Skip Heitzig - The Upright Walk of a Bowed-Down Man
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First Peter, chapter 5, and we're going to begin in verse 5 down to verse 7. But as we begin this morning, we want to pray about something special. Tomorrow is Memorial Day and it's a day that for the last hundred years or so in this country we have used it to memorialize, to remember those who have defended our freedoms, especially those who have fallen overseas defending our freedoms here in this country. So, we want to pray for the families of those especially who have lost someone. might be recently, and pray that they will feel the support of our fellowship and of Christ's love. So let's pray together.
Our Father, we come before you and we're so thankful that we live in a country that enjoys the freedoms that we do. We do not have a tyrannical government. We do not have a monarchy. We have certain freedoms that this country has been established upon and we enjoy those freedoms: freedom of assembly, we're enjoying it right now; freedom of worship, we're enjoying that right now. We have the freedom to vote. We have the freedom to dissent. Lord, those freedoms came at a cost and we are thankful for those men and women who have stood in the gap and paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we now enjoy. We're humbled by that. And we pray, Father, for families of those, the loved ones who have lost someone in battle defending those freedoms. We pray, Father, for your comfort, your support, your strength, your courage. We thank you, Lord, that we've gathered here today to hear truth, hear your Word. And we know, Lord, there could be distractions that take away from that, and we just pray that you would help us to focus our hearts as an act of worship upon what you said in your Word, in Jesus' name, amen.
"Even God himself cannot sink this ship," so said those who built the Titanic. Strange words to hear, are they not? "Even God himself cannot sink this ship," the ship that was considered the strongest, most certainty most luxurious ship of its time, the largest man-made object of the day in water, it took 12,000 men two years to build. They were so confident that that ship was invincible that on Sunday morning, April 14, 1912, when typically they have the drill for the lifeboats, they decided no lifeboat drill was necessary, because, after all, the ship is invincible. It can't sink. "Even God himself cannot sink this ship." That night at 11:40 p.m. just minutes before midnight, when that ship struck that iceberg, and we know the story, it went down.
The ship was sunk and those haunting words from Proverbs 16 come to mind: "Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." Pride, we know something about that, do we not? All of us do. Pride is the oldest sin in the universe, and it shows no signs of weakening with age. Seems to get stronger and stronger. It was pride that put Lucifer out of heaven. It was pride that put Adam and Eve out of the garden. It is pride that ruins everything it touches. Pride, your greatest enemy. Humility, your greatest friend. Sometimes humility is found in the strangest places. Thirty-three years ago when our then president Ronald Reagan was shot, he was placed in the hospital.
A bullet grazed his shoulder and his rib. And he was recovering in the hospital and a nurse walked in his room. And instead of finding President Reagan in the bed recovering, she found President Reagan on his knees wiping up water off the floor with a towel and she was shocked. She said, "Mr. President, we have people for that stuff." But President Reagan explained that he didn't want a nurse or an aide getting in trouble for not cleaning up spilled water in the bathroom, amazing. Very few people get to meet a standing president; fewer people get to meet a kneeling president, one who shows that kind of humility. D. L. Moody once said, "Be humble or you'll stumble."
With that in mind, let's discover how. Let's discover this attitude in verse 5 of First Peter, chapter 5. "Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.' Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon him, for he cares for you." Now allow me to give my best shot at giving you the setting of these verses. These are the closing words of Peter in this letter. He has written to several groups.
The group right before this were the elders of the church, that they are to feed the flock, they are to shepherd the flock. They are to do so by example. They're to do so willingly, not by constraint. And after addressing the elders, he addresses those who are younger, and then everybody, saying that we should be submissive and humble and humble ourselves before God. So let me paint the scene as I can best see it. Peter's audience were a group of sufferers. Twenty-one times in this letter he addresses that subject of suffering. And he has written to them already: "Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you." So he's writing to a group of people who are feeling the pain of suffering.
And when suffering is present, good leadership should also be present, especially those who will feed the flock. Those who feed God's suffering sheep will calm God's suffering sheep, give them the ability to make it through that suffering. But the church needs something else. Not only does it need good leaders, it needs good followers, because suffering will bring out the worst in people, the worst attitudes, the tensions. And in suffering people will often resort to baser behaviors: tempers will flare, irritations will mount, accusations will fly, and pride will rear its ugly head.
I've noticed that when churches go through times of difficulty, that the atmosphere can become very volatile, and there will arise those who in the name of righteous indignation will challenge leadership. It is often, not always, but often the younger ones who will do that. Why? Well, they never trusted the older generation anyway to begin with often times, and they have not learned the art of diplomacy or the virtue of humility. And that seems to be, at least in part, the setting that we have here in what we have just read. The pressures on the outside of the church have produced pressures on the inside of the church. So what Peter writes now is to those who are younger, and then to everyone else.
I've called this message the "Upright Walk of a Bowed-Down Man." And I want to give you the three principles, you know, sometimes you go, "Boy, he does things in threes a lot." Well, there are three verses and sometimes there are two points, sometimes there are five points, sometimes there are four. But there are here in these three verses three major principles. Can I call them "compliant characteristics of those who are upright"? I'm going to give them to you in sentence form. Number one: Responding to authority helps leadership. Nothing is more helpful to those who are in authority than to find those who will compliantly respond to that authority.
Notice what he writes: "Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders", now stop right there. This is not an unfamiliar theme, is it not? Peter has written a lot about submission so far. It's been one of his themes. Back in chapter 2, verse 13, he writes, "Submit yourself to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake." In chapter 2, verse 18, "Servants, be submissive to your masters." In chapter 3, verse 1, "Wives, submit to your husbands." In chapter 3, verse 22, Peter writes about angelic beings being in subjection or submission to Christ. In other words, submission is a part of every single realm of life, because submission is a foundational attitude for all of life.
You can't be saved without submission. Did you know that? Because to be saved you have to repent, turn from what you know is wrong, your own self-will, your own previous choices. And repent means to turn around and go in a new direction. And therefore you are now in submission to an alien will. You cannot follow Christ unless you are willing to submit to Christ as Savior and as Lord. But notice to whom he writes: "Likewise you younger people." I need to warn that that's my translation, but more modern translations and a few of the older ones will say "young men" in particular, because the word is very, very distinct. It refers probably to young men.
Here it says "younger people," but most translations say younger men. Now you might ask, "Why would Peter single out young men?" I can't be sure, I can only guess. I can only guess by saying that often young men are more impulsive, more aggressive, more headstrong, and they have a tougher time with submission. I can only speak from personal experience. When I was growing up I remember the tough time I had whenever my dad would say just about anything. I was headstrong. It's those who are young, especially young men. They feel like they've got the world by the tail. And how did the world even make it all these years without them? You know what I mean.
It's actually a wonderful time, youth is. It's a time of daring and creativity and feeling invincible almost. But it can also be a dangerous time, because those who are younger often think themselves infinitely wiser than anybody else, especially the older generation. And this can sometimes be catastrophic. Let me jog your memory a little bit. Solomon, after he died, his son Rehoboam took over the kingdom. And if you remember, Solomon had a tough time, because he heavily taxed the people almost to the point of breaking them. So when Rehoboam got on the throne, he decided he would get advice from two groups of people.
Because the people had come to Rehoboam and said, "Dude, you gotta relax the tax structure. Your dad almost killed us." So he asked two groups of advisors: one was an older group who had advised his father; one was his contemporaries, a much younger group, an edgier group. The old guys said, "You better listen to the people because they are on the brink of revolt." But he asked the younger people and they said, "Don't listen to what the people want. Show them who's boss. Assert your own authority over them. In fact, you should say that your little finger will be heavier than your father's waist." And so he did that, and the people did revolt and the kingdom split north and south and never recovered from that.
So submission is necessary. Wayne Mackey said, "The error of youth is to believe that intelligence is a substitute for experience." All of society is built on submission. Right? There are laws that you must keep. And if you don't keep them, there are policemen out there who will reinforce and enforce those laws to help you remember. Not only is there government, there's submission at home to parents. If you go to work, you have to submit to rules and regulations of the company or the vision and instruction of the boss. In virtually every part of life there is a structure, a chain of command for anything to work, and so it is in the church.
In Hebrews 13 verse 17 the writer says, "Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know that they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this joyfully and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit." Now I'm not bringing any of that up in some self-serving way hoping that you will respond to my authority. It's simply part of the biblical text. He addresses the elders then he addresses those who are younger in response to those who are older. And then he addresses all people in the congregation after that. But here's what I want you to know about submission: submission to any authority on earth is an act of faith.
Yes, you're submitting to a human, and that's a little scary, because they may take advantage of you. And I say it's an act of faith, because when you submit to a person as a believer, you are trusting that there is God behind them who is sovereign and in control, in spite of what boss you have, or what the issues are, or what the leaders are. It's an act of faith. I have a couple dogs at home. I had one, but now we've gotten another one. And they're two different sizes, but the little one is very full of himself. And that big one could take it in its sleep. But they tussle and they rumble and they look like they're fighting, but they're just playing. I've watched this when they play, and I've also seen it when dogs are really fighting.
There is a signal that a dog gives when it submits. It'll get on its back and expose the most vulnerable part, the neck, to the dog who has the neck in its teeth. And at any time, I watch it when they're playing. I think, "Man, that dog could just go keek and it's over. So that position of submission could destroy that dog, but in effect, in reality, that signal is how the dog is spared. And in any organization and in any group, in any structure at all, people are spared, the unit is spared when there is submission. So the principle is: Responding to authority helps leadership. Here's the second: Living in humility enhances fellowship. Living in humility enhances fellowship.
Continue in verse 5, second sentence. "Yes," says Peter, "all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for", and he quotes Proverbs now, "'God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.'"Peter was addressing the elders in chapter 5, verse 1, and following. We looked at that last week. Then he addresses the youngers. Now he's addressing all-ers, everyone, all y'all, they would say in the south, everyone in the flock, everyone in the fellowship. He speaks about the action of submission, now the attitude of humility. This is the attitude that lubricates relationships. Submission and humility, those are the lubricants. That's the oil when the gears get tight, that keep it flowing smoothly.
Notice what he writes: "Be submissive to one another." Remember the word for submission? We've looked at it several times in the study over the weeks, hupotassó. It means to line up under. It's a military term: to line up under. The idea is that you line up under somebody's authority. You get in line under their authority. You relinquish your rights. So here he says, "Be submissive to one another." Let me offer a retranslation: voluntarily adapt yourself to each other, or blend with one another, be willing to surrender your rights. You can't always be the dog on top with the teeth growling. Sometimes you're going to have to assume the lower position. Humility. So he says, "Clothe yourself with humility."
The word "humility" means to get low or low-lying. The word is sometimes translated "lowliness of mind." Paul says, "With lowliness of mind," Philippians, chapter 2, "Let each of you esteem others better than himself," so a low-minded person. Here's what's interesting to me. The culture, in which this was written, the Greco-Roman culture, especially the Greek culture, despised the quality of humility. Did you know that? They despised it much like today our society despises it. You know, you're a wimp, you show weakness. The Greeks believed there were only two types of people in the world: Greeks and everybody else. And everybody else, their term, they were "barbarians."
So the Greeks said self-confidence, self-aggressiveness, those are good qualities. The only people that were the humble people were their conquered enemies. When they would conquer someone, they would turn them into slaves. They would become the low-minded person or the "humble" person, because they saw themselves as number one, "We're superior." I was reading an article about personalized license plates. It's seems that when personalized license plates were first introduced to the state of Illinois that the Department of Motor Vehicle had thousands of requests for the license plate that said "NUMBER 1," number one. Thousands of them.
There were so many of them that that official at the Department of Motor Vehicles whose job it was to make the assignment said, "I'm not going to assign this to someone and disappoint thousands of people." So he solved the problem and he took the "NUMBER 1" for his license plate. Number one! "Be submissive to one another," writes Peter, "and be clothed with humility." You know, the Bible always sees humility as a virtue, not a vice. It doesn't say it's a wimpy, weak person, but a strong person. And you know why? Because Jesus was humble. One of the chief characteristics of the Savior we follow is humility.
According to the apostle Paul, these words, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, he made himself of no reputation, he took on the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross." So taking Christ as our model, he says, "Now be clothed with humility." That's an interesting term. I think he's borrowing that from the slave market. There was an apron that slaves would tie around their waist. And when he says clothe yourself with humility, it's literally, "put on the clothing of a slave."
The J.B. Phillips translates it, put "the 'overalls' of humility" on. That's the attitude. Now humility is a tricky kind of a virtue, is it not? I say it's tricky because it's a virtue that if you think you have it, it shows that you don't have it. Right? I mean, you think, "Okay, I think I'm humble." Well, you just showed you're not humble. It's one of those slippery kind of virtues. Dwight L. Moody used to pray, "Lord, make me humble, but don't let me know it." Like the preacher who said he had a great sermon on humility. But he also said he was waiting for a much bigger crowd so he could preach it.
Or like the church who wanted to find the most humble person in their congregation, so they formed a committee and names were given and they were voted on. One little old guy who was always behind the scenes and never got any accolades and nobody ever paid much attention to him, he never took credit for anything. He was voted most humble and they gave him a little pin: "Most Humble." They had to take it away the next week because he wore it to church. Low-minded. Now, perhaps it'll help if I define humility a little bit. Humility isn't thinking badly about yourself. No. Humility is simply not thinking of yourself at all.
You know, we spend too much of our time thinking about ourselves. I think most people do. We meet somebody, "What did they think of me? How do I look? How did I present myself?" So humility isn't thinking badly about yourself, it's not thinking about yourself. I want you to notice what he says: "Cloth yourself with humility, put on that apron, the overalls of humility." And he says why: "For", and notice the quote. He's quoting Proverbs chapter 3 verse 34, "'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'"Just chew on that for a minute. "God resists the proud." Quickest way to pick a fight with God is to be proud. You want resistance from God, be proud. God hates pride.
When you're proud, it's like choosing God off. It sets you against him and it sets him against you. Jesus said, "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." There were two brothers who grew up on a farm out in the middle of the country. As they grew up, one of the boys decided he would stay on the farm and take over for his dad as a simple farmer. The other one left the farm and went to school and became highly educated, got into politics, became very wealthy, grew in prominence and importance. He was well-known. And one day he came back and visited his brother on the farm. And after supper they took a walk out on the fields.
And the educated, wealthy, politician brother put his arm around the farmer brother and he said, "You know, you ought to think about leaving this farm and making something of your life. You know, do something important where you could hold your up high. Get off this farm." So the farmer brother put his arm around his prominent brother and he said, "Look out at that wheat field, brother. You know it well." And he said, "Notice, only the empty heads stand up." And he let that sink in as I am letting it sink into you right now. "Only the empty heads stand up," and he continued, "those that are filled always bow low." Another way of saying that is, "The branch that bears the most fruit is the one that is bent lowest to the ground."
Clothe yourself with the very virtue that people of this world despise; humility, lowliness of mind, put on the garment of a slave, serve one another. So, responding to authority helps leadership. Living in humility enhances fellowship. Here's the third: Resting in sovereignty acknowledges lordship. That's the last two verses. "Therefore", I always want to make note of that word. He's tying two thoughts together. He says, "Now that you know this is true, let me borrow that thought and take it into this present next thought." "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon him, for he cares for you."
Let me give you the flow of the passage, where we've come from. He says, "Whether you're old or whether you're young, whoever you are, all of you together must have the action of submission and the attitude of humility, because God graciously favors the humble people and he aggressively fights the proud people. So, therefore humble yourself." That's the flow of thought. If pride is the barrier to God's blessing, then humble yourself. Under what? Notice, "the mighty hand of God," the mighty hand of God. I made a discovery I've never noticed before. That term, "the mighty hand of God," is often used in the Old Testament, Peter would have been familiar with that most of all, a term in the Old Testament to describe God's power of delivering his people who are in trouble.
They call out to him and "the mighty hand of God" is the one that delivers them from distress. Why is it used here? I think it's simply a reminder to them back to that thought. When you submit to a human being, it's scary, because they may abuse that privilege. They might take advantage of you. But you as a believer are aware of God's sovereignty. You're resting in God's ability, His Lordship. You're acknowledging His Lordship in that act of submission and that he is capable, and so you willingly surrender. If you go to a hospital and you go get surgery done, you "go under the knife" they call it. They put you under anesthetic and you go to sleep. That's an act of faith.
You are submitting yourself to the capable hands of a physician in hopes that in due time you will be raised back up. Am I right? So just as Jesus surrendered to the will of the Father and went to the death of the cross and God raised him up, as you surrender to the will of God, it's in hopes that he will raise us up. God loves that attitude of surrender and submission and humility and compliance, "Lord, have your will done." I love verses of Scripture that sort of give you a capsule of all of your life. Micah chapter 6 verse 8 is one of those: "He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."
That's what God wants. God wants you "to walk humbly with your God." "Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God." In other words, trust God enough with your life so that you don't live for people's affirmation, but you're willing to wait for God's exaltation. Sometimes people just live for and aim for the pat on the back, the stroke of encouragement. Not that we shouldn't encourage one another, oh, we should. But some people so live for that rather than wait for God's promotion, exaltation. Verse 7, "Casting all your care," some translations say "your anxiety,'"your concern,'"your worries," whatever you want to say. "Casting all your care upon him for he cares for you."
Let's chew on that verse as we close, shall we? This is one of those verses that I call a soft pillow for a tired heart. "Casting all your care upon him." Many of you have that underlined in your Bible. This verse is the secret of a tranquil life. It is the key to a stable and calm outlook. Notice the word "care." I already pointed it's sometimes translated "worry" or "anxiety." Jesus said, "Do not worry about your life, what you're going to eat, what you're going to drink, what you're going to wear." That's the word he used, "care," same word in Greek. Allow me to get a little bit Greeky on you, can I? Not geeky, Greeky. Well, sometimes they're the same. The Greek word for care or worry or anxiety, the word used here is the word merimnon, that's the noun, merimnon.
The verb form would be merimnaó. But it comes from two words put together: one is merizó, which means to tear or divide; the second word is nous/noós which means the mind. And worry, care, anxiety, literally means "to tear or divide the mind." Isn't that an accurate description of what worry does, stress does to you? It takes your mind in two different directions. James said, "The double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." That's what stress does. It's one of the great tyrants of our culture. Over the last 15, 20 years, you've heard the word "stress" more than any other period in history. "I'm so stressed. I'm so worried." It's a by-product of our civilization.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health anxiety is the most frequently reported mental health problem. "Thirteen million Americans spend the better part of their day feeling anxious," this report says. So what is a Christian to do? "Casting all your care upon him." Throw all of the weight of your anxiety onto him. Sometimes when my wife comes home she has groceries in the car and he asks me to take them in. I don't like making four, five, six trips, I like to kind of do it all in one trip, if I can; maybe two, if I have to. So, I'll just, I'll load it up.
Well, by the time I get from the garage into the kitchen, though it's not far, I have laden myself down with such weight that it's like I've got to, like, lunge these things toward the counter. I've got to cast them. That's the picture that goes through my mind. I want you to think of it this way: when stress, worry, care, anxiety, comes your way, you have one of two choices: either you carry the worry, or you cast the worry and let him carry it. Those are your choices: either you carry it or you cast it. Which is it going to be? Most of us carry it. And only when we're, like, in the kitchen and we're ladened down, "I gotta let go of this stuff." Now if I carry it, I'm going to be divided. I'm going to be torn. I'm going to be distracted. I'm going to be disturbed.
If I let him carry it, I'm still going to have the problem, still going to have the issue, still going to have the trouble, but I won't be consumed by it. I won't be torn by it. That's the difference. Notice the little word "all" in the text. "Casting all your care." Those are the words I like to notice, especially in promises like this. It doesn't say cast "most" of your care, or "some" of your care, but "all" of your care, all of it. I bring this up and I point it out, because I think we get a little sophisticated. Here's the thinking that we don't articulate it out loud: "Well, this is one of those little issues of life I don't need to bother God with. God is so busy being God, after all. He's got the Middle East to worry about.
"He has prayers of important people like Billy Graham to worry about. Here I've got this little, tiny, little issue. I don't need to bother God with this, so I won't." That's the problem. In fact, it's such foolish thinking. Here you have this little anxiety, this little care, and instead of turning it over, you carry it with you. Ten minutes later you get another one of those little cares, 30 minutes later another one. By the end of your day it's like little stones in a backpack and you're still carrying all that weight and it's pushing you down. Do you think any parent when a child comes and says, "Mom, Dad, I want to talk to you about a little issue," goes, "Go away, kid, you bother me." No. They love any issue. They just love the fact that the child is connecting with them. Bring it on, all your care.
When a widow came to G. Campbell Morgan that great preacher, articulate preacher in London, and she said, "Dr. Morgan, shall we pray about the little things in our lives or just the big things?" G. Campbell Morgan in his witty characteristically British manner said, "Madam, do you think there's anything in life that's big to God?" See, it's all small potatoes to God. Not that God doesn't care. He cares about all of it. But it's not like, "Oh my goodness, this is a big one!" about anything. So, "Cast all your cares upon him." Why should you do it? Look at the four last words: "He cares for you." "He cares for you." You should say that. "He cares for you."
That's the one message you need to walk away with today: God cares for you. And I guess you have to decide what kind of a God you believe in. Do you believe in a close God, a personal God, a caring God, or do you believe in a cold, aloof, passive God? He cares for you. A couple of weeks ago I'm taking a walk with my grandson. We're walking, we're talking, we're going to go see the horses. He loves to see the horses. Our neighbors have some a couple blocks way. So we're walking and he stops and he goes, "Papa, would you hold my hand?" Do you know the delight I had when I heard those words? I wanted to scoop him up, not just hold his hand. Do you think when you say that to your heavenly Father, he goes, "Ugh, really? About this issue?" "Yeah, would you hold my hand, and would you walk with me, Father, through this period of my life?" He delights in that.
Let me give you three walk-away points in summing it all up. Number one: all that we've talked about, submission, humility, resting, these are not instantaneous things that happen. They are not natural things that happen. They will not naturally happen to you. It takes a period of time and it's supernatural. God has to work that in you. That's part of the sanctification process. Number two: when relationships get hard in your life, check the oil. Maybe you're a little bit low on oil. You need to add humility and submission. That's what keeps the gears running smoothly. If you find tension, check the oil. Number three: burdens will accumulate all throughout the day, learn to cast them.
As soon as you get them, cast them. "Lord, it's yours. Lord, it's yours. You care for me. You care for me. Care about this. Handle this." It takes humility to do that. It takes an admission that he's the Lord and you're not. You're letting God be God. You're letting God run the universe. You're resigning as the chief universe operator. How about it? Let's all resign. Let's let God handle it.
Father, we leave these things, the concerns of our hearts, the people we struggle with, the leaders in our lives that we even struggle with, we leave them in your capable hands as Lord, we rest. And we are willing as an act of faith to surrender to you and to submit to them, tying around ourselves the aprons of humility, of a low mind, not a high mind, of a servant, of a slave. The very office despised in the ancient and the modern world is the very office that you extol, because Jesus himself was humble. Lord, these are the compliant attributes of an upright man bowed low. May they be true of us. May these things be true in our relationships. Pour in the oil of submission, compassion, humility, so that our lives run smoother than they do now, in Jesus' name, amen.