I was listening to a friend reminisce about her brother recently. Ed liked to come up behind his children and grandchildren, or nephews and nieces (and grand nephews and nieces) [Act this out with a volunteer child] He would growl in their ear. They knew he was coming so they either enjoyed or at least tolerated it. But when he was child he used to do it to scare his 4 sisters. He would lay in wait behind couches for as long as half an hour just to scare them and make them scream. Do not try this at home. This is not an example to follow! I won’t say how, but they eventually did something to him that made him never want to dare do it again.
Today we are going to talk about Peter who warns that temptation to do wrong is always around us, trying to lure us or scare us into doing the wrong thing. He remembers when it happened to him. It happens to all of us.
He knows from experience what it is like, and now he reflects on how to help us prevent it. He compares temptation to a roaring lion that catches us off guard causing us to jump into doing something we otherwise wouldn’t do. Peter tells us four things to do. (1) Hang around people who have your best interest at heart. You won’t be lured or scared into doing something you don’t want to do by someone who also doesn’t want you to do it. They will encourage you to be the best person you can be. So, for example, if you are tempted to eat a cookie when you aren’t supposed to eat a cookie, stay close to mom, and she will help you not be tempted just by being there. (2) Stay alert. You can’t be scared by someone behind the couch if you already know the person is there. If you keep yourself alert to the weakness of eating cookies when you aren’t supposed to -- you’ll be able to brace yourself against it better. (3) Pray to God about it. We tend to do things wrong because we are afraid of what other people will think, or what may happen to us if we don’t. Peter says take those worries and give them to God, and if we can overcome the fear by trusting God, we will be less likely to give in to what we are afraid of. (4) Be firm and resist the temptation. The final thing is simply to not give in. Be determined to refuse to eat those cookies when it is time to eat cookies. And know that many others experience the same kind of fears and temptations, so you aren’t alone.
So let’s help each other to do good, and not wrong -- by 1) hanging around good people, (and being one that hang around you) 2) staying alert 3) praying about it, and 4) standing in firm resistance. And over time, as you grow and mature, you will find those roaring lions are nothing more than tame kitty cats.
Let’s pray. Lord we thank you for Jesus, who was tempted in every way we are but resisted. Now we ask your help to help us resist too. In Jesus name. Amen. (Hand out Kit Kats).
Bible Reading 1 Peter 5:1-9
We are in a series on the fundamental building blocks of establishing and maintaining a rock-solid relationship with God. We began with the brick of seeing a true vision of Jesus and what he came to do. So far we have added the bricks of knowing God personally, carefully listening and speaking, and acts of service. Today, we establish our relationship with God by adding the brick of living (or walking) humbly with God and each other. Peter instructs us in his first letter.
I appeal to your spiritual leaders. I make this appeal as a spiritual leader who also witnessed Christ’s sufferings and will share in the glory that will be revealed. Be shepherds over the flock God has entrusted to you. Watch over it as God does: Don’t do this because you have to, but because you want to. Don’t do it out of greed, but out of a desire to serve. Don’t be rulers over the people entrusted to you, but be examples for the flock to follow. Then, when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. Young people, in a similar way, place yourselves under the authority of spiritual leaders. Furthermore, all of you must serve each other with humility, because God opposes the arrogant but favors the humble. Be humbled by God’s power so that when the right time comes he will honor you. Turn all your anxiety over to God because he cares for you. Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour. Be firm in the faith and resist him, knowing that other believers throughout the world are going through the same kind of suffering.
Message Established in Walking (Living) 1 John 1:5-2:2,6-11
Walking with God is the practice of applying to our life what we discover in the life of Jesus, in the Bible, in prayer, and in service of others (what we have been talking about these last weeks – This one wraps these things together). Last week we said that service of God was expressed in our service of others. Likewise, walking with God is not meant to be done alone, but to be a group exercise, and an exercise that is done in a humble and authentic way.
Jesus said that if we can get loving God and loving others right, everything else will fall into place under those two ideas. (See Matthew 22:36-40) Someone suggested we look at the cross that way -- the vertical part is our relationship with God. We are filled with him as he pours himself into us through that cross - and the horizontal arm is our relationship with each other. The vertical learns to receive the love, mercy, truth and grace of God, and then we share it with others. One cannot be done without the other. God works it all into us, and we work it out to others. John wrote this…
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did… its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble... (1 John 1:5-10, 2:6,8b-10 (NIV))
Our Creator always intended to be seen and heard in those whom he created. He designed humanity so that he could purify us from the darkness of sin and indwell us and act through us; that by what we do and say and become, we would be a physical, visible expression of the invisible light of God on his earth. This is how others begin to experience that connection with God’s presence.
Someone's engine was acting up, so they sputtered into a car garage one dark evening. The mechanic had his helper come out and hold a flashlight so he could see what he was doing in that dark garage. The one holding the light got distracted – you know how that is, your kid is helping you and they shine the light everywhere but where you want it. The mechanic finally tried to get his attention back by saying, "Hey, shine your light! What are you here for anyway?" We are here to shine Jesus' light, but it isn't about us the lamps, but about his light that lights up our world...
Walking in the light is not as much about the perfection of our walk as it is letting his walk, his light, shine through us -- about not hiding it under a bushel or letting it get blown out, but about being transparent and honest that’s where humility comes in) it is about what we are allowing God to do in and through our life. It is God within us that is the source of this life we are becoming.
None of us, in our own strength, or even in our combined strengths; can shine brilliantly enough to reveal God within. Think of it this way -- if we are a flashlight, we are not the bulb. We are not the battery. We are not the casing that houses all the parts. We are the plastic lens that covers the bulb. The less devoted we are to God's presence, the more scratched and cloudier that lens gets and the less God's light will be able to shine through. The more we allow God to purify ourselves, the more connected and committed to him, the cleaner and more open and transparent we are before God, the more people will be able to see God's presence flowing (shining) out of us.
So the question is, what is it that hinders, and what is it that helps to let our light shine. Today we are going to talk mostly about our attitudes. First, what hinders…
John is writing to people who had become proud. Biblical vocabulary and our cultural modern English vocabulary may make this a little bit confusing. Our culture says we should be proud of school accomp-lishments, athletic victories, of our children and grandchildren, of doing work successfully. The Bible would not argue with any of that. When the Bible speaks of pride, it doesn’t mean those kinds of things, it means a spiritual pride that isolates us from God and from others because we have come to believe we don’t want of need God or anyone to live out our spiritual life together. We can probably get better handle on this as we look at it more closely.
The effects of pride: we look down on others
The original recipients of the letter claimed God is light, and we have fellowship with him. And because of that, these people thought they were better than everybody else and they didn’t need others to be a part of their life. It is kind of like saying, we are bigger, better, our pastor can beat up your pastor, and all that kind of attitude. John answers them that they are lying if they claim to be in the light, but don’t have fellowship with others. If we don’t have fellowship with others, we are not in the light; we are in the dark and we are not purified from sin, for sin at its heart says other people that Christ died for are not as good or as important as we are.
The effects of pride: we don’t think we need God
Not only did these people say others were not important to them, they became so spiritually proud, felt they were so good they could earn God’s favor, and had no need of his grace. John tells them - If you think you are so good you don’t need help to deal with your sinful nature, then you have deceived yourselves. You need to admit you are sinful and then our faithful God will forgive and purify you from all you do wrong.
The effects of pride: we think we do not sin
These people not only believed they didn’t have a sinful nature to deal with, they claimed that they did not sin. They must have been good at rationalizing, excusing, and justifying. Aren’t we? John said they were living in denial and if they were without sin, then they were accusing God of being a liar who calls us for who we are, but loves us anyway. John says he doesn’t want us to sin, but if we do happen to fail and sin, Jesus Christ will defend them by his sacrificial work of atonement (at -one -ment) reconciliation on the cross -- and not only our sins, but the sins of the whole world.
Pride hinders. On the other hand, humility helps God’s light to shine through us. Current vocabulary again gets in the way of a good understanding. Our culture says we should be independent and equate it with responsibility. They say people should put themselves first and equate that with positive self-esteem. They hear people of faith talk about service and humility, trust, and depending upon God, and they equate that with self-abasement, ("I'm a no good nothing nothing”) slavish submission, passivity, timidity, shyness, and thinking that God is a crutch. We should shed low self-esteem, take active responsibility for ourselves, and live life on its own merit.
Biblical humility is not what others claim it to be. The Bible tells us to judge ourselves appropriately – not higher – or lower – than we are, and find our rightful place in the Universe. It would not argue with healthy self-esteem, or individual, active responsibility and a synergistic interdependence with each other. Humility is a proper sense of where we fit in to the Universe and a clearer perspective of just how great life is. To use the words of Thornton Wilder, “… it seems people just grow through the motions. Can’t they know that life is just too full to realize [every moment]? (in Our Town) and Thomas Wolfe wrote: “Men do not escape life because life is dull. But life escapes men because men are little. It seems there was never a great moment of living in which we can measure up to its fullness.” (Look Homeward, Angel). So great is life that no event or activity is beneath us. When Peter wrote, “all of you serve each other with humility, or as many versions say it, “clothe yourself with humility”; Peter is clearly remembering back to what we talked about last week when Jesus invited his disciples to an upper room and kneeled before them and began to wash their feet -- he knew that in the grand symphony of life, no part was too small or beneath him.
The effects of humility: A choice to trust
Humility is an attitude choice (just like choosing the outfit we put on each day). It's choosing to trust God and certain others with the real me. Someone said, pride is about pretending while humility is about reality. Pride pretends to be something we are not (in this context, sinless and in no need of God), usually in the hope that people will like you, or in the fear that people will not like us if they see the real us. But even if people like what you pretend to be, they’re not liking you because they are liking that image that you are putting out there. The only way to experience the real love of God and others is to be courageous enough, and vulnerable enough; to be the real you and honest about what is going on in your life.
The effects of humility: A permission to work on me
And when we begin to trust that God loves us as we are -- no matter what we’ve done or failed to do, then we can begin to recognize and confess before God (and ourselves) that we don’t have our life all together, and that we are not as perfect as want to think we are, and that puts us in a place where we are able to invite God to work in our life, because admit that there is something to be worked on. And we can also work that out with others we trust.
The effects of humility: protects and matures us
When we trust we are accepted as we are, when we give God permission to work on us, and others to work mutually with us, then we are also better protected. If in pride we are pretending we are sinless, we can’t work on our sin, because we are pretending it isn’t there, and we will be eaten alive from the inside out from the stress of perfectionistic presentation and performance for God, for others and even for ourselves. But when we realize we can fail, and that we have room to grow,
Protects and matures us:
Mutual growth groups, Alertness against sin, Prayer, Resist – Stand firm
we are protected because (as we said in Children’s Time) humility moves us to be with others that we trust will add positive improvements to our lives (and ours to theirs), it will keep us alert against the dangers of temptation and failure, it pushes us to pray to our Father in heaven who is a great protector, and who enables us to stand firm, as he says in verse 10, then,
Restores, Strengthens, Supports
“God, who shows you his kindness and who has called you through Christ Jesus to his eternal glory, will restore you [a word used of mending nets, Peter knew about that! -- God will fix the rips and holes in our faith, and] strengthen you [equip you for service], make you strong [establish you], and support you… [in your life…] (1 Peter 5:10 (GW (not inlcuding The […]))
The form in the Greek shows that these are not just what Peter wishes for his people, but they are God’s promises that are given to them who will humble themselves under his mighty hand and he will, in his time and in his way, complete his work of salvation and maturity in you. And it is on the basis of these promises that we turn to Christ who offers himself to us, and we to him in covenant relationship.
Closing Blessing Now go to live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ., who deserves all the glory, both now and forever! Amen.