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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Trustworthy & True Part 4: A Trustworthy and True Office Bearer
Text:1 Timothy 3:1-13 (View)
Occasion:Ordination (Elder/Deacon)
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-01-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: John 13:1-20

Text: 1 Timothy 3:1-13

 

A TRUSTWORTHY AND TRUE OFFICE-BEARER

  1. Do you Truly Understand what it means to Serve?

  2. Do you Truly Desire to Serve?

 

  1. Psalm 30: 1, 2, 3, 5

  2. Psalm 38: 1, 2, 7, 8

  3. Hymn 23: 1, 2, 3, 6

  4. Hymn 79: 1-5

  5. Psalm 92: 1, 6, 7

  6. Hymn 52: 1, 3, 4

Words to Listen For: blueprints, ivory, hoodie, dead, tomorrow 

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What’s the point of foot-washing?

  2. How is this a sermon for everyone?

  3. What is Satan’s devious plan?

  4. Are “glass houses” only for ministers?

  5. What was wrong about Pastor Segstro’s youth pastor’s advice?  What was right?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved Congregation of Jesus Christ,

When was the last time someone washed your feet?

If you’re like me, it was probably quite a long time ago.  Probably back when I was so young that my parents had to help me take a bath.  Age 4?  Age 5?

And I don’t remember a time when I have ever washed someone else’s feet.  I’ve seen it done though.

About 7 years ago, I attended the wedding of a few friends of mine.  Weddings are interesting things, because there is a lot of freedom for the bride and groom to plan the service how they want.  And this bride and groom were rather creative in how they showed their love and dedication for each other.

Along with the typical service, and their own personal vows that they wrote, after they were declared as man and wife, in their first act as a married couple, they took turns taking off each other’s shoes, and then washed the feet of the other.  And, sitting there in the pew, I felt conflicted.  I loved the idea.  It was a powerful image of love and sacrifice.  Desiring to serve and love each other as Jesus served and loved His disciples.  But on the other hand...feet are gross.

Feet are gross!  It was a very hot summer day, and I don’t think they had the time that morning to spray perfume or cologne on their feet in preparation.

But that’s the point, isn’t it?  Self-sacrificial love.  If the feet didn’t stink, if the feet weren’t gross...then this act of love wouldn’t cost quite so much.  But they did.  And so it did.

We just read the story of our Lord washing the feet of His disciples, acting as a servant.  We just sang Hymn 23, the Philippians Christ Hymn of Jesus giving up His heavenly glory and becoming a slave.

There is no-one more glorious than our Saviour...and yet there was no one more humbled.

He saved us, ransoming us from the power of the Devil, rising from the grave, ascending into heaven, but He has not left us alone.  You cost Christ too much for him to ever forget about you.  Having redeemed us at the cost of His blood, He will not leave us.  He will care for us as He has from eternity past, into eternity yet to come.  He is near to us by His Holy Spirit, and He gave the blueprints to build His church.

Ephesians 4 speaks powerfully of the office-bearers given as gifts to equip the saints for the work of ministry, and to build up the body of Christ.  He has given us instructions of how His church ought to be run.  We do not have to go searching far and wide to discover the best methods from the business world, of having CEOs, or the legal world, where there are lawyers who are partners, or even named partners in the law office.  Businesses where the leaders are untouchable and can choose to run things their way.

Instead, in the Christian life, in the life of the church, everything even leadership revolves around submission.  Pastors, Elders, and Deacons are not the heads of the church, for this is only one head: Jesus Christ.  Pastor, Elders, and Deacons are to SERVE.

And yet, this does not mean that Pastors, Elders, and Deacons are NOTHING.  They are gifts that Christ gave to His church.  Being a gift of God does not mean that they are untouchable,  but rather, it means that there is a high standard to which office-bearers must attain.  The gift shows the love of the giver.  What a weighty task.  It should not be taken lightly.  Our church...Christ’s church...Christ’s church here at ___________must have 

[A] TRUSTWORTHY AND TRUE OFFICE-BEARERs

And on this installation Sunday, we will look at this through two questions asked to our incoming office-bearers:

  1. Do you Truly Understand?

  2. Do you Truly Desire?

 

Do you Truly Understand?

Last week’s sermon began with a picture, and illustration of a man alone.  Young Pastor Timothy feeling discouraged, wondering if the ministry was worthwhile.  Wondering if resisting temptation was more trouble than it was worth.  A young man, in over his head, alone and at the end of his rope.

And though this may be how Timothy FELT, and I dare say, it is probably fairly accurate, the illustration missed an important aspect of the ministry.  The illustration missed it, because Timothy’s heart probably missed it.  And what about you?  Did you notice what was missing?

The other office-bearers were missing!  The ministry is not a one-man show.  The ministry, biblically, CANNOT be a one man show.  And if it becomes this way, if the minister becomes the only one making decisions, if the minister becomes the CEO with ultimate veto power, then corruption and pride are sure to follow.  If the minister becomes the ultimate human decision-maker, then it isn’t too long before he also wants to oust Jesus Christ out of His rightful seat as Head of the Church.

No man is an island, and for those who choose to maroon themselves, disaster is sure to follow.

Instead, Christ has given His church the good gift of office-bearers to serve faithfully.  To serve the congregation, to serve alongside the pastor.  This is a sermon about you.

Now, if you are not one of the three men about to be installed as office-bearers, you might think that this sermon is not for you.  After all, I did just say that this was a sermon about office-bears.  And it IS about them...it is about these three men...but it is FOR you too.  This sermon is for the current office-bearers, myself included.  We must never stop examining ourselves, seeing the flaws, the gaps, the blind-spots, in our character and conduct.  We must never stop striving for excellence in our service of Christ and in our service of the congregation.

And this sermon is for ALL the men in our congregation.  All those who may be, one day, called to serve in office, so that, even now, when you are not in office, you begin to cultivate this character among yourselves...even if you do not wish to ever hold an office in the church.  For God might have other plans.  This sermon is also for you.

But that only covers half the church.  Is this, then, a sermon only for the men of the congregation?  What about the women?  Though I do not advocate for women to hold office, as this is made very clear by passages such as 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 14, and Titus 2...this is a sermon that is for you as well.

And why?

It is for you, because leaders affect us all.  Leaders affect men, women, and children...and faithful churches need faithful leaders.  It is the responsibility of the church, each and every member, to keep their leaders accountable.  Because even faithful and earnest leaders are still sinful.  It is the role of the members, men and women, to keep their leaders accountable...not to the whims of the congregation, but to the commandments of God.  The members must submit to their authority, they must respect, they must honour, they must obey...but they also must hold their leaders accountable.  And so, this is a message for everyone.

It is important for each of us to know what is required of office-bearers. And this is what Scripture says: The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task

We do not use this language today, this language of "overseer," but this is simply one of a few different words that Scripture uses for the office of elder.  This is a name that tells us one of the tasks - watching over the flock.  OVERSEEING the flock.  The term elder refers to one of the qualifications - that of maturity.  Not every elder is ELDERLY so to speak, but every elder must have deep spiritual maturity.

And here follows a long list of descriptions of the different qualifications of elder.  We will not go through each and every one of them this morning, or we would be here all day, but we will briefly examine some of them momentarily.

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task

And then, we see in verse 8 the words: deacons likewise.  And this isn’t just connecting the qualifications, but the nobility.  Elders are not above deacons, they serve equal but different functions.  This is a trustworthy and true saying, not just for the elders, the overseers, but for the deacons as well.  It is an honorable thing to desire to serve in this way in the church.  And we have to understand what this means.  What exactly does it mean to be an elder or a deacon in Christ’s church?

It means, first of all...to serve.  It means that the leaders in the church must be a picture to the congregation of who Jesus Christ is.  As His gift, they represent the Giver.

It means that, as leaders, we must get on our knees and wash the feet of the congregation.  Not literally, as there is something very time-bound to that practice, and we should beware of adding 1st century cultural aspects into our worship service...but we must have the heart of a foot-washer.  The heart of servant leadership.

And servant leadership is a far cry from the traditional view of the authority figures in the church.  Whether they were called elders or bishops, cardinals, patriarchs, or popes...office-bearers in the church have long been thought to be untouchable.  These men of great dignity and authority, living in their ivory towers, looking down on the common people in the pew.

But this is not what Christ has called us to, and this view of the office-bearers, this unbiblical and dangerous view MUST NOT EXIST in this church of Jesus Christ. It must not exist in the hearts of the office-bearers or the hearts of the members.

The Son of Man came, not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  This is our Saviour.  This is our ultimate example.  This is what elders and deacons should look like.

Serving as a pastor, as an elder, as a deacon...it is not a position of prestige and ease, but rather, a position that requires work of the highest calibre.

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task

It is noble, but it is also a task.  It is a call to self-denial and self-sacrifice, for the good of others, and for the glory of God.  All of us must understand this.

If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.  Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?  He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

An overseer must strive to follow each one of these qualifications.  Not for him to lord it over the members under his care, but rather, so that he can be a proper servant.  Keep these rules for the right reasons...not so that you can elevate yourself, not so that you can present yourself as better than others, but rather, do these things in thankfulness.

The danger for office-bearers, elders, deacons, pastors, is that they will become puffed up with conceit.  We read this in verse 6, in the context of recent converts.  But it affects us all.  Whether we put ourselves onto a pedestal, or someone else does...this is the beginning of the end.  The sin of pride is the trap of the Devil.  He wants you to fall in exactly the same way that he did, so that he can take the church down from the inside.  And that is what is so devious about his plan.

You see these qualities, these qualifications for office-bearers are meant to show us who Jesus Christ is.  These qualifications are meant for us to become mirrors of Christ, to reflect His love, to reflect His servant heart.  But the devious plan of the devil to office-bearers is exactly in line with what caused him to fall, and it is exactly what caused Adam and Eve to fall.

It isn’t enough to be IMITATORS of Christ, reflecting the IMAGE of God...you must BE GOD YOURSELF!  Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 give us glimpses into Satan’s rebellion and fall.  He wanted to set his throne above the Most High.  His heart was proud.  And he fell.  Because he WASN’T GOD.

In Genesis 3, we hear his exact words to the woman: You will be like God.  And she fell.  She and her husband fell.  They did not become God.

Brothers, do not fall like the Devil.  Do not become puffed up in your position, but realize it as the weighty thing that it is.  Do not become PROUD, but rather be HUMBLED.  Be humbled, and in awe, that God, through His congregation, has chosen you to this office.

Do you understand what it means to serve?

  • You should be good teachers, knowing what God’s Word says and boldly proclaiming it.
  • You should be good listeners and wise counsellors, providing support and answers for those who struggle.  Or, at the very least, mourning with those who mourn.  Rejoicing with those who rejoice.

But above and beyond all of this, you must be godly.

Notice that the qualifications for elders (and it is very much the same for deacons), notice that these qualifications, nearly ALL OF THEM, refer, not to your public life, but to your private life.

As prospective ministers in the seminary, we were told, time after time after time, that ministers live in a glass house.  This means that your private life IS your public life.  There is very little distinction between the two, and this is how it SHOULD be.  If you see me on my day off, if you see me walking around town, the only difference, the only thing that might change, should be WHAT I'M WEARING.  I don’t wear jeans up on the pulpit, but I’ll wear them on my days off.  I don’t wear casual clothing up here, but early in the morning, when it’s cold outside, and I want to do my devotions on my patio, you’ll see me in a hoodie.  But that should be the only thing that is different.  My personality, my words, my values...they must be the same in my condo, at a coffee shop, or at the Thrift Store, or on this pulpit.  And I fail at this.  I know I do.  But, by the strength of God, I will get better.

Elders, you must be good husbands.  You must be good fathers.  There are churches where, when elders are nominated, the consistory then speaks privately with the man’s wife about his character.  If he is privately cruel to her, if he privately exasperates his children, if he seeks this office so that those around him will look up to him...then he should not be ordained as an elder.

Deacons, likewise, you must be good husbands.  You must be good fathers.  You must not be heavy drinkers, you must not be greedy.  But rather, as verse 10 says...you must be BLAMELESS.

Do you understand?  Do you understand what a weighty task this is?

Elders, deacons, pastors...have to be blameless.  But who among us is capable of carrying out our office in this way?  I’m not!  And with all due respect, brother ______, brother ______, and brother _________ are not either.  None of us are blameless.

So, what shall we say then?  Shall we do away with the offices altogether because none of us can fulfill them perfectly?

By no means!  Even though we cannot serve exactly as Christ served, so selflessly, so full of love for God, so full of love for the neighbour...this does not mean that we are illegitimate leaders.  It does not mean that another should take our place.

What it does mean is that only Christ can perfectly fulfill these offices.  But He has chosen us.  He has chosen representatives.  He has given gifts.  And so, it is only through Christ that we can serve.  Only in His strength, dressing in the robes of His righteousness, humbly saying: only by the grace of God, can I continue on in this role of service.

But this should not be a new saying on the lips of the three brothers here today.  Instead, having lived a Christian life for years, for decades, they should be familiar with this position of their heart, as should all of you.

This is a sermon about you.  For this must be the heart position of each and every one of us.  Office-bearer or not.  Young, old, male, female…only by the grace of God can I continue on in this role of service.  This role as mother.  This role as father.  This role as usher.  This role as son, as daughter, as teacher, as landscaper.  This role...as CHRISTIAN.

It is HIS STRENGTH, and not your own.

And we can take great comfort in knowing that Jesus knows exactly the sort of people He has called to Himself.  He knows who He has called to be His workers, who He has called to be parents, office-bearers, and preachers.  He will not be surprised by your weaknesses.  And He will take them on Himself.  What we charitably call weakness, He calls sin.  And He died to take it away.  He died to kill sin, and to present us blameless.

And now, what He wants you to do, what He expects you to do, is to go to Him in your weakness, and depend on His mighty strength.  Depend on His wisdom.  Depend on His grace.

For it is a weighty task.  It is WORK if you’re doing it right.  If it’s EASY….you’re making a mistake.  You’re missing something.  It is work...but it should also be a joy.  If we understand the cost, and still desire to pay it...then this is truly honorable.  Our second point.

 

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.

If anyone aspires to the office.  Or, as other translations have it...whoever DESIRES the office.

Years ago, when I was beginning my journey to take on the office of minister, I came back in touch with my youth pastor from my CRC days.  I told him of my desire to enter the ministry, and he cautioned me.  He said: You shouldn’t DESIRE this.  If you truly take the ministry seriously, you have to try everything else first.  It’s only if all your other plans fail, that you should pursue the ministry.

And I went away from that conversation very confused.  Isn’t it noble to desire this?  Isn’t it an honorable thing?

Looking back now, I think I understand a little more of what he was trying to say...but I still think he was dead wrong.  If we all followed his advice, we would be like Jonah, literally running away from God, refusing to obey until God takes us into the depths of Sheol, making us come face to face with death.  Jonah is not our ultimate example.  That being said, there IS something good that we can take away from my former youth pastor.  This is the truth that is taught in our church order, article 3

    No one shall take any office upon himself without having been lawfully called thereto.

There is a real and true danger of men intruding into an office for all the wrong reasons.   In the early days of the Roman Catholic church, there were those who purchased the office of priest or bishop.  It wouldn’t always be as simple and distasteful as handing over a pouch of gold, but deals would be made secretly between a rich nobleman and a bishop in the dark of night.  The bishop saying that the cathedral could use a new roof, WINK WINK, the nobleman saying that he would love to help out, not just financially, but that he would love to have a position where he could do more good long term.  And the deal was struck, selling the offices of the church for money.  The nobleman didn’t want to help, he wanted power.  The bishop didn’t really need a new roof, he needed to line his pocked with more gold.

This doesn’t happen as much today, but there are those who feel so powerfully in their heart that God has called them to be a minister or an elder, and if the church prayerfully tells them that now is not the time, they will strike out on their own and start their own church.  I was once a member of such a church.  And it was deeply wrong.

But how do we find the balance here, beloved?  How can we appropriately view these offices, not literally running away like Jonah, and not intruding wrongfully into it?

We should look to the Apostle Paul for an example.

1 Corinthians 2 - I came to you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

Paul came, so totally aware of his own failings, his own weaknesses, but also so totally aware of the Spirit’s strength.  It was the Spirit who empowered him.  It was the Spirit who worked in his heart and worked through his words.

And so I would ask the three brothers here this morning if they think that they can do the work of an office-bearer in their own strength.

This isn’t one of the three questions that they must answer before you.  But I ask them this question all the same.  A question that they must answer before God.

“Do you feel in your hearts that you can do the work of an office-bearer in your own strength?”

And unlike the vows that they will make in a few minutes, the answer must be I DO NOT.

In the vows, they must say: I DO.  But here, they must say I DO NOT.

There MUST be that weakness and fear.  That trembling, that reluctance to serve.

And yet, and yet, with a proper understanding of who they are, and who God is, with a proper understanding of what the office is, they will deeply desire to serve in this manner.  They will feel this burning in their heart that it is their responsibility to serve their God and serve their church in this particular way.  And then they will do it.

It’s not about glory, it’s not about titles, it’s not about prestige or power...it is about work.  And this work is glorious. This work is godly.  This work is noble.

And just before I close, let me dispel one more rumour.  One more false teaching that I came across this week.

This was the teaching: There is no more important work than being an office-bearer.  There is no better work that exists among the people of God.

This is wrong, and I urge you not to hold this as true in your heart.

Indeed, it is a noble task.  It is a noble thing to want to serve God in this way.  And it will be rewarded by Him.  But the most important work, the best work that exists among the people of God...is the work that YOU are called to.

It is dishonorable and it is wicked to intrude upon this office if you are not lawfully called.

It is dishonorable and it is wicked to reject God’s calling on your life and go a different way.

The most honorable thing, the best way to be a trustworthy and true Christian, is to serve in the position where God has placed you.

The night before orientation day at the seminary, I wrote the following in my journal:  Tomorrow is the first day of seminary.  It’s orientation day, but still.  It’s the beginning. And I am SO SCARED.  I’m tempted to pull a Jonah.  I legitimately want to pack up my car and drive in the opposite direction.  I’m SO SCARED.  God, please make me brave.  Make me faithful.

I wanted to serve God in the ministry.  I wanted to serve His church.  And later, I said to myself, the only thing harder than staying, would have been leaving.

I knew that this was God’s will, and I had to be obedient.

God’s will is not for everyone to be pastors.  Or elders, or deacons.

But God does have a plan for each and every one of you.  This sermon is about you.  What is most honorable is to prayerfully discover that plan, and then prayerfully fulfill that plan, in His strength.

Your knees may knock together a little.  Your hands may shake, but He will strengthen your weak knees, and steady your shaking hands.

It’s GOOD, it’s HONORABLE to desire to serve.

And it’s GOOD, it’s HONORABLE to be open to God’s direction to tell you how He wants you to serve.

And it’s GOOD, it’s HONORABLE to serve with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole strength, focussed on what gives Him the most glory.

Focus on His glory above all. Not your station, not your position, not your authority.  If it means preaching with fear and trembling, or it means spiritually washing the feet of those under your care, you must do it cheerfully.  You must do it joyfully.  You must do it faithfully.  You must serve your brothers and sisters as though you were serving God Himself.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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