Your Leaders In Your Midst

// June 6th, 2020 // Sermons

This entry is part 23 of 24 in the series 1 Peter Series

Good Morning to everyone…  You can listen online or download it and listen later…Your Leaders In Your Midst   Or you could use this link to watch the whole service on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Ke2vKB-FYmU…watching today.  It sure is good to be able spend a bit more time outside…I prefer a bit warmer, but I’m just glad the snow is gone.

The sermon for this morning is Sermon #23 in the Hope in a World That’s Not Our Home based on the first NT letter written by Peter the Apostle – we will be looking at 1 Peter 5:1-4.  This is the 2nd last sermon in this series.

As we have said, this is Communion Sunday at Garrington – so it is my hope that you have prepared a piece of unleavened bread and a cup of grape juice and have it ready for when we get to that part.

I want to read our text – 1 Peter 5:1-4 – and then we’ll pray together and jump right in . . .

Let’s pray…Heavenly Father, You are the God of all Creation, You are our Protector, Provider & Comforter. 

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You are the Rock of our Salvation, the One who is our stability and strength in troubled times. 

We bow before You today to express our love for you and to acknowledge our need for Your wisdom, guidance, protection, provision, and peace.

O Lord – we live in troubled times – we pray for the Peace of Jerusalem, for peace in America, for peace in the midst of a pandemic and for peace in hearts and minds of people caught in the crossfire of a troubled world.  We pray for world leaders and frontline workers to be strengthened and led by You.  May those who are sick and vulnerable and scared and hungry and needy and desperate – may they know the peace and comfort that You can provide.  Lord, bring someone to their side that can show them Your mercy, grace and compassion.

Lord Jesus in Your Word we are reminded that we are to abide in you. Help us to understand how to live in the shadow of the Almighty.  Show us how to walk with greater courage, greater calmness and greater compassion.

Remind us to choose to be patient, kind, and thankful so that each day we might grow in our understanding of how to live in this world as men and women of God, empowered by Your Spirit.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Now to dig into 1 Peter 5:1-4…I’ve given this sermon the title, “Your Leaders in Your Midst”.

Someone has stated, “We generally choose our leaders in times of peace, but we discover our true leaders in times of war.”  The best leaders rise to the surface when the going gets tough.

Times of persecution demand God’s people have adequate spiritual leadership.  In 1 Peter 4:17 Peter warned that judgment would start at God’s house – and now, in our text, he is giving specific instructions to the leaders of the church.  He wants to encourage them to do their work faithfully.  Leaders who shirk their tasks in face of difficulty are only proving that they are hirelings and not true shepherds.

The NT churches we organized under the leadership of elders and deacons.  The word “elder” could also be translated “overseer”“Elder” refers to the maturity of the man, whereas “overseer” speaks to the responsibility of the office.  The word “pastor” which means “shepherd” is another title of the same office.  Elders were appointed to office – the word “ordain” (Acts 14:23) means “to appoint”.

As you look at the testimony of church history in this regard, you find one constant:  Though the men who lead the church are sometimes given different names, bishop or steward or deacon or elder or pastor – the Christian church has universally recognized the need for godly men to lead the church.  This is one mark of the true church:  It is led by godly, mature, faithful men.

Wherever you find a strong church, there you find strong, committed, godly leadership.  It is not enough to have nice buildings, effective programs, and a good pastor.  For a church to flourish over a long period of time, and in order to withstand the pressures of a humanistic culture, it needs a continual supply of godly men in leadership.

And so, Peter was concerned that the leadership in the local churches be at its best.  When the fiery trials come, the people in these churches would look to the elders for encouragement and direction.  So, Peter wants to make sure this support network is in place.

He identifies certain qualities that they should look for in choosing their elders – their spiritual leaders – the first and most obvious:

  1. A Vital Relationship with Christ – v. 1

In this letter Peter introduces himself as a fellow elder.  Yes, he had personally witnessed Christ’s sufferings.  This first verse takes us to Gethsemane and Calvary – where Christ suffered and where He died.  He was a “partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed”.  I wondered if what He experienced on the Mount of Transfiguration – when Christ was glorified right in front of them – I wonder if that is what he was thinking about.

I believe he wrote out of his own personal experience as he was inspired by God’s Holy Spirit.  The local church’s spiritual leaders – the elders – must be men who walk with God and are growing in their spiritual life.

Paul admonished young Timothy, in 1 Tim. 4:15 – “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.”  The word “progress” means that the elders must constantly be moving into new territories of study, new accomplishments and ministry.

Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Sometimes God permits trials to come to a church so that the people will be forced to grow and discover new truths and new opportunities.”  You know, I think that is so true of our present time.  May we not miss what God is wanting to do in the lives of individual Christians and in the lives of the Body of Christ – His Church.

The 2nd quality Peter wants us spiritual leaders to have:

  1. Loving Concern for God’s Sheep – v. 2-3

The picture of a flock of sheep is used frequently in the Bible.  We see it in the OT – Is. 53:6 – “All we like sheep have gone astray”.  We all were once stray sheep, wandering toward a certain hell; but, praise God, the Good Shepherd found us and restored us to the fold.

Sheep are clean animals – in direct contrast to pigs.  Sheep tend to flock together – they need each other.  We, as people, need each other…we need community; we were not created to live in isolation like hermits.

Sheep are also notoriously ignorant, prone to wander off if they don’t have follow the shepherd.  Sheep are defenseless and need a shepherd to watch over them.

Early on in our time here in Garrington, I asked Paul Schnell about the differences about having sheep versus cows…he told me, “Sheep have a lot more ways of dying.”  They are not as resilient as cows.

We had sheep on the church property for a few years when Brenden was young.  I distinctly remember him saying, “Boy, God sure wasn’t complementing us when He called us ‘Sheep’!”  And yet, the more you think about it, the more you realize that the shoe fits!

In v. 2-3, Peter reminds the “shepherd-elders” of their God-given responsibilities:

1) Feed the Flock – v. 2 – the word “feed” means more than just putting out a bale of hay…it means “shepherd, to care for”.  The shepherd has many tasks to look after in caring for his flock.  He had to protect them from threats and not allow thieves to steal them away.  A faithful leader in the church must protect the people entrusted to his care from that which would threaten them – which means sometimes the sheep may not like the rebuke or warning but the shepherd must do this for their own good.

A faithful shepherd not only protected his flock but he also led them to good grazing and fresh water.  So, the shepherd scouts out the land to see what the threats are and find good pasture.

The shepherd would go before his flock to make sure there was nothing ahead of them that could endanger them.  This is a reminder that pastors, shepherds of the flock of God, leaders of the local churches…must lead the people into the greener pastures of God’s Word so that the people can be fed and grow.  That is the reason that I spend time each week in the Word of God, and why I preach what God’s Word says each week.

And, just like a shepherd, there are times when we need to pursue wayward sheep.  I love all those that God has entrusted to my care, and I don’t like losing sheep.  So, please hear what I have to say:  There are those around us that are choosing to ignore the laws of our country and province regarding the restrictions at the present time.  They may feel that the Covid-19 threat is not a real threat, even concluding that the restrictions on churches is a form of religious persecution.  They are wrong!

If concerts and sporting events would be allowed to continue but churches were not, they would have a case, and I would be advocating we rebel against our government…but the whole world is in the same predicament.  Therefore, I believe conducting business as usual is an act of rebellion.  And, in 1 Sam. 15:23 we read, “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.”  And so, I ask, is that the kind of example that Christians should be setting?

It is not an easy thing to be a faithful shepherd of God’s sheep!  It is a task that never ends and requires the shepherd to be dependent on God for strength and wisdom.  What makes it even more challenging is the fact that the flock does not belong to the shepherd – it is God’s flock.  Garrington is not my church!  This is God’s church, these are God’s people, purchased by the precious blood of Jesus.

I take my shepherding task very seriously, because one day I will have to give an account of how I have fulfilled the ministry God has given me.  But, you need to know that one day the sheep will also have to give an account of how they have heeded the warnings and help that God’s shepherds have given them.  Leaders have a responsibility to the people of the church and the people of the church have a responsibility to their leaders.  Feed the flock is 1 responsibility, a 2nd one is:

2) Take Oversight – v. 2 – an “overseer is one who looks over for the purpose of leading”.  The shepherd was among and over his sheep.  Pastors, elders, leaders of the church are also part of the flock but they are to watch over the needs of the flock.  The effective leader needs to always be aware that he is among and over his church body.

He must be “among” so that can get to know them, their needs and problems; and he needs to be “over” so he can lead them and help them solve life’s problems.

Wiersbe wrote, “The preacher needs to be a pastor so he can apply the Word to the needs of the people.  The pastor needs to be a preacher so that he can have authority when he shares in their daily needs and concerns.  The pastor is not a religious lecturer who weekly passes along information about the Bible.  He is a shepherd who knows his people and seeks to help them through the Word.”  This present time of isolation has made this ministry much more difficult…but this too shall pass!

Peter points out some of the dangers of spiritual leadership.  One is wrong attitude – The Message reads, “not because you have to but because you want to please God”– doing God’s will from his heart.

Another danger – covetousness or “shameful gain”.  Getting rich should not be a leader’s motive for ministry.  Paul emphasized in his list of qualifications for elders and leaders that they “must not be a lover of money”.

Notice the wording, in v.2 – “shepherd the flock of God…not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you, not for shameful gain, but eagerly”.   Paul used the same word in Rom. 1:15 – “I am so eager to preach the Gospel”.  It means a willingness to serve because the heart is eager.  A hireling works because he gets paid for it, but a shepherd works because he loves the sheep and is devoted to them.  A 3rd responsibility:

3) Be an Example – v. 3 – Peter gives a contrast between a dictator and a leader.  You can’t drive sheep, you must go before them and lead them.  The church needs leaders who serve and servants who lead!

People are generally willing to follow a leader who practices what he preaches and gives them an example to follow.  The leaders of the church have a flock to care for and lead, but they must be ever cognizant of the fact that this is God’s flock.  Jesus is the Chief Shepherd – it is more important that the flock imitate Him and that our lives and leadership of the flock continually point to Jesus.

The Lord assigns His workers as He chooses and it is our responsibility to be submissive to Him.  There is no competition in the work of God when you are serving in the will of God.  Therefore, no one should feel that they are so very important that they need to “lord it over” God’s people.  The Leadership of the local church are to “oversee” the flock – they are not to “lord it over” the flock.   The 3rd quality Peter mentions:

III. Pleasing Christ Alone – v. 4

When Peter wrote this letter, he wanted to encourage and bring hope to his readers.  Remember, the letter was originally distributed to Christians who were dispersed throughout Asia Minor – Christians who were being persecuted for their faith.  And so, in an effort to encourage them, he again reminds them of the promise of our Lord’s return.

It’s always about Jesus – all about Jesus!  Notice how Peter reminds them that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who died for the sheep, He is the Great Shepherd who lives for the sheep, and He is the Chief Shepherd who will come back again for His sheep.

As the Chief Shepherd, He alone will assess the ministry of those to whom He has given the leading/shepherding responsibility.  He will determine the appropriate reward for service.  No doubt, there are some who in the life will appear to be first, who may end up last when the Lord gives His assessment of each one’s faithfulness in ministry.

There were several kinds of “crowns” that would be given out in those days.  Peter here makes reference to the athlete’s crown – typically this would have been a garland of leaves or flowers that would quickly fade away.  The faithful shepherd/overseer/elder/leader would receive a crown of glory – an amazing inheritance that will never fade away.  This is not a temporary reward.

In our day, a Christian worker may labor for many different rewards.  Some work so hard to have the reward of a personal empire, others for the applause of people; and still others are determined to climb to the top of their particular ladder, so they can be on top…#1.

The only reward worth striving for is the “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” from our Lord and Savior – and then to await the unfading crown of glory that comes with the affirmation from our Lord.

In Rev. 4:10-11, we read of the 24 elders that are gathered around the throne of God.  Listen to what it says, “…the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). [There can be no doubt that this is about Jesus] And they lay their crowns before the throne [most translations read “cast their crowns” – when I read that passage and start to grasp the genuine worship of Jesus that is taking place, I get the sense that they weren’t throwing their crowns at Jesus’ feet – they didn’t want to hang onto anything that takes glory away from the Savior so they toss them at His feet] and say, ‘You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.’”

When we really grasp Who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for us, we will gladly place our crowns at His feet and acknowledge that all we have done was only because of His mercy, grace and power!  When we stand before Jesus and see Him face-to-face, we will have no desire for personal glory.

Back to our text…everything in the local church is very dependent on the leadership of that church.  No matter how large or how small a fellowship might be, the leaders must be in right relationship with Christ, having a loving concern for their people, and a keen desire to please Jesus in all things.

Wiersbe wrote, “We lead by serving and we serve by suffering.”  That is the way Jesus did it, and this is the only way that truly glorifies Him.  We need to grasp that attitude that we read about in Rev. 4:10-11 – the attitude of the 24 elders gathered around the throne of God.

O that we would be so enamored with Jesus that we would worship Him for Who He is:  You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.

As we have already stated – today is Communion Sunday.  Every 1st Sunday of the month we do what the Bible instructs us to do.  We take a small piece of unleavened bread – unleavened because the yeast in bread is symbolic of the sin in our lives.  The bread is to remind us of the body of Jesus that was given for us, and, as Jesus was sinless, we choose to eat unleavened or yeast-less bread.

And, we take a cup of juice – Scripture speaks of the fruit of the vine – implying grapes – and so, we drink a small cup of grape juice.  The juice in the cup is to remind us of the blood of Jesus that was poured out for the forgiveness of our sins when He died on the cross for us.  Heb. 9:22 says, “…for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

Now I want to be so very clear about this:  we don’t eat this piece of bread and drink this cup of juice because we want to have our sins be forgiven – I eat this bread and drink this cup because I have already received the salvation that these emblems point to.  I have asked Jesus to forgive my sin, so I know my sins are forgiven, my guilt is gone, my hope for eternity is absolutely sure…and because of that, I eat the bread and drink the cup.

In Garrington, we practice an Open Communion – which means, you don’t have to be a member of Garrington Church to eat and drink with the rest of the body; but, you do need to have received the salvation that is offered to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  If you have received God’s gift of salvation, you are welcomed to join the rest of the church as we eat and drink together.

Would you take your Bibles/Smartphones/tablets and turn to Matt. 26:26-30….this is Matthew’s account of what happened that first Lord’s Supper, before Jesus was crucified.  Let’s read Matt. 26:26-30…

In our church services, I always like to provide an opportunity for people to prepare themselves.  If you have been listening, you likely have prepared the bread and the cup for you and your family, but we need to prepare ourselves.  In the busyness of life we can sometimes have sin that we have not confessed to the Lord, or attitudes that are wrong, or motives that are misplaced – and so, I like to provide an opportunity for us to quietly talk to God.  Right where you are – close your eyes, fold your hands.  You might find it helpful to pray the words of Psalm 139:23-24….

If God points out any sin, simply confess it to Him; thank Him for saving you and worship Him in your prayer….

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