiguration. And while he didn’t know what to think of it then, he now knows experiencing and reveling in the glory and splendor and majesty of Christ for all of eternity is just a heart beat (or lack of) away.
So effective and God pleasing eldering first comes out of a proper Christ focused identity
B. Second, Eldering is ultimately about shepherding; it is about the health and growth and welfare of the sheep. This is why elders are to be appointed in every church as Paul commanded in one of his letters. Vs. 2-4
1. the flock of God – all sheep belong to God – not to the pastor or leadership of a given congregation
2. no doubt influenced by his sobering conversation with Jesus after His resurrection – – 3 x’s “Do you love me?” Tend My Lambs; Shepherd My sheep; Tend My sheep; John 21
3. exercising oversight – not doing everything, but overseeing everything that has anything to do with the welfare and growth of the sheep.. how?
a. First how not to do it – – or why not to do it – – wrong motives – – – not under compulsion or obligation; not for sordid gain or monetary profit; not lording it over those allotted to your charge – not eldering out of some kind of power trip.
b. How to do it – – – voluntarily; according to the will of God; with eagerness; proving to be examples to the flock – recognizing that our example often speaks louder than our words
c. the promise/hope: When Jesus – the Chief Shepherd appears – we will receive the unfading crown or wreath of glory. This is the only reward we can and should ultimately count on for our service as elders.
II. How all believers can thrive and end well – vs. 5-14
A. younger men should be subject to the elders;– All discussions about subjection or submission must start with Eph. 5:21 “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
So what does it mean to submit or be subject to someone in practical terms? To subject yourself to someone or to submit to someone means to open your life up to them; to not be independent and closed off from them. It means to willingly and voluntarily initiate relationship and honest disclosure with someone. In this case with someone older and more mature than you.
Perhaps in Peter’s mind is the tendency of young men to be a bit independent – spending every spare moment with their friends/peers. And Peter wants them to know that much more profit and fruit would be theirs if they tone that down a bit; and connect from time to time with someone Jesus Himself has given authority and responsibility over them, which means some of His blessing for them is reserved to flow through their relationship with elders.
I’m glad Peter didn’t command the elders to make sure the younger men submit to them. Rather he appealed straight to the younger men to do this on their own volition or initiative.
B. All of you – – clothe yourselves with humility toward one another; pursue a life of humility; make this one of your life passions
The reason – – God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble
Jesus – “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11
So what does it mean to be humble? Well we know it is the opposite of being proud, which has the idea of being self consumed, self promoting, self sufficient, self exalting.
To be humble is to be Christ consumed, Christ promoting, Christ exalting and to have one’s full identity and security in Christ.
Andrew Murray: The humble person is not one who thinks meanly of himself, he simply does not think of himself at all.”
“Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.” Andrew Murray
I think one of the most sobering statements in the Bible is that the living God of the universe is absolutely opposed to the proud.
Pride – “God can never entrust His kingdom to anyone who has not been broken of pride, for pride is the armor of darkness itself.” Francis Frangipane
C.S. Lewis puts it this way: “The essential vice, the utmost evil is pride. Unchastity, greed, drunkenness and all that, are mere flea bits in comparison: It was through pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”
“If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud….If you think you’re not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.” C.S. Lewis
Because of this reality – humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God. Why does Peter encourage us to do that? So that He may exalt you at the proper time.
Anxiety and fear are one of the reasons for exalting or promoting ourselves/pride.
So cast all those anxieties and fears on Him – knowing He cares for you! Personal prayer prevents pride as it accesses His peace.
C. Don’t give the devil an inch! Resist him, resist him, resist him! vs. 9
The reason is because your adversary – the devil prowls around like a roaring lion – seeking someone to devour/destroy (In Revelation he is called “the destroyer”)
Yes the devil is a supernatural being. And yes he has thousands and thousands of years of experience in destroying people. But each of us can resist him and are expected to.
So how are we to do that?
1. Well first, by walking in humility, which enables God to pour out His amazing grace on us. The worst thing any of us could do is try to resist Satan while walking in pride.
2. Be sober – vs. 8
This word has the idea of walking in self control of our passions and emotions as a way of life. If Satan can’t trip us by pride, then he seeks to stir up our passions for silly things like having a chiseled body and spending precious hours a day in pursuit of that idol; or living to have something sweet every day even though sweets have never once deepened a person’s passion for Christ; or getting all worked up every day about things going on in the news; A sober man never has to have anything, drink anything, eat anything or know anything but Jesus.
3. Third by being alert. Vs. 8 Paul said in one of his letters to the Corinthians that he and his co-workers were never unaware of Satan’s schemes. They learned to smell his trail. And they were never caught off guard.
4. Fourth by standing firm in our faith. Vs. 9 Refusing to allow doubts and unbelief to wiggle their way into our consciousness. Standing on His every promise. And getting to the place where you can say with the apostle Paul – Let God be found true and every man a liar. Regardless of whatever difficulties and tribulations we are going through – regardless of what men and women are saying – – God is always good, always just, always loving, always faithful. May we never doubt it.
To help us stand firm Peter gives us a wonderful promise!
In these two verses we see God’s commitment and ability to finish what He began in each of us – vs. 10, 11
The promise: When = after you have suffered for a little while; Who – the God of all grace; who called you to His eternal glory in Christ; What – will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
D. The assurance or response to that: To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
IV. vs. 12-14 – Closing comments
A. What is the “true grace of God”? The true grace of God is that you have been sovereignly chosen by the tender mercies of God to be born again by His Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled as a lifestyle by His blood and to endure all matters of suffering for His sake, as joint heirs of the matchless grace of life, knowing that He will soon return in all His glory and majesty and we will see Him face to face and share in His glory. The true grace of God is that because of all that He has done for us and is doing in us in Christ, we can love our brothers and sisters, and we can operate as His priests and ministers of reconciliation in this world.
In short – we’ve been given – as Peter will say in his second epistle – everything we need for life and godliness. So stand firm in all of it!
Prayer & Ministry Time