SIX PRINCIPLES MODELED BY PETER FOR EFFECTIVE PERSONAL MINISTRY
I am following an outline used by John MacArthur and adding my own comments on Acts 9:32-43 which includes a very brief overview of chapter 10. We will study Acts 10 in more depth later. The six principles seen here are: 1) Be actively involved in the Lord's work; 2) Be Christ-exalting. 3) Be available and open to go to serve those who ask for your help; 4) Be prayerful- remain totally dependent on Jesus' power through you; 5) Be fruitful – inward growth in Christ-likeness and outward influence that reaches the lost and builds up the saved; 6) and be free from prejudice (racial and economic) and man-made rules/traditions.
1) Be actively involved in the Lord's work – "Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda." Peter was an apostle not a local pastor and his work was to oversee the ministers and ministries of local churches to establish them in right doctrine and bless and encourage them. He used the gifts and callings God gave him and in his first epistle he exhorts us to do likewise: 10 "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." (1 Peter 4:10) Since all believers are full time ministers for Christ, when "secular" jobs are done for God's glory it becomes spiritual ministry (see Col. 3:23-24). Yet, the Great Commission is a mandate for all believers so using our spiritual gifts (speaking, serving, etc.) to participate in evangelism and discipleship is our responsibility as well. Paul was inspired to say it this way: "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Cor. 15:58)
2) Be Christ-exalting – "There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed. 34 Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed." Immediately he got up. 35 And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord." Once again we see in Peter's first epistle the very thing that occurred here in Acts 9: 11" If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:11) Peter spoke the Lord's words of healing to Aeneas and gave all the glory to Jesus. And people turned to the Lord not to Peter's Healing Ministry Inc.
3) Be available and open to God to serve those who ask for your help – 36 "Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did. 37 And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, "Do not delay in coming to us." 39 So Peter arose and went with them." Peter could have easily thought that going to this poor lady's funeral was not as needed as attending to the important work of establishing the new churches and teaching the pastors and elders in Christ's doctrines. But he must have sensed the Lord's leading to go and then probably to his surprise Jesus raised her from the dead and many in Joppa believed in the Lord. When the Lord seemed to be calling me into full-time vocational ministry, I argued with him for months that I did not have the ability. As I continued to pray for His will on this (for 14 months) I finally "heard" Him say: "I don't want your ability I want your availability." I recalled how Moses argued with God for the same reason and how God spoke to him: 10 "Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." 11 The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." (Exodus 4:10-12)
4) Be prayerful- remain totally dependent on Jesus' power through you- 39 "So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. 40 But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, "Tabitha, arise." And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive." I must say I have trouble with the TV healers who "heal" others in front of crowds in the audience and those who watch on TV. Why don't they do what Peter did? Yes the word got out all over Joppa but Jesus got all the credit not Peter. "It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord." This account shows Peter's ongoing dependence on Jesus' power and not his own even though the Lord had worked through Peter in powerful ways: "As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed." (Acts 5:15-16) ["Five young men one time were in London years ago, and they were Christians, and they thought it would be interesting to go to Spurgeon's tabernacle and hear the great master preach. So they arrived a little early, hoping to get a seat, and the doors were still locked. They were standing on the steps in the front, and a gentleman walked up to them and introduced himself by this statement. He said, "Young men, would you like to see the heating apparatus of this church?" They looked at each other and thought, "The heating apparatus, who wants to see that?" But they didn't want to turn away their friend that they had just met, and so they said, "Why, fine, if you would desire to show that to us, yes," being gracious young men. So he proceeded to take them in the door. They went down long steps, and they came to a hallway that looked like a dead end. They went to the end of the hallway, and a man opened the door, and there was this large room filled with 700 people on their knees in prayer. At which point, the gentleman turned to them and said, "There, my young men, is the heating apparatus of this church." They later found out that their unknown guide was Charles Haddon Spurgeon himself. You see, he recognized the power was not his, but the power was God's, and it was unleashed in prayer. You know what prayer is? Prayer at this point is simply the admission that I can't do it, and God can. That's it, and that releases power. Jesus did it. He went to the cross. Before He got to Calvary, He went to Gethsemane. Make prayer a priority in your life." John MacArthur] The disciples never asked Jesus to teach them to preach but they did ask Him to teach them to pray. We may not be called to raise the dead but we need to pray for God's power to love and serve our wives and children and how to run our business to the glory of God.
5) Be fruitful – inward growth in Christ-likeness (Gal. 5:22-23) and outward influence that reaches the lost and builds up the saved (Matt. 28:18-20) – "It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord." We cannot produce fruit for the Lord (John 15:5) but we can be faithful and obedient to Him and display the fruit He produces through us. "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much." (Luke 16:10) "His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master." (Matt. 25:23) "Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy (or faithful)." (1 Cor. 4:2) As we faithfully obey the Lord in our day-to-day assignments He will use us for increasingly greater assignments as we remain dependent and obedient to Him.
6) Be free from prejudice (racial and economic) and man-made rules/traditions – "And Peter stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon." (Also see all of chapter 10) ["What does that have to do with free from prejudice?" One of the most despicable trades in the mind of a Jew was that of a tanner because a tanner dealt with the skin of dead animals, making leather. No self-respecting Jew would have anything to do with a tanner. He was despised; and, in fact, the Mishna said if a woman had a husband who took on the trade of a tanner, she had the right to divorce him, because he went into something so defiled. Not only that, it was ceremonially unclean. And the beautiful thing is that here is Peter, who's a Jew and trained in all the prejudices and traditions and Old Testament attitudes; and, you know, prejudices die hard. Man, these are rough days for Peter. The first thing he has to do is throw his arms around a bunch of Samaritans, and that was a tough one, because the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans; And in the next chapter, chapter 10, he has to accept the Gentiles. He has to throw his arms around Cornelius and call him brother, and this is a tough time in his life. Not only that He has a vision and in this vision he sees this big sheet with all these unclean animals and the Lord says to him, "Rise, Peter, kill and eat." And Peter goes, "Ohhhhh, I can't do that. I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." So dietary prohibitions, the Lord's beginning to knock down those walls, too. So, you see, this whole thing that Peter's built up all his life is coming down. It wasn't any problem for the Lord to heal an eight-year paralytic. Wasn't any problem for the Lord to raise from the dead a couple of days dead Dorcas. But, man alive, to reverse an old man who'd been raised in all these traditions, prejudices, and ceremonial ritualistic rules, that was a job. And, in fact, he even had a relapse in Antioch. Some Jews came into town, and he forsook the Gentiles and started going back to Jewish customs, and Paul says, "I withstood him to the face, nose to nose, I told him what he was doing. I blasted him." Peter had a relapse. But here he's beginning to see his freedom. Here he is living with a tanner." John MacArthur] Billy Graham is a great model for us here. He refused to preach at crusades in the south where blacks were separated from whites and because of his stand on this they took down the ropes and barriers that separated blacks and whites.
"My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? 2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, "You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor"-well, 4 doesn't this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?" (James 2:1-4) When the hippies began to come to Christ two new denominations were willing to accept them just as they were- sloppy clothes, long-hair and the works. Now The Vineyard and Calvary Chapel have some 2,400 churches here and across the world. Some of the more conservative pastors and congregations would not let the hippies in just as they were. According to James and what we see in Acts, they were dead wrong. "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1) Be actively involved in the Lord's work – Read Colossians 3:23-24 and share how you carry out this command in your workplace. Now read 1 Peter 4:10 and share how you use your spiritual gifts at home, at work and at church. Also read and discuss 1 Cor. 15:58.
2) Be Christ-exalting "If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:11) How can we exalt Christ at our workplace? How about at home and at church?
3) Be available and open to God to serve those who ask for your help – God does not want our ability; He wants our availability. How can we (like Moses almost did in Exodus 4:10-12) miss God's call to help others?
4) Be prayerful- remain totally dependent on Jesus' power through you- Jesus used Peter to do miracles and even raise the dead but Peter remained prayerfully dependent on God's power, not his own. Where may you tend to rely on your experience and skills more than on God's power working through you through humble prayer?
5) Be fruitful – inward growth in Christ-likeness (Gal. 5:22-23) and outward influence that reaches the lost and builds up the saved (Matt. 28:18-20). We cannot produce fruit for the Lord (John 15:5) but we can be faithful and obedient to Him and display the fruit He produces through us. Please read Luke 16:10, Matthew 25:23 and 1 Cor. 4:2 and discuss man's part in bearing fruit for the Lord.
6) Be free from prejudice (racial and economic) and man-made rules/traditions – "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7) Peter, James, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King, all lived out this verse for us. Have you ever struggled with racial or economic (social status) prejudice? How has God changed you? How can you model freedom from prejudice for your children and your friends?