Sermons

October 11, 2020

Be Humble, Be Watchful

Jason Meyer (Downtown Campus) | 1 Peter 5:5-9

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.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.—1 Peter 5:5–9

Outline

  1. Be Humble (1 Peter 5:5–7)
  2. Be Watchful (1 Peter 5:8–9)

Main Point: These two sets of verses help us embrace what God is doing in suffering and resist what Satan is doing in suffering.

1) Be Humble (1 Peter 5:5–7) 

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.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

The apostle Peter begins with a call to the church to submit to the elders.

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.

This word for submit is also used throughout 1 Peter. Submission means willingly placing yourself under the authority of another. Here, Peter calls people in the church to put themselves under the authority of the elders.

A couple of clues here reveal that Peter is referring to the office of elder and not simply saying that younger people should submit to older people. First, the word for elders that he uses here is the same one he just used in 5:1. It is highly unlikely that he would change the meaning of the same word in the same context without any explanation. Second, the word likewise modifies the verb “I exhort” from 5:1. In other words, this command to the “younger” corresponds to his command to the “elders.” In last week’s passage, the elders were commanded to lead as God would have them, and now in this week’s passage the rest are called to submit to that leadership as God would have them. 

But this reading does raise a question concerning Peter’s word usage. Why does it read as if Peter is talking only to those who are younger (“you who are younger”). Why not just say non-elders should submit to the elders? I think the answer is probably two-fold. First, at this early stage in the history of the church it is quite likely that the elders of the church are chosen from those who have seniority in the faith. Paul forbids someone from being an elder who is a recent convert because they could be puffed up with pride. Therefore, seniority in the faith can correspond to physical age. Therefore, perhaps many of those in the church would be younger in age than the elders. Second, however, Peter’s focus on those who are younger could be strategic in focus. Perhaps he picks out a group in the church that would have a harder time submitting—namely, those who are physically younger. In tense times of pressure and persecution, the elders may want to grab the reins of leadership more tightly or others may have more intense questioning of leadership.

One commentator summarizes the situation in a nutshell:

The challenge of mutual humility is especially great in a time of persecution, for the consequences at stake may incite elders to abuse their power or believers to rebel against church leadership. But God gives grace to those who are willing to humble themselves for the sake of Christ and his flock, allowing the church to survive and thrive even in times of persecution.[1] 

Therefore, Peter does not stop with the call for one group to submit to another. He quickly issues a corporate call for everyone to relate to each other and to God with humility in the rest of verse 5. Let’s read it.

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”—1 Peter 5:5 

Notice that Peter addresses humility toward one another in connection to humility toward God: “... humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud.” 

Just as we cannot say that we love God when we actually do not love our brother, we also cannot say that we are humble towards God if we think we are better than our brother. Please do not think that this command is unrelated to the previous passage. Peter told the elders that they were to be examples to the flock, not using authority to domineer or lord it over the flock. Pastor Kenny rightly pointed to Jesus’ words to the disciples in Mark 10:42–45 about being servants. Do you remember why he uttered those words? The disciples argued among themselves as to who would be the greatest! So he taught them and modeled for them that true greatness is not when we make servants of others as their lords, but become servants for the good of others.

Dear friends, this is what pride does. It creates competition and opposition where there should be teamwork. It created competition and dissension among the disciples in Jesus’ day.

And look again at Peter’s quote from Proverbs. Pride does not just create opposition horizontally, but vertically with God: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

We must stop and let this text do its deep searching work in our hearts. Let’s start with pride and then move to humility.

Pride

What is pride? Pride is a disposition of opposition to God. That is why pride is spiritual suicide. There is no worse position to take than to take on an almighty opponent. That is probably why pride is not simply one sin among many, but a sin in a categorical class by itself—the head of the list of the seven deadly sins. Why? Other sins lead the sinner further from God, but pride is particularly heinous in that it attempts to elevate the sinner above God. Pride is a disposition that puts the soul in the blasphemous position of contending with God for the supremacy that belongs to him alone. Pride is our greatest enemy because it makes God our enemy. 

What is humility? Humility is the opposite disposition. It is a disposition that puts a soul in a position of reception from God—not opposition to God. We place ourselves under God to receive the grace of God, not the opposition of God.

But before we talk more about humility, let me say something about why pride is so hard to fight. Pride deserves to die, but it is hard to spot and even harder to kill. Pride is a slippery sin because it is a shape-shifter. Jonathan Edwards said pride is “the most hidden, secret, and deceitful of all sins.”[2] Let me give you an example. I know that I am a proud man fighting for the joy of humility. But I beware saying even that—“I fight my pride”—because pride can twist anything. Come with me inside my head for a moment and see why fighting pride is not always pretty. Here is a conversation that I might have with myself after a meeting at church.

That meeting went really well. You know, I think the turning point might have been when I asked that question. I am surprised that no one had thought to ask that question before. Wait a minute … that was such a prideful thought. It sounds like I am taking credit for the meeting going well. I am such a prideful person. I hate my pride. You are going down, pride. I am fighting you to the death. 

Meanwhile three seconds later, “I do fight pride pretty hard. I am glad that I caught that initial prideful thought. I wonder if other people are as aware of their pride and fight it as hard as I do … Oh wait a minute, it just happened again. I am taking pride in my awareness of pride. O deliver me from this body of death, Lord Jesus! Thank you, God, that you give us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Pride is a disposition of opposition to God because pride is a preoccupation with ourselves. Sometimes we have high thoughts of ourselves and at other times we have low thoughts about ourselves, but the real problem is that we have lots of thoughts about ourselves. We cannot defeat pride by becoming preoccupied with how we are doing with pride. It does not work to think about yourself more or obsess more with how you are doing. We can become obsessed with our successes and fall into self-exaltation (taking credit for success) and self-promotion (putting those successes in other people’s faces so they will give us credit for them). Or we can become obsessed with our failures and fall into self-degradation where we beat ourselves up over why we are not doing better. 

That is why pride does not just lead to lying (telling a lie because you are too proud to admit you were wrong). Pride does not just tell lies; it is a lie. It is a lie about reality—pretending that everything really does revolve around us as we are preoccupied with us. 

Humility

If pride is opposition to God and humility is reception from God, then it raises the question. How can we make sure we are putting ourselves in a position to receive from God instead of a position of opposition to God? Verses 6–7 give the practical answers.

A) What: Humble Yourselves

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. 

Because the posture of pride is a position of opposition in which the mighty hand is against you and because humility is a posture of reception, Peter says to take that humble posture! Place yourself in the place where his mighty hand will lift you up, not crush you down.

B) How: By Casting Your Cares on Him

... casting all your anxieties on him.

This verse has been one of the most helpful words on humility and pride that I have ever read. The Bible does not just tell you to do something without practically telling you how to do it. This is a participle of means—you humble yourselves by casting your anxieties on him. Very few people understand that anxiety can be a form of arrogance because our pride lies to us and tells us that we can stubbornly carry our own cares instead of casting them. Trying to carry the weight of our cares in our strength is proud when it flies in the face of the invitation to cast them. If someone says, “Hey, can I get that for you?” And you reply, “No, I got it.” That is saying something about your assessment of need. “I do not need your help. Thanks, but no thanks.” Humility says, “I will gladly give you these cares. You are strong; I am weak. Here!” Cast your burdens on the Lord and he will sustain you (Psalm 55:26).

C) Why: Because He Cares

…  because he cares for you.

The Bible does not just tell us what to do or how to do it, but why we can do it. He cares for you. What a tender incentive to cast your cares. He loves you! Jesus reminded us of this very reality by pointing out we are surrounded by our Father’s loving care. We look in the air and we see the birds. We look at the ground and we see the flowers of the field. Who feeds the birds? Who clothes flowers? God does. And he cares much more for us than ravens and roses (Matthew 6:26–33).

What God Is Doing in Suffering: Refining and Humbling 

Peter has been showing us what God is doing in suffering. God has a purpose to use suffering to refine us—making our faith more pure. Here is another way to talk about God’s refining work. He refines our faith by humbling us and teaching us to trust.

Let me give you an example. I find that I have to correct popular Christian clichés that sound like they are from Scripture but are not. One such cliché is that “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Partially true and partially false.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.—1 Corinthians 10:12–13

God will make sure that no temptation comes upon you that is beyond your ability—meaning God does not put you in a position where the only thing you can do is sin. But sometimes he does give you more than you can handle in life so that you will not sin by trusting in yourself. Enter 2 Corinthians 1.

The apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians that God actually gave them more than they could handle. They were burdened beyond their ability (2 Corinthians 1:8). Why? God did this so that they would be driven not to despair, but dependence. So they would not trust themselves, but God. “I need to rest in the superior care that God gives, not the inferior care I provide for myself.”

We are called to humble ourselves in suffering. We should not try to carry our cares. When he puts difficult things in our lives, it is to teach us dependence. And God is not like an abuser who uses control to create dependence. Abusers do not accept any vulnerability—they put it all on the backs of their victims. That is not God. He had all authority, but he humbled himself and took on all our vulnerability.

The first point helps us understand God’s purpose in suffering. The second point helps us beware Satan’s purpose in suffering.

2) Be Watchful (1 Peter 5:8–9) 

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

A) What: Beware

Be sober-minded; be watchful. (v. 8)

This is the second time that Peter has told us to be sober-minded. This command stretches back to chapter 1. 

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 1:13

Rather than being drunk with our trials and tribulations, we are called to not only think about the greatness of our salvation, but also to prepare for battle. He tells them why the situation calls for sober reflection and readiness

B) Why: The Devil Is on the Prowl

Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  (v. 8)

Those who are maligning and slandering us are not our adversaries. Your brother or sister in Christ is certainly not your adversary. The devil is named as our adversary. He stands behind all the persecution. He is on the prowl like a roaring lion. What he wants is to devour us.

That word devour is a gruesome word. It is used in the Greek translation in Jonah describing what the fish did to Jonah—gulp and you are gone. But the question is whether the devil can really do that to Christians. Aren’t we safe in Christ—safe and secure from all alarm? No one can snatch us out of his hand? 

To answer the question we need to keep reading. We are called to resist him in a certain way.

C) How: Resist Him Through Firm Faith and Strength in Numbers

Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (v. 9)

We resist the devil by being firm in our faith. The only way that Satan can devour us is if we renounce our faith. I saw something about a killer whale the other day that reminded me of Satan’s strategy.

The killer whale was given fish to eat and then the killer whale took part of a fish and went to the edge of the pool and used it as bait for the birds. The birds were safe in the air and were safe on the ground. The killer whale had to lure them in the water in order to devour one. One bird decided to take the bait and the killer whale devoured it.

This is Satan’s strategy—he has to lure us away from Jesus. We are safe on the solid rock of Christ alone. Satan deceived Eve by tempting her toward the one thing that could kill them: the tree that would lead to death. Satan now tempts us away from the one thing that can save us: the tree of Jesus’ death that gives us life.

He practices deceit, but he also resorts to scare tactics. That appears to be the meaning when Peter spells out that we can resist him firm in your faith because you know something—namely, “that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” In other words, Satan is using suffering. He is persecuting Christians to scare them away from Jesus.

That verse helps us solve a mystery that stands out in the text. Notice in verse 8 that the lion is roaring. Have you ever seen a lion crouching in the grass sneaking up on a gazelle? Do they ever roar when they are sneaking up on their prey? No. That would give them away and it would not be a sneak attack. Lions roar to scare and intimidate. In other words, suffering is Satan’s roaring—he is using suffering as a scare tactic to run away from Christ.

Peter helps believers see that the trick is up. The cat is out of the bag. Let’s not fear his roar and be fooled by suffering. How do we resist? Be firm in your faith! How do we be firm in our faith? Look to Jesus.

The Gospel Is the Only Way to Resist the Devil: Look to Jesus and His Victory Over Death 

Application: The Gospel Is the Only Way

A) The Gospel Is the Only Way to Be Humble: Look to Jesus

A friend was asking me the other day, “How can I be humble?” He felt there was pride in him and he wanted to know how to get rid of it. He seemed to think that I had some patent remedy and could tell him “Do this, that, and the other and you will be humble.” I said, “I have no method or technique. I can’t tell you to get down on your knees and believe in prayer because I know you will soon be proud of that. There is only one way to be humble and that is to look into the face of Jesus Christ; you cannot be anything else when you see him. That is the only way. Humility is not something you create within yourself; rather, you look at him, you realize who he is and what he has done and you are humbled.” (Lloyd-Jones, Living Water) 

Looking to Christ is the only way to have true humility because of what true humility is. As C.S. Lewis said, true humility is “not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.” We can spend a lot of time thinking less of ourselves but we only end up thinking a lot about ourselves. The problem of pride does not boil down to whether we think high thoughts or low thoughts about ourselves but that we think lots of thoughts about ourselves. Humility is fundamentally a form of self-forgetfulness as opposed to pride’s self-fixation. Humility can set you free because when you think about yourself less you are free to look to Christ more. The Bible’s answer to our fallen obsession with self is a great work of grace in the gospel that creates a Christ-centered obsession.

B) The Gospel Is the Only Way to Resist the Devil

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. 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.—Revelation 20:10–11

Hebrews 2 teaches the same truth. How did Jesus save us?

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery—Hebrews 2:14–15

Don’t believe the half-truth of persecution. Yes, Satan is persecuting the church. That is undeniable. Some researchers estimate that as many as one hundred thousand Christians are martyred every year. These numbers make it look like the church is losing. But check the score. Satan is persecuting Christians frantically because he knows he will lose, not because he thinks he can win. He knows his time is short. He and the demons have checked the scoreboard. We have a record of that conversation. When the demons encountered Jesus on earth, they asked him if he had come to destroy them before the time (Matthew 8:29). They know their time is coming, their doom is sure, and they know it, but do not want you to know it.

In the final book of the Bible, we get a sneak peek of the devil’s destruction. The apostle John wrote, The devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).

Look to Jesus, dear friends. Don’t hear Satan’s roar of suffering and believe the lie that says, “Jesus is not worth it—he will cost you your life.” No, Satan. He is the only one who gives me life. And I will not let you tempt me away from the only source of eternal life.

_________

[1] Karen Jobes, 1 Peter, p. 309
[2] Jonathan Edwards, Advice to Young Converts

Sermon Discussion Questions 

Main Point: Embrace what God is doing in suffering and resist what Satan is doing in suffering. 

Outline

  1. Be Humble (1 Peter 5:5–7)
  2. Be Watchful (1 Peter 5:8–9)

Discussion Questions

Verse 5

  • Why does the apostle Peter use the word “likewise” in verse 5? What does it refer back to?
  • Why does Peter use the word “younger” here?
  • How does Peter talk about the need for humility on the horizontal level with one another?
  • According to this verse, what is pride—specifically in relation to God?
  • According to this verse, what is humility—specifically in relation to God?

Verses 6–7

  • What guidance do verses 6–7 give us with respect to the what, how, and why of humility?

Verse 8–9

  • What does it mean to be “sober-minded” when you go through suffering?
  • What does it mean to be “watchful” in suffering? What are you watching for?
  • What is the lion’s roaring? What is he doing in suffering? How can you resist his purposes?

Application Questions

  • Why is the gospel the only way to both be humble and to resist the devil? Are these gospel realities and strategies present in your life? How could they become more prevalent, instinctive, and pervasive?
  • Peter says to resist the devil by being firm in your faith. What is the opposite of firmness of faith? How would you evaluate your own faith and walk with Christ during this challenging COVID-19 season?
  • Are you embracing God’s purposes for suffering and resisting Satan’s purposes in suffering? Are there examples you can give or ways you can testify that this is happening?

Prayer Focus
Pray for a grace to embrace what God is doing in suffering and to resist what Satan is doing in suffering.

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