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1 Peter 5:8-9; Resisting the Lion

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090719_1peter5_8-9.mp3

07/19 1 Peter 5:8-9 Resisting the Lion

5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober–minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

We learned last time that humility is an essential grace in the Christian life. Almighty God is actively and aggressively engaged against those who lift themselves up, but he is just as actively and aggressively engaged in pouring out undeserved kindness on the one who has a deep sense of his own unworthiness in the sight of God. We found that anxiety or worry is evidence of a proud heart. As Alexander Nisbet said in his commentary written in 1658

“Mis-believing anxiety, whereby Christians break themselves with the burden of these cares which God requires to be cast upon Him, is one of the greatest signs of pride in the world; and to trust God with the weight of these in following our duty is a prime evidence of true humility…” [Nisbet, p.201]

Peter has addressed the Elder-Shepherds and exhorted them to shepherd God’s flock willingly, eagerly, being examples to the flock. He’s told us to live in humility with one another, let go of pride, and relax under the mighty hand of our awesome God. He tucks us in to our safe care free life under the security of the awesome hand of mighty God, and as we begin to drift off into anxiety free bliss, he says ‘by the way, did I mention the lion?… Humble yourselves… casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you. Don’t worry about a single thing. And oh, we’ve got a hungry lion on the loose… Every thing’s going to work out all right. God is caring for you. He gives grace to the humble…PAY ATTENTION! WATCH OUT!

This is the third time that Peter has called us to stay alert and be sober-minded:

1Peter 1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober–minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 4:7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self–controlled and sober–minded for the sake of your prayers.

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober–minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Peter warns us against the ‘mental and spiritual lethargy that would prevent us from recognizing and meeting an attack on our faith’ [Davids, p.189]. Peter calls us to sober-mindedness. We are to always be on our guard and keep our heads clear. And we are to be alert and watchful. Peter has the vivid recollection of first hand experience with watchfulness and the consequences of a lack thereof:

Mark 14:34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Peter, having failed to be vigilant in his hour of crisis, now turns to strengthen us, just as Jesus had promised:

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Peter knows first hand what it is to be attacked by the roaring lion. Peter knows what it’s like to be caught with your guard down. But I like Peter’s perspective here. You are safe under the mighty hand of our sovereign God. God is the omnipotent uncreated cause of all things, high king and ruler over all things. You do have an enemy. He seems fearsome and powerful, but compared to God he is weak and limited. He is a finite created being. He is dangerous, but he’s been decisively defeated. You need not fear him, but you do need to know how to handle him. In this God centered God saturated letter, Peter gives only one verse to describing the adversary, and he gives concise clear instruction on how to defeat him.

8 Be sober–minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

First, the identity of the adversary. The Hebrew word ‘satan’ means ‘adversary’ or ‘opponent’; sometimes carried over directly from the Hebrew as ‘Satan’ (Mk.1:13; 8:33; 1 Cor.5:5; 7:5); sometimes translated [diabolov] devil, which means ‘slanderer’ or ‘false accuser’. He is further described in this passage as our adversary [antidikov] which means ‘opponent in a lawsuit’. The Devil, or Satan in the bible is ‘a personal spiritual being who is in active rebellion against God and who has leadership of many demons like himself… He is a cunning and evil personal being who has the ability and propensity to attack (and presumably harm) Christians.’ [Grudem, p.196]. We see his personality in his conversation with the LORD in Job 1:7

Job 1:7 The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”

In Job we see Satan going to and fro, walking up and down on the earth. He prowls around like a roaring lion. In Zechariah 3 and Revelation 12 we see Satan as the adversary or accuser of God’s people:

Zechariah 3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”

Revelation 12:10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

The roaring lion metaphor is taken from Psalm 22 which described the passion of Jesus:

Psalm 22:12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

This is not the sneaking slithering serpent Satan. This is the roaring lion Satan. Satan would either have you think too much or too little of him. If he can convince you he doesn’t exist, then he has free reign to work in your life without fear of discovery. If he can convince you that he is more powerful than he really is, then he can manipulate you by intimidation. That is how he is pictured here – roaring intimidation. And he seeks someone to devour. The word devour means ‘to gulp down’. It is the word used to describe the great fish swallowing the prophet Jonah whole.

Jonah 1:17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

The devil would like to swallow up believers. And with this we must ask some hard questions. Can he? What would that mean? The implication is that he does devour those do not resist him, those who are not firm in their faith, those who are not sober-minded and watchful. This is a warning that has real consequences for ignoring. If we don’t take up the shield of faith, we will be hit by the flaming darts of the evil one [Eph.6:16]. Being devoured or gulped down by the roaring lion does not sound like a good thing. Satan’s voracious appetite will be appeased by nothing less than to bring you with him to hell for eternity. And I think that is exactly what is at stake in this verse. Stay alert and think clearly because your adversary would like to drag you to hell. Is that possible? Is it possible for Satan to have the ultimate victory over a genuine reborn believer in Jesus? And I have to answer a resounding NO based on scriptures like:

John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

Romans 3:22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified….35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

2Timothy 2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful–– for he cannot deny himself.

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Those who are in Christ Jesus are absolutely safe and secure and nothing can change that – not even Satan. So is this an empty warning? Why waste so much energy watching out for a lion that can’t possibly eat you? Stay awake, but if you fall asleep, it’s not a big deal because nothing will happen anyway. I don’t think that’s what Peter is saying. So how do we put this together? We who have eternal life, who shall never perish, who have been justified by his grace as a gift, who have been made alive by God, who cannot be separated from the love of God, who are sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of the inheritance, we are warned not to fall prey to the devouring lion. Here’s how I see these fit together: True believers are those who:

1Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. [c.f. 2Timothy 4:7]

A characteristic of a born again believer is that they fight. That they are vigilant against the enemy and that they resist him firm in their faith. The fight is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in the heart of the believer. Lack of fight indicates a lack of genuine spiritual life. Jesus is clear that there will be many on that day that thought they were spiritually safe and he says ‘I never knew you; depart from me [Mt.7:22]. Let’s look at this from another angle. Ephesians 6:

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

God tells us that the fight is way out of our league, but he has provided invincible armor. Would it be evidence of genuine faith to run out into the battlefield without putting on the equipment that he graciously supplies? We cannot hold God to a promise that he did not make. I want to be able to stand against the schemes of the devil, but I’m not going to make use of the armor that God gives. I don’t want to be eaten by the lion, but I’m going to pet the lion and curl up with him and take a nap. If that’s what you say, you are not a believer. Not heeding the warnings is evidence of unbelief, and it is he who believes that has eternal life! The believer walks by faith, trust, obedience to the commands and warnings of God. So how do we handle this lion?

8 Be sober–minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

When faced with the lion, we are to stand our ground and resist him. Not so with many sins. We are told to:

John 10:5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him [a false shepherd], for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

1Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

1Corinthians 10:14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

1Timothy 6:10-11 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

2Timothy 2:22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

It is right to run away from sin. We are commanded to flee. But when we are faced with the roaring lion, we are to stand firm. If you examine the spiritual armor that God has given us for the battle, there is nothing to protect our backs. In fact James says:

James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double–minded.

When faced with sin and temptation, we should look for the promised escape and flee [1Cor.10:13]. But when faced with the devil, we are to stand our ground and resist him and he will flee from us. But how? How do we resist the devil? Peter tells us. Resist him firm in your faith. It is our weapon of faith that will defeat our foe and keep us safe. Our rock-solid confidence in the faithfulness of God to us. Our confidence is in the gospel message that Satan was defeated at the cross of Christ, that we are fully and freely forgiven, and now even death cannot separate us from the love of God.

Peter is expanding here on what he said at the beginning of the letter. He started by telling us that we are elect according to the foreknowledge of God, that God caused us to be born again, that we have an inheritance kept in heaven for us…

1 Peter 1:5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

God’s power is guarding us so that we stand firm and receive the promise rather than being devoured. The means by which his omnipotent power is guarding us is ‘through faith’. ‘Without faith it is impossible to please him’ [Heb.11:6], but ‘all things are possible for one who believes’ [Mk.9:23]. Jude says it this way:

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Our confidence is not in ourselves or our faith, but in the mighty hand of God. We resist the temptation to pride and self dependence and instead humble ourselves under his mighty hand in absolute surrender and utter dependence, trusting that he knows best.

Satan’s roar is the roar of suffering. His roar can be heard in the roar of the emperor, in the roar of the harsh employer, the roar of the unbelieving spouse. The roar of intimidation through suffering that would cause us to buckle under the pressure and distrust the God who called us. Faith cries ‘you can take my livelihood, you can take my family, you can even take my life, but you can never touch my soul because it was bought with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And we can be encouraged that we are not alone. Our brothers around the globe are experiencing the roar of suffering. Our suffering is not unique, and God has given many who have gone before the faith to stand firm

8 Be sober–minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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July 19, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 5:5-7; God’s Mighty Hand and Humility

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090712_1peter5_5-7.mp3

07/12 1 Peter 5:5-7 God’s Mighty Hand and Humility

5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Peter has addressed the elder/shepherd/overseers of the churches and given them instruction on how to shepherd and lead in the way that God would have them. Now he turns to the youth of the church and gives instruction, then he broadens his directives to the whole church. And his instruction centers around humility. He tells the youth to be subject to the elders, a command that requires humility. He instructs all of us to be clothed with humility toward one another, he quotes a proverb to show that God’s grace is toward the humble, he commands us to humble ourselves before an omnipotent God, he gives us the future result of humility, and he tells us practically how we are to humble ourselves under God. Humility is a central grace in the Christian life; humility toward authority, humility toward one another; humility toward God. What is the big deal with humility? What does it mean to be humble? What does it look like?

I thought we’d start with a definition, but this proved more difficult than I expected. I looked up ‘humility’ in an online dictionary, and found this:

Main Entry: [http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary]

hu·mil·i·ty Pronunciation: \hyü-ˈmi-lə-tē, yü-\

Function: noun

the quality or state of being humble

That’s it! Many words have yards of definitions. Not humility. So I looked up ‘humble’

Main Entry:

hum·ble; Pronunciation: \ˈhəm-bəl also chiefly Southern ˈəm-\

Function: adjective

Etymology:

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin humilis low, humble, from humus earth; akin to Greek chthōn earth, chamai on the ground

1: not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive 2: reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission ‘a humble apology’ 3 a: ranking low in a hierarchy or scale: insignificant, unpretentious b: not costly or luxurious ‘a humble contraption’

I thought I might find some interesting stories about humility in ‘The Book of Virtues: a treasury of great moral stories’ compiled by William J. Bennett. As I scanned the table of contents, I was surprised to see that humility is missing. He has sections on self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, friendship, work, courage, perseverance, honesty, loyalty, and faith, but nothing on humility. It seems humility is not a virtue we value today. Even the dictionary definitions are weak. So I stepped back a few centuries and looked at Webster’s 1828 dictionary [http://1828.mshaffer.com/] and among other things I found this:

HUMIL’ITY, n. [L. humilitas.]

1. In ethics, freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth. In theology, humility consists in lowliness of mind; a deep sense of one’s own unworthiness in the sight of God, self-abasement, penitence for sin, and submission to the divine will.

Under humble, we find this:

HUM’BLE, a. [L. humilis.]

1. Low; opposed to high or lofty.

HUM’BLE, v.t. To abase; to reduce to a low state.

1. To crush; to break; to subdue.

2. To mortify.

3. To make humble or lowly in mind; to abase the pride of; to reduce arrogance and self-dependence; to give a low opinion of one’s moral worth; to make meek and submissive to the divine will; the evangelical sense.

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you.” 1 Pet.5.

At its root it means low – not rising far from the ground. Webster hits it when he says humility is “a deep sense of one’s own unworthiness in the sight of God”. Our culture tells us that what we need to do is build up our self-esteem. What God’s word tells us here seems to fly in the face of that. Let’s examine at the text:

5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

He has addressed the elders in the churches, and now he turns to those who are younger. With youth often comes the desire for more independence, even rebelliousness, and less respect for authority. Some experts feel that this category of ‘younger’ could include those up to 40 years old (Schreiner, p.237 fn.85). The younger are told to place themselves under the authority of the leadership in the church. So an aspect of humility is being under proper authority. The author of Hebrews puts it this way

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Then Peter broadens his scope. He moves from the younger, who are often inclined to think quite highly of themselves, to everyone. Everyone needs to hear this. No exceptions. All of you toward one another clothe yourselves with humility. ‘Clothe yourselves’ is an interesting word. It means to tie it on like an apron. Something a slave would tie over his clothing to keep clean during menial tasks. Tie on humility like an apron. This ought to remind us of Jesus:

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

We are to be wrapped up in a deep sense of our own unworthiness in the sight of God as we deal with one another. We are to take the low place with one another. Paul states it radically:

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Peter draws his reason for humility from Proverbs

Proverbs 3:34 Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.

God opposes the proud” That should make us stop in our tracks. If I asked each of you as you came in this morning what is the worst thing that could possibly happen to you, I doubt any would give this answer. I would expect to hear catastrophe, cancer, financial ruin, family strife, war, disease, disaster, murder, rape. But if we really understand who God is, the thought of having him against us should be a terrifying prospect. If God is opposed to me, peace and health and prosperity matter not at all. But if God is with me, then by his help I can get through whatever comes my way. The opposite of humility is pride. If we do not take the low place, if we do not have a deep sense of our own unworthiness in the sight of God then we are lifted up – we are proud. And if we are proud, then God is against us.

We could argue that the worst sin in the world is pride. Abortion and incest and child abuse and rape and racism and murder would top our lists, but God goes deeper than the outward act to the heart issue at the core. Pride. God hates pride. God is not passively displeased with pride. God is actively and aggressively engaged against pride. God opposes the proud. God is arrayed in battle against pride.

But what’s so bad about pride? Pride is the lifting up of self. It is a compound word that literally means ‘to shine above’. Pride is robbing God of the glory that belongs to him alone. Pride is lifting ourselves up from a status of humble dependence on God to an arrogant independence from God. Pride is contending for supremacy with God. This was the first sin in the angelic realms; when Lucifer said:

Isaiah 14:14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.

And it was at the core of the temptation in the garden:

Genesis 3:5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

All sin stems from the arrogance of thinking that we know better than God; that our ways are higher than his ways. When we lift ourselves up and get glory for ourselves, we attempt to obscure his glory. This is idolatry of the worst kind – self idolatry

Proverbs 16:5 Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD;be assured, he will not go unpunished.

That is the warning – God opposes the proud. The opposite of this is what Peter is holding out to us. God gives grace to the humble. If God is actively and aggressively engaged against those who lift themselves up, then God is actively and aggressively engaged to bless those who have a deep sense of their own unworthiness in his sight. God gives grace to those who are humble. If grace by definition is undeserved unearned favor and kindness then grace can only be received as grace by those who have a deep sense of their own unworthiness. If we have a puffed up sense of our own value, then we will receive God’s grace as if it were payment for a job well done. God loves to pour out undeserved kindness on the humble because they receive it as it really is – a free gift from a benevolent God to an undeserving sinner. Now if I were to ask ‘what is the best conceivable thing that could happen to you?’ I could imagine answers of fame or power or wealth, but this is the answer I would hope to hear: ‘the greatest thing I could imagine has happened to me. I have been made a recipient of God’s grace!’ Because of Jesus, through the cross, God now looks on me with favor. That is a gift that demands humility to receive. God gives grace to the humble. Look at Isaiah 57:

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

God who is holy dwells with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit!

Isaiah 66:2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

God made all things, but his eyes are on you if you are humble and contrite in spirit. The choice is clear. You either raise yourself up and rob God of his glory and he is against you, or you humbly acknowledge your helplessness and dependence on him and become a recipient of his free and sovereign grace.

Peter’s instruction is clear. Because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.

The imagery of God’s mighty hand comes from the exodus from Egypt. God says to Pharaoh:

Exodus 9:16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. 17 You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go.

God’s people celebrated God’s strength demonstrated over Egypt:

Deuteronomy 26:8 And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders.

You are under God’s mighty hand. God is all-powerful and you are under his hand. There are two responses when you realize that you are under God’s mighty hand. Terror and dread, or comfort and peace. When God’s mighty hand moved over the proud Egyptians, there was terror. When God’s mighty hand moved over his people, there was holy joy, songs of praise and dancing. To the one, God’s hand was a crushing hand. To the other, God’s hand was a protecting rescuing hand. What is your response to God’s mighty hand? Do you rise up against him or seek to escape from him? Or do you rest secure knowing that he is over you? Your response gives evidence of the pride or humility in your heart. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. This is what Jesus taught repeatedly in the gospels:

Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (c.f. Lk.1:52; 14:11; Mt.18:4; 23:12)

The Pharisee lifted himself up before God and listed his accomplishments. His prayer was a self-centered boast. The tax collector had a deep sense of his own unworthiness before God and he uttered a desperate cry for mercy. And he did receive mercy. God gives grace to the humble. The one who raises himself up will be leveled, but the one who makes himself low will be lifted up. The proper time is coming. The time when humble recipients of his grace receive “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1Pet.1:4).

Peter has given us the instruction to tie on humility like an apron in our attitudes toward one another. He has given us the textual basis for humility in God’s differing attitudes to the proud and the humble, he has instructed us to humble ourselves under the sovereignty of God, and held out the promise of reward that will count for eternity. Now he goes on to describe practically how we go about humbling ourselves. He says in verse 7:

7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Now if you have a New International Version, you will miss the connection. They start a new sentence here as if it could stand alone: ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.’ But verse 7 is a subordinate clause to verse 6 that describes how to humble yourselves. How do we humble ourselves? We humble ourselves by casting all our anxieties on him. So, an anxiety free life is an expression of humility before a sovereign God. And alternately, worry is an expression of pride in the heart. Here Peter nails us. I thought I was pretty humble. But I worry. You’re saying that worry is evidence of pride in my heart. How can that be?

In Jesus’ parable of the sower and the soils, where the seed was choked out by thorns and prevented from bearing fruit, the cares of the world is one thing that chokes the word and causes it to become unfruitful. Jesus taught his disciples:

Luke 12:22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Notice the connection between human inability and freedom from anxiety? Since you are incapable of controlling anything in your life, you should not worry as if you could control it. Anxiety is a form of pride because it indicates that I think I can do something to fix the problems in my life. I am depending on me to put food on the table and clothes on my back. And notice, Jesus connects worry directly with a lack of faith. Worry indicates that you are trusting in yourself and not in God. Freedom from fear comes from knowing the character of the Father – our father loves to give good gifts to his children. Freedom from anxiety comes when I can let go of the arrogance of my own self-dependence and humbly trust in the all-sufficiency of Christ.

Anxieties will come. Cares will seek to choke out the word of God and destroy our fruitfulness. Peter is addressing the persecuted church, and there was plenty to worry about. But we are invited to hurl these worries on God. We are not to shoulder them in pride as if we have the strength to carry them. We are to throw them upon him because his mighty hand is strong enough to handle all our cares. He is sovereign over all things, including our suffering, and when we humble ourselves under his mighty hand, he will lift us up in due time.

1 Peter 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

What a beautiful verse! Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand by casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you! God’s almighty hand is a personal, tenderhearted caring hand.

5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Whatever burden you are carrying right now today, lay it down at his feet. Believe him that he is infinite in strength and absolutely in control of all things. Believe that he is good and faithful and that he cares individually, personally for you. Admit that you are helpless to carry the load yourself. Ask God to awaken in you a deep sense of your own unworthiness in his sight and an acute awareness of your absolute inability. Throw yourself completely upon his mercy toward sinners displayed at the cross

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Today, trust in him and go home justified.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

July 12, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 5:1-4; God’s Under-Shepherds

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090705_1peter5_1-4.mp3

0705 1 Peter 5:1-4 God’s Under-Shepherds

4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. 5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.

Peter is writing to the suffering saints in Asia Minor. He encourages us not to ‘be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you, but rejoice…’ He tells us that when we suffer for the name of Christ, we bring glory to God. And he tells us that God’s judgment is ready to be unleashed on the unbelieving world. But when God’s judgment comes, he begins by cleansing his own house; his own people. We saw this when we looked back at some Old Testament passages like Ezekiel 9

Ezekiel 9:5 And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. 6 Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house.

So Peter warns his readers that judgment is coming and exhorts us to self-examination.

1Corinthians 11:31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

God’s judgment is coming on the world, and God’s disciplinary judgment has already begun in the suffering of his people. If God’s judgment begins with his own house, particularly with the leaders of his people, that’s where Peter starts. Peter addresses the elders and exhorts them to shepherd in a godly way.

This is an awkward passage to teach from. As I teach God’s word, I am obliged to find truth that applies to every person who hears. But not every person is called to lead God’s people. So this morning you all get to listen in on a private exhortation to leaders in God’s church. And as a leader in God’s church, I am acutely aware of my own shortcomings and inadequacies and how desperately I am in need of God’s mercy and grace. I am deeply challenged by this passage to be a better shepherd of God’s people. So for me today, this is awkward and humbling, and I feel vulnerable. But that is meant to be. That is built in to the passage. God intended it to be so. Put yourself for a minute into a first century group of believers gathering in Asia Minor for worship, teaching, prayer, and communion. One of the elders addresses the group and announces that we have received correspondence from the Apostle Peter, who we have heard has been imprisoned in Rome under the emperor Nero. The letter is addressed ‘to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bythinia’. This is a circular letter, intended to be read to all the believers in all the churches in this diverse geographic region. The letter would be read aloud to the entire group. There was no separate sealed envelope containing this paragraph to be read behind closed doors of a board meeting somewhere. If an elder was know in the congregation as pushy and domineering, he would have to read this aloud to the people he was lording it over; if a leader was living large at the expense of his people, he would be publicly rebuked by the Apostle Peter; if he was leading with a grudging heart rather than joyfully, he would be publicly exhorted to lead as God would lead. So from this passage we see that God has designed that there be godly leadership in his church. It is not anarchy and the church is not a democracy. Jesus Christ rules over his church. And he has appointed leadership under him to care for the church. But there is some healthy public accountability built in to that leadership.

Before we dive into the text, we need to have a Greek vocabulary lesson. There are some terms we need to be familiar with to help us understand this passage.

The first term is ‘elders’ (presbuterov) – it’s where we get our English word ‘presbyter’ – this is where the Presbyterian churches take their name. The word itself points to wisdom that comes from age and experience and maturity, hence the translation ‘elder’

The next term is ‘shepherd’ (poimainw) ‘poimano’ – here it’s a verb, derived from the noun ‘shepherd’ (poimhn) ‘poimen’. The Latin translation of this word is ‘pastor’ – which is where we get our word ‘pastor’. The task of the shepherd or pastor is primarily to lead the sheep to food and to guard the sheep from danger.

The third term we need to look at is (episkopew) translated here ‘exercising oversight’. It is the verb form of (episkopov) ‘episcopos’ which came to us through the Vulgar Latin ‘ebiscopos’ as ‘bishop’. This word is where Episcopalians or the Episcopal Church derives its name. The word means ‘to watch over’ or ‘to oversee’; hence our translation ‘exercising oversight’.

So in this one passage (and this is supported by a study of these words in the rest of the New Testament documents), we have lumped together pastors, bishops, and elders. The elders of the church are told to pastor and to bishop or oversee the flock of God that is under their care. Or, dropping the titles, those who have wisdom and maturity and experience are to feed, nurture and protect; they are to supervise, look after and watch over with vigilance and care, God’s sheep. Now, understanding the vocabulary, lets dive in to the passage:

5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Peter comes along side the elders of the church to exhort and encourage them to do what God has called them to do. But Peter doesn’t appeal to his authority as Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather he calls himself a ‘fellow-elder’. Addressing those who hold a leadership role in the church, the Apostle comes along side them as one who together with them also holds a leadership role in the church and will with them give account to the Chief Shepherd and Judge. He further designates himself as ‘a witness of the sufferings of Christ’. That., for Peter must be a vivid and humbling recollection. I was a witness of the sufferings of Christ. I was with him in the garden when he prayed to his Father and sweat great drops of blood. I fell asleep. I was with him there when he was arrested. I pulled out my little sword and mangled a man’s ear. After Jesus repaired the damage and rebuked me, I too ran away and abandoned him. I was there in the courtyard warming myself by the fire while he was being falsely accused and three times I denied that I even knew him. Yes, I am a witness of the sufferings of Christ. But I am also ‘a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed’. Peter claims to presently be a participant in the glory that will be revealed in the future. When Jesus returns in all his glory, Peter is assured fellowship with him in his glory. Peter, as a fellow-elder, as one who witnessed Christ’s sufferings, as one who participates in his future glory, exhorts the elders among the congregations. His exhortation is simple. Shepherd. Shepherd the flock of God. Peter had failed in his devotion to Christ. He didn’t live up to his own expectations. Jesus had called him to make him a fisher of men, but Peter went back to his fishing. Our resurrected Lord met him on the shore, fed him breakfast and spoke to him:

John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, 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, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him 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, “Tend 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 everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. …19 … And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

In three different phrases, Jesus commissioned Peter to shepherd his flock. Peter now passes on that exhortation to the elders in the churches – feed the sheep. Shepherd the flock. And we must always keep in mind whose flock it is. Consistently in the bible it is God’s flock, Jesus’ sheep. The lambs do not belong to the elders who are over them. They belong to the Good Shepherd. But what does it mean to shepherd the flock of God? Surely we are not to buy land and graze livestock! Martin Luther put it this way:

Therefore to tend them is nothing else than to preach the Gospel, by which souls are nourished, made fat and fruitful – since the sheep thrive upon the Gospel and the Word of God. This only is the office of a bishop” [Luther, p.205]

Jeremiah confirms that he is on the right track:

Jeremiah 3:15 “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Turn to Ezekiel. God has an extended rebuke to the shepherds of Israel:

Ezekiel 34:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. 6 My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. 7 “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10 Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. 11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

The shepherds of Israel are rebuked for not shepherding rightly. From this passage we get a clearer picture of what God expects from his shepherds. Shepherds are to feed the sheep, strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strayed, seek the lost, protect from danger, keep the flock together. Peter gives the clear instruction; Shepherd the flock of God exercising oversight. That is the task. But successful completion of the task is not all that is required of elders. The attitude and motive with which they go about the task is also mandated. Motive matters to God. Attitude matters. Peter gives a list of three negative / positive contrasts to paint the picture of what is expected. Not this, but this; not this, but this; not this, but this.

The first contrast is ‘not under compulsion, but willingly’. We are not to have an attitude of grudging obligation and duty bound faithfulness. Instead, the service that God desires is willing voluntary service. Not because I must, but because I get to; not because I am required but because I choose to. What a supreme honor, to be entrusted by the Chief Shepherd with the oversight and care of his own sheep! The church of God is in need of happy pastors in glad service to the King. Peter qualifies this with the phrase ‘as God would have you’. In the original that is just two words ‘according to God; as God; or like God’. As God is not under compulsion to care for us, but rather willingly and freely chooses to shepherd us and serve us, so we must reflect his glad-hearted service as we care for his sheep.

The next contrast is ‘not for shameful gain, but eagerly’. The motive for service is questioned. Why go into pastoral ministry? It’s a respectable way to make a living. There’s money to be had selling books and videos and holy handkerchiefs. Send your money to me and God will bless you and cause you to prosper. Send lots of money and God will bless you more. Support my ministry and God will heal you.

The bible is clear that ‘the laborer deserves his wages’ (Lk.10:7; 1Tim5:17-18) ‘especially those who labor in preaching and teaching’, but this is why part of the qualification for leadership is ‘not greedy for gain’ (Titus 1:7). Money must not be the motive for service. The contrasting attitude to being motivated by shameful gain is ‘eagerly’ – with passion, fervor, enthusiasm, zeal. God would have passionate preachers not calculating preachers. The problem with calculating preachers is the content is controlled by the motive for money. Don’t teach that – that would offend the biggest givers. Passionate preachers, teachers who have a zeal for God and his truth will get themselves fired for speaking the truth – because they are more concerned about what God thinks than whether the paycheck keeps coming.

The third contrast is ‘not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock’. This is exactly what Jesus taught:

Mark 10:42-45 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Shepherds do not drive the sheep. They walk ahead and call the sheep to follow. We are talking about leadership positions in the church – Pastors, elders, overseers. There is real authority in those offices. There is authority to direct and authority to discipline. But the authority to lead is authority to keep safe from danger and lead to green pastures. The authority to discipline is authority to serve the stray by bringing back into the fold. Jesus was the ultimate example of servant leadership. Peter tells us that we must model for the people what we would have them do. Leaders must serve the people so that the people will in turn serve one another.

Shepherd, exercising oversight not under compulsion, not for shameful gain, not domineering, but rather shepherd willingly, eagerly, living as an example for the flock to follow.

Now that Peter has given us the charge and clarified what it does and does not look like, he gives us the true motive for shepherding. Shepherding can be thankless, emotionally draining, painful, hard work. Overseeing a persecuted church can be dangerous, even life threatening. Peter tells us that it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God, and James tells us that ‘we who teach will be judged with greater strictness’ (James 3:1). So why do it? Who wants that? Here is the motive:

4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

The motive for faithful shepherding is the appearance of the chief Shepherd. Jesus is coming, and he will reward faithful service. This is amazing, because any service that is faithful is because of his grace, which is why the crowns of glory we receive will go right back to his feet and redound to his glory. At the end of the day, every pastor has much more in common with the sheep than the Shepherd. Leaders by nature are sheep. And all we like sheep have gone astray. But by his grace, he gives some sheep the privilege of caring for and serving other sheep. And by his grace, he enables faithful service. And in the abundance of his grace, he rewards the service he enables.

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

July 5, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment