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The Parents of the Church Family
1 Peter 5:1
Parenting is a challenge, even grandparenting. A great mother was watching her 3-year-old boy open a gift from his grandmother. When he finally tore away enough paper, he was ecstatic and shouted with delight, since Grandma had given him his very first water pistol. He gave his grandma a big kiss and immediately ran to the faucet. His mother had a totally different reaction. She turned to her mother and said, “I am surprised at you! Don’t you remember how we used to drive you crazy with water guns?” Her mother smiled and replied, “I remember.”
Family life can be exciting, and it can also be traumatic. Most of the time it is a little of both, yet to teach on the family is always traumatic. In an old book on parenting, author Charlie Shedd tells how the title of his message on parenting changed with his experience of fatherhood. In his early years on the speaking circuit before he was a father, he called it, “How to Raise Your Children.” People came in droves to hear it. Then Charlie had a child, and it was a while before he gave that message again. When he did, it had a new name–“Some Suggestions to Parents.” Two more children and a number of years later, he was calling it “Feeble Hints to Fellow Strugglers.” Several years and children later, he seldom gave that talk, but when he did his title was, “Anyone here got a few words of wisdom?”
Parenting is a great challenge. Just imagine being given the privilege of parenting thirteen children like the Varnells–they have thirteen. Then try to picture yourself attempting to parent a family of 200, or 400, or 600, or 2,000–can you picture that? Just a little? If you can, then you can embrace the weight of being set apart by the Holy Spirit to be an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ.
Elders are the parents of God’s family. That is exactly what God implies when he says this about elders in 1 Timothy 3:5, “(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)” Shepherding his family at home is part of what proves an elder has been set apart by God to shepherd God’s family, the Church.
Just like dads with their family, elders are called to oversee, to lead, to be an example, to instruct, to discipline, to model, to sacrifice for and to serve God’s family–the Church. Under the headship of Christ, a father seeks to lead his home according to the Word of God and by the power of the Spirit and under the headship of Christ, an eldership seeks to lead a local church according to the Word of God and by the power of the Spirit.
Eldership is parenting a local church, which is quite a challenge, not merely because of greater numbers, but because of greater variety. Think about it–if the Church is a family, we have older, grown, out-of-the-home kids, brand new babies, some kids who are not really God’s kids but Satan’s, some kids needing spankings, some needing encouragement, some needing surgery, others needing band-aids, some who want to be entertained all the time, some who demand everyone’s attention, some children who are growing well, some who have growth problems–I could go on and on.
This is why spiritual leadership, and eldership in particular, is so crucial to the health of a local church family. Without good parents the family falls apart, and without good elders the Church is weak. Sadly, people today have weird views on what spiritual leadership is. In fact, in our culture we are warped in our understanding of elders, deacons and spiritual leadership in general.
Let me test your thinking . . . what do the following words have in common–board of directors, ballot, committee, majority rule, chairman, business meeting, voting, democracy, elections, corporate officers, parliamentary procedure, and CEO. Do you know what they all have in common? None of them are in the Bible–not one.
Yet how many churches do you know that are run by committees, boards, business meetings, voting and more? Yet none of those processes are in the Bible. Those are all American concepts based upon government and business. Sadly, many churches in the USA are run on those kinds of patterns, and as a result there are a lot of problems–why? Because the Bible commands us not to imitate the world.
Unfortunately, even those who seek to follow the Bible and appoint elders can sadly take detours and even get derailed. A church may appoint men who are not biblically qualified, or may choose control freaks–they might appoint men who are more like sheriffs than shepherds, or be attracted to successful businessmen or big givers as their leaders, or even worse select manipulators, Pharisees, wolves, false teachers, even men “seeking pre-eminence” like Diotrephes.
No, the Church is to be parented by, shepherded by, a plurality of qualified men who unanimously, equally, and independently serve and lead the local body of believers. Open your Bibles to 1 Peter 5, the home stretch, and take your outline to follow along as we uncover the parents of God’s local families. Though we’ll only get through one verse today, let’s read the entire passage, and as we do, ask this question–how does God want you to change?
Verses 1 to 5 says, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” The Lord gives you some clear expectations in verses 1 to 5 . . .
First Pray, support, follow and obey your leaders
Do you pray for your leaders–really? Regularly! Do you appreciate them? Have you ever appreciated them? Do you esteem them highly? First Thessalonians 5:12 to 13, “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction,13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.” Are you prepared to obey your leaders and submit to them?
Hebrews 13:7 and 17, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”
Second Be a better family member
Don’t be the problem child, don’t be the one who never gets well, or the one who is always crying for attention, or the one who stirs up trouble with the other siblings–don’t be the one who does bad things when the parents aren’t looking. Be a good child of the King in God’s family. Be a noble prince, be a gracious princess, not a usurper, a traitor, or a terror.
Third Affirm God’s leadership style
Just as Christ leads us with firm discipline yet with love, grace, service and sacrifice, God’s under-shepherds are to do the same. True elders are those who servant-lead–they shepherd-teach, they graciously confront, they smack wolves, they protect the flock, they feed you lots of rich, accurate food the way God intended, they take God very seriously, but they don’t take themselves seriously. When you see leadership function the way it’s supposed to biblically, affirm it, support it, because it is like Christ and it is a rare thing today. These verses will . . .
Fourth Challenge you in your role as a dad and disciple
As elders parent the local church family, the Spirit of God is calling them to follow the same truths from the Scripture that a dad is to use with his own family. Fathers take note, much of what this passage teaches can be applied to your own home. And disciplers, these truths are much the same that you would use in order to impact those you are seeking to influence, man or woman. The biblical truths directed at elders are the keys to spiritual leadership at any level–dad to children, older woman to younger woman, and staff person to junior higher.
Fifth Deepen your affection for Christ’s bride
Christ loves His bride–He died for His bride, and if we truly know Him, then we’ll grow to love His bride more as well. Never love the bride as much as Christ, but we will love His bride since He gave His life to redeem her. Grow to love the Church, people–no true Christian can say that they love Christ and not love His Church. No true Christian can say they have Christ as their Lord and not faithfully attend, serve, give, and be intimately, relationally connected to a local church.
Peter has been writing these churches in 1 Peter to help them to learn how to stand firm in God’s grace as they were suffering and being persecuted. The secrets to standing firm are to remember your salvation daily in chapters 1 and 2, live submissively to God’s appointed authorities in chapters 2 and 3, seek to dependently live godly while suffering in chapter 3 and 4, and now seek to serve humbly in chapter 4 and 5. And one key for a church to live humbly is to have elders who are qualified and functioning properly in the church. It’s elders who serve as godly parents in the local church family.
This is what Peter says now in verses 1 and 2a, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you.” Peter answers some important questions in verse 1–the first is . . .
#1 What should the church family look for in elders?
In verses 1 and 2 Peter is exhorting elders as a fellow elder, then commanding them to shepherd the flock of God among you. In doing so, Peter is helping you to know what to expect from your elders, and what to look for in biblical elders–what is that?
First The importance of elders
Every word, large or small, in God’s Word is inspired, God-breathed and important–so don’t ignore the very first word in verse 1–what is it? Therefore . . . and when you see a “therefore”, you need to ask, “Wherefore is that “therefore” there for? What’s it there for?
Peter is assigning importance to elders by connecting what he says in verse 1 with what he just finished writing at the end of chapter 4 with a “therefore”–how is that? In 4:17 to 19, Peter just finished talking about God judging the Church–in other words, God spanking His own chosen children. Peter says this spanking is God’s will, and some of His spankings will come in the form of suffering and persecution.
Now, in light of that painful reality, God calls true elders to function a particular way in God’s family in order for the Church to remain healthy and stay spiritually strong. That “therefore” tells us God considers elders very important to the survival of the local church, especially when life gets hot. Elders are essential for the Church to survive suffering, trials, persecution and tough times. Elders are the ones who would shepherd the family through such trying times, since elders are the Holy Spirit-appointed spiritual leaders of the local church under the headship and Lordship of Christ.
The first mention of elders is Acts 11:30, “And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.” Here Luke identifies elders as the leaders of the Jerusalem church. The next time elders are referred to is Acts 14:23a, “When they had appointed elders for them in every church,” clearly establishing elders as those who lead the Church, with the remainder of the New Testament describing their role in detail, like Titus 1:5, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.”
First Timothy 3:1 says, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” Titus 1:9, “Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” Hebrews 13:17a, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.”
Elders are important because that is the only form of church government Christ charged us with in the New Testament. Elders lead the Church, oversee the Church, shepherd the Church, teach the Church, model for the Church, and care for the Church. And on the heels of facing death from persecution at the end of chapter 4, Peter immediately turns his focus with a “therefore” to the elders in chapter 5. They are important, and they have a job to do.
Second The action of elders
Again, verse 1 says, “Therefore, I exhort.” To exhort is to come alongside, to comfort, to help, to encourage and to compel someone in a certain direction. To exhort, parakaleo, literally is to call to one’s side–to call to my side. The idea is to come with me, or “let’s do this together.” To exhort is to move someone with love and relationship—it’s a word often associated with the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
I love that since that implies we can’t do it–no elder can. Peter is about to call elders to shepherd in a particular way, but they have to rely upon the Holy Spirit in order to shepherd the way God commands. You can’t do it, but Christ can through you. Peter is saying, “Hey, let me challenge you to do this with me, to do what you’re called to do, to fill out your role as elders.”
And Peter is continually exhorting them. He is not the boss who lays down a command, then walks away. Peter is saying, “I am continually urging you to do your job as elders, but I will continually be with you through the entire process.” And with this verb exhort Peter says, “Let’s get going, don’t just feel it, think about it, or talk about it, we need to do this continually together, cause its real, it’s a fact and its important.”
Peter is very direct–he’s telling the elders not to sit around in meetings discussing what they need to do, but act upon yourselves and let’s get ‘er done now–the survival of the body is at stake. How is it to be done?
Third The style of elders
Verse 1 says, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you.” Who are the elders and where did this leadership plan come from? The Old Testament is filled with references to elders in Israel. Even in the New Testament, every synagogue had ruling elders who held leadership duties. Plus every little community in Israel had elders, older men who were esteemed for their wisdom and example. The Spirit of God led the Early Church to take this general model and make it the best way God could be glorified in the Church.
God designed verse 1 elders to be the best way for Christ to be on display, and for God’s children to experience the most amount of joy. Now whitewash all your strange ideas about church leadership, and let God’s Word paint over it an accurate and beautiful picture of what God designed for His precious bride–ready?
1 Elders are mature overseers who shepherd God’s flock
Peter says in verse 1, “I exhort the elders.” The leaders of the church are called elders. But look at verse 2, “shepherd,”—that’s “pastor the flock of God among you, exercising oversight.” That’s the term overseer or bishop.
Elders are known by the term elder and overseer, who shepherd. All three of those terms belong to the same group of men. In Acts 20, Paul speaks to the Ephesus elders in verse 17, but then says to this same group of elders in verse 28, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” That’s the Greek term episcopos, meaning overseer, to shepherd, that’s pastor the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. All three terms are used of the same group of men.
Elder emphasizes the man’s spiritual maturity that is necessary to parent God’s family. Bishop or overseer emphasizes the role of guardianship, watchman, protection, setting direction and leading. Shepherd expresses the duty of feeding with God’s Word and caring for God’s people like a shepherd does His sheep. Elders are mature overseers who shepherd God’s flock–they’re focused, Word, prayer people.
2 Elders are spiritually chosen
Look again at Acts 20:28 and notice among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. It is the Holy Spirit who chooses elders, and it is the elders themselves who carefully begin that process of trying to recognize those who the Holy Spirit has made into elder-overseers. And they take their time because 1 Timothy 5:22 says, “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.”
3 Elders are spiritually qualified
Turn to 1 Timothy 3–God gives very clear criteria for helping us determine elders by comparing men against the qualities listed there and in Titus 1. Though no man of God lives without sin, God does require a level of maturity and proven-ness in order to be considered as an elder. Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:1 to 7, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
Elders are spiritually above reproach–they are to be examples to follow, even as they deal with sin in their own lives, they are to set a pattern to follow. Spiritually, they are not to be bald men selling hair restorer.
4 Elders are men
God is consistent in His leadership structure, so He only appointments men as elders. Not only because there is authority and submission in the Godhead, where the Son submits to the Father, and authority and submission in the marriage, where a wife submits to her husband, but also Paul made it very clear in Timothy 3 and Titus 1 that an elder must be (verse 2) the husband of one wife–that’s a tough criteria for a woman, right, to be the husband of one wife?
5 Elders are a plurality–always a team
Never a one-man show–never. Did you notice it in verse 1, or did you miss it? Can you see the word elder in verse 1? It’s not there, it’s the plural word elders. Concerning ministry, the term elders always appears in the plural in the New Testament, affirming that the office was designed for a plurality of men.
John calls himself an elder, Peter says I am a fellow elder, but whenever the ministry of the Church is in view, it is always elders. Titus 1:5 says, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.” And in Acts 20:17, “From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the Church.”
You say, “Chris, aren’t you the teaching pastor?” Sure! But that does not mean I lead the family alone, make all the decisions and am the better shepherd–not even close.
“Shhhh–Chris, you are giving up your authority as senior pastor.” There is only one senior pastor, one senior shepherd–do you know who that is? The Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ. As elders, we are all only under shepherds, under the Great Shepherd, Christ. At FBC and every biblical church, God parents His Church through a team of qualified men, who shepherd Christ’s family.
God designed the Church to have a team of shepherds who serve His flock, each elder exercising his unique gifts together as a team for God’s glory. The advantages of a team should be obvious.
Plurality increases the effectiveness of the overall ministry
Plurality permits shepherds to be close to people even in large churches
Plurality allows for needed variety
Plurality prevents imbalance and error from creeping in
Plurality enriches the church with more gifts present in leadership
Plurality prepares us for crisis, even with persecution, if it should come
Plurality prepares a pool of men ready to be sent
Plurality allows for greater longevity in ministry, reduces the loneliness often associated with pastoral ministry, reduces the pressure commonly felt by elder kids and provides power in prayer among the leaders of the church, AND
Plurality models the oneness and unity found in the Godhead, bringing God glory when we function as one, yet with diversity. This is also why . . .
6 Elders function in unanimity–one heart one mind
Just as God is one, elders are to function as one. Paul told the Philippians in 2:2, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” Elders function with the same heart in areas of doctrine and direction–we seek to be one heart and one mind in areas of biblical truth and the direction of our church. In those two areas we seek to be completely on the same page. But we are not unanimous on anything else–some cheer for UCLA, others USC. Some like Toyotas, others like Hondas, others like trucks. Some homeschool, some use private school, others public school. Some dress up at church, others dress down at church.
We are not one heart about colors or styles, what’s classy what’s not. We don’t seek unanimity on which fast food places are good, we don’t take time to discuss the Ford or Chevy controversy. We are divided on a few things, like whether all coffee should be Starbucks or any brown liquid will do as long as there is lots of cream.
Spiritual leadership focuses on Christ, the cross, the Gospel, the Word of God, the mission of the Church and not which home furnishings are more spiritual. Elders seek to be unanimous, one heart/one mind on doctrine and direction. Elders are similar to each other in that they have a passion to be an elder, they all are seminally qualified though far from perfect, they all shepherd the flock, they all are apt to teach, all can exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict, and if they have young children they are well-managed, and if older children they are believing, and they all adore their wives–one woman men.
But elders are different too. Some are paid and some are “good” for nothing (not paid), all are apt to teach, yet others give themselves to preaching and teaching and equipping the saints. Some are uniquely gifted at oversight, giving leadership or setting vision, while others are uniquely gifted at shepherding and care (Ephesians 4:11-12, 1 Timothy 5:17, Titus 1:5 to 9, 1 Timothy 3:1 to 7).
But as a team of mature men, elders seek to model oneness functioning in unanimity, as a plurality of qualified men, chosen by God to oversee and shepherd Christ’s Church. That’s the style of elders. Let’s go back to verse 1 and notice . . .
Fourth The intimacy of elders to the Church family
Verse 1 says, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you.” Peter is coming alongside the elders of each individual church and uses the preposition ev, meaning in your midst, in each church. Not above each church, not outside each church, not under the church, but in the midst of each church. Elders are wise, older, ordered men, but they are not distant from the family of God. Like a godly dad, they are involved, engaged, in the midst, and a part of the family. They watch, oversee, protect, and evaluate, but they also participate, worship, sing, are taught, serve, enjoy, fellowship, give and more–they are a part of the family as they lead the family. They don’t attend every event, but they are engaged and involved. Elders are to be intimate with the church family. Then what drives elders to do this kind of work?
#2 What motivations do elders long for?
Again in verse 1 and 2, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you.” Verse 1 has four parts to it–after “exhort the elders”,
Peter lists three motivations, first “as a fellow elder”, second “witness of the sufferings of Christ”, third “partaker of the glories to follow”.
First True elders passionately seek to live humbly
Notice as Peter encourages each eldership, Peter calls himself a fellow elder as your fellow elder. Peter is a fellow elder. Before this time, Peter would have functioned for many years as an elder/shepherd in the Jerusalem church in its beginning days. In a sense, what the elders were for individual congregations, the apostles were for the entire Church. Yet he says, as your fellow elder.
Peter is an apostle of Jesus Christ–he has unbelievable spiritual authority–the same authority of Christ Himself. He has done miracles, recorded Scripture, ministered with the Lord, saw Christ resurrected and ascended, he was empowered by the Spirit at Pentecost, opened up the Gospel to the Gentiles, delivered from a prison by an angel–as Peter the apostle who could bring a rod to spank a church or state commands to be obeyed. But he says, as your fellow elder, I am no better than you. I am not ordering you, I am exhorting you–I am appealing to you as one of you, not above you.
He is speaking to leaders as a fellow leader–to fathers as a fellow father, to shepherds as a fellow shepherd. So Peter is living out humility. Peter is modeling what he wants elders to imitate—humility. Peter is saying, “Hey, I will be judged by Christ as well. I can be spanked (and have been) as a part of the household of God in 4:17. I am with you in this as your fellow elder. I know how important it is to shepherd the flock of God. I was spanked and humbled by Christ to do just that—shepherd.
You know what Jesus said to Peter after the resurrection in John 21:15 to 17, “Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My lambs.’ 16 He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Shepherd My sheep.’ 17 He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’”
There is lots to learn from this event, but don’t miss the fact that Jesus told Peter three times to shepherd his flock, to feed His sheep, to care for God’s people. Peter saying, “As your fellow elder . . .” is like Robert Iger, the CEO of Disney, going into the magic shop on Main Street Disneyland and saying to an 18-year-old sales clerk, “Let me come alongside and help you get this done, while I give you some advice I’ve learned along the way.”
Humility is the mirror showing you who you really are–the reality that you are no better than anyone else, the truth you deserved hell and got grace just like every other Christian. Humility is the truth you were a Christ-hater, a Christ-denier, a rebel, a sinner–then God gave you a new heart. Humility is living life at the foot of the cross where the ground is level.
Peters says, “I am with you in this–I am your fellow elder, so listen to what I am going to say. This is going to help you survive when it is really tough. This will keep the church strong when it’s being attacked with hardship. This is what leaders are required to do–seek humility.
Second True elders focus on the cross of Christ
Verse 1 continues as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, Peter says “My focus is the cross of Christ.” It is remarkable that Peter the apostle would take the less exalted title of fellow elder to speak to elders, but it is even more remarkable that Peter describes himself as a witness of the sufferings of Christ. He could have said, “I am a witness to His resurrection”–authority! Peter could even say, “I was witness to His transfiguration”—intimacy. But by saying, “I am witness to the sufferings of Christ,” Peter is bluntly recalling the most painful episode of his life.
You remember what kind of witness Peter was? His courage failed, and he denied three times that he even knew Christ at all. Peter refers here in verse 1 to his failure–why? Because true spiritual leaders admit their sin and live by the cross. Elders sin, elders fail–sometimes it means they should not serve as elders for a season or never again. But Peter shares his failure here to prove that restoration even from grievous sin is possible because of the death of Christ for sin on the cross.
And Peter wants to encourage elders (dads and all spiritual leaders) a humble willingness to be penitent for sin, rather than a hypocritical pride and an unwillingness ever to admit to doing wrong. Godly leaders admit sin–we will have no elders here who are not ready and open to speak of their own struggle with sin. Elders are still on this fallen planet, still longing for a new body, still battling with the world, the flesh and the devil just like every other genuine Christian.
And by mentioning the suffering of Christ to elders who are suffering for Christ, Peter is reminding them and us where to keep our focus. When you are suffering, as these Christians were, what should you think about–your own pain? No. Stop doing that–you should think about Christ’s suffering, His example. Humility is a life focused on the cross, a focus on the sufferings of Christ–Peter saw them firsthand.
Peter saw Jesus suffer and die for his sins–wow. Peter now knows Jesus was his substitute, suffering and dying for Peter’s own sins, and Peter was there when Jesus died for his sins. Talk about a motive to live humble.
I once hurt my first mentor by doing something stupid and it changed my life–he didn’t chew me out, he didn’t badger me with the Bible, he didn’t make me do something, he didn’t tell me he was in charge–what Ron did was weep. It was the only time I ever saw him weep. I died because I caused my mentor, Ron, to weep.
When we realize we caused Christ to suffer–it was our sin, our disobedience, our rebellion, our fault–that is a huge motivation to live in humility. Peter was a man who knew the pain of sin against the Lord he loved, and that is why he reminded these hurting churches and their elders about focusing on the cross. Only the cross will keep you humble, dependent and realizing you are not better than others. But there is something else elders need to focus on.
Third True elders long for eternity now
“As your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,” Peter means to say he is living for heaven now. Peter is looking forward to Christ’s return–Peter is participating in the glory to come now. And Peter was one who got a glimpse of that eternal glory now.
I love movie previews–I enjoy saying, “Skip that one, maybe I will see that Pixar, or I can’t wait for The Hobbitt.” Peter liked previews too–he saw a preview of heaven on the Mount of Transfiguration and now can’t wait to see the entire movie. Do you remember Peter’s reaction when Christ removed the veil that covered his glory in Matthew 17:2? “And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.” So what did Peter say in verse 4, “Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’” Let’s build houses and stay.
Peter was a partaker of our heavenly future–he saw a preview. He’d been as close to heaven as God allowed, and it was so-o-o good Peter didn’t want to leave. And it was just a taste. Peter knows eldership is a tough job—it’s long hours, lonely, often unappreciated, painful, costly and a lot of close contact with sheep who sometimes stink and sometimes bite. It’s the same with parents, ministry leaders, and disciplers. Peter reminds the Church in general, and elders in particular when suffering–keep your heart longing for heaven.
And the glory that is to be revealed is specifically the return of Christ, when instead of suffering, we return with Him in triumph. Instead of being rejected by the world, we are rewarded by Christ. Instead of crushed by suffering, we are crowned by the Savior.
Elders are parents of the church family–and when Christ’s family as a whole, or any one of His children are going through a painful trial, Peter says follow my example. Pursue humility, focus on the cross of Christ and His sufferings on your behalf, and finally live for heaven and the soon return of Christ. So, let me ask you . . .
1 Do you think God intends for you to be an elder?
If He does, God will give you at least four qualities to look for.
1-A passionate, consuming desire to be an elder–1 Timothy 3:1
2-Christ-like integrity of character–your life will be lived under the authority of the Word, and you will live for Christ at home, at work, in your neighborhood and at church, no matter what.
3-You will faithfully shepherd God’s people, and you will see those people you shepherd over time become more like Christ.
4-You will learn, know, use, teach, talk about, think about and bleed the Bible from your pores. You will love the Bible, know the entire Bible and want people to hunger after it like you do.
2 Are you alert to the greatest threat to spiritual leadership?
Peter models humility here because pride is what kills spiritual leaders–don’t ever think you’re something when you’re nothing. Ministry is not for those who focus on themselves rather than God. The false pride of insecurity, worrying what people think about you, will lead to spiritual disaster–beware of pride in all its forms. Peter knew the great danger of pride–I hope you do as well.
3 Are you a great servant? They make the best leaders
Elders, dads, disciplers, ministry leaders, the greatest among you is what—the servant. You love people and you serve them. The best leaders are first and always followers. The best teachers are first and always the learners. As a leader, you don’t move on from following the Word, learning the Word and obeying the Word first. As a leader, you don’t stop being a humble servant.
4 Are you continually aware that you can’t live for Christ?
The great apostle Peter–the speaker, the preacher, the one who opened the Gospel to the Jews and Gentiles pointed to his failure. The apostle Paul called himself currently the foremost of sinners. If they could not please God, you cannot please God. You cry out for salvation, which means God changes your heart so that you respond to Him in turning from sin and depending on Christ alone, thereby justifying you, Christ giving you His righteousness and taking the punishment for your sins.
So now you stand before Him freed from the punishment and power of sin and can live for Him as a flawed, forgiven believer. Even then, you can’t live for Christ on your own, since He must live through you by His Spirit, depending on Him, relying on Him, trusting in Him for everything you think, say and do. Only those who know Christ and live by the Spirit can please God and live for Christ, whether you are an elder or a brand new baby Christian. “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me.”