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LEADERSHIP (4): Peter – Growing to Glory


I Will Make You Fishers of Men

I Will Make You Fishers of Men

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. . . . And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. – Peter, 1 Peter 5:1, 4.

Here Peter speaks twice of the glory that belongs to Christian leaders. Yet, Peter himself did not appear much of a candidate for glory when he first appeared in Scripture.

AN UNLIKELY PROSPECT FOR LEADERSHIP

Though he was among the first to be introduced to Jesus and the first to be called to follow Jesus (John 1:40-42; Mark 1:16-18), few would have held out much hope for Simon’s future. Only Jesus could see those things in Simon that justified naming him Peter (i.e., “The Rock”).

When Jesus called him to be a disciple he was a Galilean fisherman. This was not a promising source to find one to sit on a throne to judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). Like Jesus himself, Peter was despised as an “unschooled, ordinary” man (Acts 4:13).

He frequently demonstrated symptoms of “foot-in-mouth disease,” for he often spoke when he did not know what to say. The Mount of Transfiguration provides an example of this. When he saw the glorified Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah, he did not know what to say. In spite of this, he grandly offered to build three tabernacles to honor Jesus and the two Old Testament prophets. His impetuous offer prompted God to declare Jesus to be His beloved Son and to order Peter, “Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5).

Again, in Caesarea Philippi Peter spoke up first when Jesus asked the disciples who they thought he was. He was the first to confess Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God. Yet, a half-dozen verses later, Peter took Jesus aside to rebuke him. Jesus had blessed Peter for his confession – and gone on to tell the future apostles of his coming death. Peter reacted by rebuking Jesus for having such a thought (Matthew 16:13-23)! Without thinking of the contradiction in what he was doing, he rebuked the one he had just acknowledged to be the Son of the Living God of Israel. This is not the action we would expect from a future leader in the church.

Peter often over estimated his capability and devotion. At the Last Supper when Jesus warned His disciples that they would all fall away and be scattered, Peter was the first to declare, “Even if all fall away, I will not. I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). Jesus then predicted Peter would deny his Lord three times before the next morning.

Peter not only spoke without realizing what he was saying, he was also hasty in his actions. It was Peter who took his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 18:10). Yet, he could also be slothful in doing some things he ought to have done. Peter was one of the three whom Jesus asked to watch and pray with him while he went further into the Garden to pray. But instead of watching with Jesus and praying with him, they all slept. He awoke them, and they slept again. Then, it was repeated a third time! (Matthew 26:36-46) Is it possible that if Peter had prayed instead of sleeping at this time, he would not have denied Jesus three times later that evening?

ENDEARING WEAKNESSES

How did such a great man as Peter come from such a beginning? He showed brashness and braggadocio. He was weak and impetuous. His faith wavered at crucial times. At other times, he acted as if he had to have the first (and last?) word on everything. But, in spite of these things, we all love him – partly because we can see our own weaknesses in him.

Even these weaknesses we have described above endear him to us. At the Mount of Trans­fig­ura­tion, he placed Jesus in exalted company by wanting to honor him along with Moses and Elijah. No, he did not realize yet how much greater Jesus was than these great personages – but he was learning.

When he rebuked Jesus at Caesarea Philippi, it was because he could not imagine how the Christ could possibly die – and for Jesus to suggest such a thing was, to Peter, tantamount to giving up the fight before it had begun. True, he was inconsistent in rebuking the Son of God – but it was limited knowledge of Jesus’ true mission that led him to react this way.

And when Jesus predicted the disciples would fall away and forsake him that very night, we would think very little of all of them if they had merely acquiesced in this. That Peter spoke up first to say he would never forsake the Lord even if all others did was simply characteristic of this man who loved his Lord deeply. Then, when he did deny knowing the Lord he quickly repented with bitter tears when he realized just what he had done.

He had taken his sword against a large number, ready to defend Jesus to the death – just as he had said he would. Again, his ignorance of the nature of Jesus’ mission led him into this rash, but courageous, act. Jesus’ plan was different from any Peter – or the others – could imagine.

Even earlier, when he slept while Jesus prayed, Jesus recognized that his spirit was willing though the flesh was weak.

In short, Peter was a man like other men – with weaknesses we can all understand for we share them. But Peter’s life was a living example of his admonition to us: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

Jesus saw potential in Simon that many would have missed. This should give us hope. Is there something in us that others have not seen either? Maybe I have been giving up on myself too quickly! Jesus can take ordinary, flawed human clay to make a vessel of honor – when love and desire are there.

Peter’s boldness in preaching Jesus before the very ones who had put Him to death – the ones Peter had feared so much he denied the Lord! – made those people recognize “he had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). The experience of being with Jesus made Peter a different man. It is this fact more than any thing else that made Peter what he was as a leader. Jesus, the Master Potter, shaped and molded this man’s life. He had been with Jesus, and Jesus transformed this ordinary man into one to whom was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

INCREASING GLORY

We noted at the beginning that Peter spoke of the glory that awaits Christian leaders. In Peter’s own life we see glory grow in him through being with Jesus. In a passage which beautifully describes Peter’s growth, Paul said, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Peter was with Jesus. His association with Jesus empowered him to “reflect the Lord’s glory.” And this changed Peter into the glorious leader he became.

This same factor will make us effective Christian leaders as well. We must be with Jesus. Peter walked with Jesus through Galilee and Judea. He observed Jesus and was corrected by him. We must be “with Jesus” in the only way open to us. This is how we will grow in grace and knowledge.

We must be with Jesus in his word. As we behold him there, we will be changed by the power of his personality. The simplicity of his love for both God and man will draw us to him All of Scripture testifies of him (John 5:39-40). Yet, the gospels, especially, are written that we might know him, believe in him, and find life in him (John 20:30-31). We need to spend time with him there if we would grow in his likeness – as did Peter.

We must also be with Jesus in prayer. It is not enough for us to observe him from a distance. We must involve him in our own lives. Our hopes and fears, our smiles and tears can all be taken to him in our prayers. Yes, we address prayer to the Father, but Jesus is still involved in our prayer. It is because he goes with us that we can approach the throne of grace with confidence we will gain a hearing.

In prayer we are even more personally and intimately “with Jesus” than when we read the word. This is what works to change our lives. In prayer, we lay our souls bare and open ourselves to his loving influence. Someone said, “Prayer changes things.” Another said, “Prayer moves the hand that moves the world.” These are true statements, but it is also true that prayer changes me and moves me.

Jesus told his disciples to pray the Lord of the harvest to send workers into his field; his next words sent them out preaching (Matthew 9:38 – 10:6). Their prayers prepared them to become the answer to their own prayer. Prayer changed them so they could be leaders for Christ. It will also change us.

We are also to be with Jesus through his Spirit. Before his crucifixion, Jesus promised to send another Comforter, the Holy Spirit. He assured his disciples he would not leave them desolate as orphans in his absence, but that he would come to them (John 14:16-18). These two promises are one. Jesus came to them when the Holy Spirit came.

Jesus walks with us every day in the person of his Spirit. To walk with him in the Spirit is to enable him to transform our lives by that Spirit. (See <a href=” /2009/09/22/discipleship-15-–-the-holy-spirit-disciples-of-jesus/”>The Holy Spirit & Disciples of Jesus</a>. This is why Paul could write, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9). This implies a willing submission to the will of God. If we harden our hearts against him, we “grieve the Holy Spirit” until we “put out the Spirit’s fire” with his own tears (cf. Ephesians 4:30 & 1 Thessalonians 5:16). This constant walk with Jesus in the Holy Spirit transforms us into leaders He can use.

Effective Christian leaders are those who

“spend much time in secret with Jesus alone”

(from the hymn, Take Time to Be Holy by W.D. Longstaff). In the secret time, Jesus He changes our lives as He changed Peter’s. The secret time is when Jesus has opportunity to mold and shape us into His men and His women so that we will be able to strengthen others.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

  1. What are some things Peter did that showed him to be a great Christian leader?
  2. What mistake did Peter make, even at the time of his maturity (see Galatians 2:11ff)?
  3. If Christian leaders cannot be expected to be perfect, what can we see in Peter that can be expected of each leader?
  4. How did being with Jesus make Peter the leader he became?
  5. How important is that Christian leaders today spend time with the Lord?
  6. What levels of leadership will benefit from spending time with Jesus? Can any leader be effective without such time?
  7. How does Peter teach us that we should never give up on ourselves? What happens if we do decide that we will not be able to become “God’s man” or “God’s woman”?
  8. What is the most significant lesson Christian leaders can learn from Peter?


NEXT
– (05) Saul & David: Contrasting Styles of Leadership
PREVIOUS – (3) Example of Paul

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