October 30, 2016
Each of the candidates have a campaign slogan. Hillary’s is, “Stronger together I’m with her.” Trump’s slogan is, “Make American great again.” Of course these two candidates are seeking to attract voters to stand with them under each of their slogans.
Christians also have a slogan, if you will. It is Jesus Christ is Lord of all. This is the slogan that we as Christian stand under. We are followers of Jesus Christ. We believe that true human flourishing comes by following Christ. In whatever we do we want to be sure that it does not conflict with having Christ as our Lord and King.
In this world our allegiance to Christ as Lord is constantly being undermined because the devil, the god of this world hates Jesus Christ. And so every day we must answer a question. Will you be faithful to Christ no matter the cost?
I. BE HUMBLE. 1Pt.5:5-7
When Peter addressed the elders in v.1-4, he said they were not to be domineering. Instead, elders are to have a humble attitude. And now Peter says that every believer is to have a humble attitude. We are to clothe ourselves in humility towards one another.
The reason for this is that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. That is a quote from Prov.3:34. A proud person is someone who puts him or herself above God and others. Pride come in all shapes and sizes. Pride can be very overt or very subtle. But at the heart of pride is self. God opposes the proud.
If we are going to be faithful to Christ no matter the cost, if we are going to enjoy unity in the church, if we are going to have any sort of impact in this world for Christ, we need to be humble people. God gives grace to the humble.
I have mentioned this before, but I am going to mention it again because I believe it is very helpful. When Dallas Willard talks about humility he focuses on three ideas. If you want to be humble don’t presume, don’t pretend, and don’t push. A humble person is someone who does not presume to know what another person is thinking. He does not presume that he fully understands a given situation. He does not presume to have the answers. Nor does he presume to have authority. A humble person is not presumptuous.
And then a humble person does not pretend. She does not pretend to be something more or less than she is. She does not pretend to be rich when she is poor or poor when she is rich. She does not pretend to know more or less than she really knows. She does not pretend to be more or less sinful than she is. She seeks to have integrity in her dealings with others and in her self-understanding. Humble people do not belittle themselves or say that they can’t do anything right. That’s not being humble. That’s just having low self-worth, which probably reveals some issues in a person’s life that need to be addressed.
A humble person does not push. In other words a humble person does not use physical or verbal force to accomplish their own will. Instead he or she shows respect for the will and choices of others. When a humble person is in a place of authority at work or in the church, this does not mean that there is never a time to be firm and strong. It just means that in being firm we do not run over the will of another, forcing them, pressuring them to conform to our standard or do our will. People are pulled much better than they are pushed.
Now this is not easy. It is far easier to be prideful. You’ve got to have hutzpah if you want to get anything done in this world. You’ve got to promote yourself. You’ve got to project the right image if you want to get ahead. You’ve got to be in control. You’ve got to protect yourself. But Peter tells us that God is the one who exalts a person. We are not to exalt ourselves over others or over God. God exalts a person. But the idea of waiting upon God to exalt us is difficult. This is why Peter says, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
Remember, Peter was writing to believers who were experiencing persecution for Christ. They were being insulted and humiliated. But God would exalt them in due time, perhaps a reference to coming of Christ. Until then, they were to cast their anxiety on the Lord. There is no one who cares more about you then the Lord. He is holding our lives in his hand. He cares for each of us. This is why we can afford to be humble. God cares for us. Being humble sometimes feels like we have no control over what happens to us. But God has control and we can rest in him.
Jesus said that we would be known by our love for one another and by the fruit we bear in our lives, not by our positions of power or by protecting our rights at all costs. Be humble.
II. BE WATCHFUL. 1Pt.5:8-9
I see Peter exhorting us to be well aware of what is going on in the world around us because the evil one is using any and every means to thwart and destroy the church of Jesus Christ. Of course he will never destroy the church, but he can do a lot of damage.
Specifically here in v.8-9, Peter is thinking about persecution. We know this because in v.9 he writes that “the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” Christians need to be aware of how the devil is seeking to oppose us so that we can better resist him. The devil is working behind the scenes in society and government. In some parts of the world there is just outright physical persecution. Christians are being hauled off to prison and executed. In other parts of the world the persecution is more nuanced. Laws are passed that make it difficult for believers to practice their faith. Those who pass the laws may think they are doing something good, something equitable, not realizing that the devil is using it to hinder the church. Whether using raw power or working behind the scenes the devil is seeking someone to devour. He wants to destroy our faith in Christ.
Peter says that we are to resist the devil. Now how are we to resist the devil? We are to stand in opposition against him. What does this mean? Well, surely it means that we do not deny the Lord. We remain faithful, obedient to the Lord. In Peter’s day, everyone was to burn incense to the Emperor as a deity. No. Christians could not do that. Only Jesus is Lord, not Caesar.
Our opposition to the evil one is to be expressed in humility in a gracious way. We are not using the weapons of this world. We are dressed in the armor of God: the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of peace, the belt of truth, the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, and prayer.
All through this letter, Peter tells us to silence the insults and accusations brought against us by doing good. This is how we stand and resist the evil one.
Believers look at the world through gospel eyes. We see what’s happening. The world is aligned with the devil against God. Thankfully there is still much in our society that reflects a time when righteousness and morality was more widely accepted. People had regard for the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. But even then, there was widespread injustice and prejudice that was systemic in the predominantly white Catholic, fundamentalist and evangelical communities. It may have been a better day for some, but not for all. I point this out just to show that the devil has always been at work dividing and ruining the church and society. He is a destroyer.
As Christians we must be wide awake seeking to discern the inroads that the devil is making in the church. We must be wide awake to the word of God.
III. BE HOPEFUL. 1Pt.5:10-11
“After you have suffered a little while!” What kind of comfort is that? It sounds a little casual! We saw earlier that judgment begins with the household of God and persecution is part of that judgement. Persecution helps to purify our lives from sin as we turn to the Lord. In Rm.5 Paul tells us that suffering produces endurance. In Jms.1 we learn that trials produce steadfastness. It’s not easy to suffer, but when the suffering has done its work, Peter assures us that the God of all grace will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us. The context of Peter is persecution. Those who experience persecution for Christ have a certain hope that God will finish the work of grace that he has begun in our lives through Christ. When facing persecution believers have an unshakable hope for the future.
It is important that we regularly remind ourselves of this confident hope. Here’s why? When adversity comes it is very easy to become hopeless. Maybe you are looking for work and as time goes on you are beginning to feel that God is letting you down. You are struggling to trust in God. The same could be true with illness or some life situation.
Brothers and sisters if trusting God in these matters brings doubt to our souls, how will we fare if we come under persecution? In 1Pt.4 Peter reminds us that we should not be surprised if persecution comes, as if something strange is happening to us. Every day we need to set our hope in God, knowing that God is holding us in his hands.
Our future is one of eternal glory in Christ, in a new heaven and earth. To him belongs the dominion forever and ever. Christ is Lord to the glory of God. We look to Christ as our Lord and king. We have our hope in him. You may never really understand why things happen to you. There is no rule that says we must understand. Instead we must put our hope in the Lord.
IV. BE STEADFAST. 1Pt.5:12
In v.12 Peter writes, “I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.” What are we to stand firm in? It seems to me that we are to stand firm in what Peter has written because it is the true grace of God. Peter has been writing gospel truth.
When we do not know the word of God, we do what is right in our own eyes. Some of what is right in our own eyes might be right in God’s eyes. But usually when we chart our own course it is not in keeping with the ways of God and Christ. The reason for this is that our minds and hearts are not filled with the thoughts of God. The thoughts of God are found in his word, the Bible.
Now many find the Bible to be a difficult book to read. They may have started reading in Genesis, but it isn’t long before they feel that so much of what they are reading is irrelevant. And by the time you get to Leviticus, reading about heave offerings and discharges and mold and mildew, it’s all over. We’re done!
Let me urge you to stay with the New Testament and Psalms for a good long while before tackling the Old Testament. The Old Testament is very important because it gives much needed background for the New Testament, but the New Testament is even more important for getting the mind of Christ in you. In order to stand firm in the word of God we must know it. I would say that many, many Christians today, do not know the New Testament very well, let alone the Old Testament. You may know a number of Bible stories, but knowing the stories alone will not help you to think like Jesus.
The only way we are going to persevere in this world, staying faithful to Jesus Christ is if we have Christ and his ways deeply etched into our minds and hearts. And all of that is found in the Scripture through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Brothers and sisters the church is facing many difficult issues in this world. Sexual and gender issues have escalated so quickly that the church is struggling to know how to respond in love while remaining faithful to Christ, not to mention our own sexual and marital brokenness within the church. Politically the church (protestant and catholic) is being marginalized and again, we are struggling to know what our role should be. We proclaim that Christ is Lord but our materialistic and consumer driven society has impacted all of us. If we are going to be steadfast, we need to be steadfast in the word of God because the word of God teaches us the mind of Christ.
In AD 312, the Roman Empire was falling apart, and the Empire was in a civil war. General Constantine realized that he needed help for a power greater than himself and he prayed that the true God would help him. The story goes that Constantine saw a bright cross of light emblazoned against the noonday sky with the words, “In this sign Conquer.” He orders his soldiers to inscribe crosses on their shields, and he is victorious. In AD 313 he makes Christianity the official religion of the empire. The soldiers of Constantine fought under the banner of the cross with sword and shield.
Men and women, followers of Jesus Christ also live under the cross. But we do not use swords and shields. We seek to live humble, watchful, hopeful and steadfast lives in faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Our goal is to see others embrace Christ as Lord. Will you be faithful to Christ no matter the cost? Amen