Becoming a Community God Exalts
Let’s begin today’s message with a poll. Ironbridge is moving swiftly towards a new chapter. For several decades we were guided by a shepherd, we went through a time of transition, and next week we are welcoming a new pastor.
So here are our options, and don’t worry, I won’t tell Pastor Michael.
Raise your hand if you are just plain excited for the future of Ironbridge.
Raise your hand if you are hopeful but nervous. (I thought about doing this poll by sound)
As you can see, the room is mixed.
In today’s scripture, 1 Peter 5:1-11, Peter is writing to a church with mixed feelings. They have strong leaders, but their leaders are tired. They are multigenerational, but the generations are struggling to connect. They want to be strong in faith but they are fearful because of their suffering. They want to be a healthy church, but they are struggling to know how.
Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter is going to show them how they can become a community that God exalts.
Now, we have barely started the message, and you may already have a check in your spirit. “Hold-up, becoming a community God exalts? That doesn’t sound right. Shouldn’t we be a community that seeks humility?”. Thankfully, we do not need to reconcile friends.
God desires to raise up, highly esteem, dignify, and exalt his bride. He tells us this motive in today’s text, “so that he may exalt you at the proper time.” God desires to exalt his people, because, through his people, Jesus is displayed as desirable to the world. When we are salt, communities slow their decay. When we are light, people find hope in the gospel. God calls and entrusts us to be his ambassadors, what an honor, and what a gift to the watching world when we are true to our calling.
Are we a people who actually believe that the health of chesterfield depends upon the people of God being valuable and visible, because we are seeking to show the world the beauty of Jesus’ love? If so, this morning we will learn from Peter, four ways to become a community God exalts.
Our leaders are easy to follow because they are eager to shepherd.
Our leaders are easy to follow because they are eager to shepherd.
When God wants to change a community, he begins with the leaders. Verse 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:
Look at Peter’s posture of humility in this intro. He was one of the twelve disciples. He was in Jesus’ inner circle. He was appointed by the Holy Spirit to be one of the leading apostles over the early church. He could have said, as an apostle, I demand. But instead he begins, as a fellow leader, I encourage.
Where did he learn this type of leadership attitude? Look at our passage, “and a witness of the sufferings of Christ”. Jesus on the cross, dying to save, is the image of true Christian leadership. Laying down your life out of love for another. This is what elders in the church are called to do.
Elders are those who have been entrusted with spiritual leadership in the church. The new testament uses the terms elder, overseer, bishop, and shepherd-teacher interchangeably. Being an elder has little to do with age, popularity, or business competence. Rather, this group of God-appointed, and church approved, men are to possess a character that matches God’s qualifications for this role. (The character of these men should exemplify the qualifications outlined in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1: above reproach, not arrogant or easily angered, not violent or greedy, not addicted to alcohol, hospitable, a lover of good, self controlled, upright, holy, disciplined, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, respectable, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, not a recent convert, and thought of well by outsiders.)
So if this is who they are, what is this group of pastors called to do?
2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, Notice, what he doesn’t say, “CEO the company underneath you”. The congregation is not a collection of customers to be pleased, but a flock to be cherished. If Pastors are living to please people, then preaching the truth in love would be the wrong game plan. If making people happy was the goal, then we need to make this place as much like Disney World as possible. As a refreshing alternative, Paul was honest about his desire as a pastor to the church of Galatia, Galatians 1:10 “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Shepherds are sometimes going to make leadership decisions that the sheep don’t like. But the shepherds will do this sensitively, because these shepherds are among the flock.
(Let’s be real for a second, all that I just described cannot be done through “online church”. Imagine that you owned some sheep and wanted to interview for the shepherd role. One of the candidates admitted that he loved guiding sheep, but he was unable to be with them. You rightly looked concerned. In response, he assured you that he was going to utilize video to shepherd the flock. You would be wise to find a different shepherd. To actually be shepherded, the sheep must know and see the guide. This cannot happen watching teaching on youtube or in isolation online. I encourage you to invite your pastors to lunch. Take them to your child’s game with you. Have them over for dinner while your home is still a mess. (And if you really want to bless them, invite them for a round of golf.))
Shepherds must be among the sheep. But this does not negate their calling to lead the sheep.
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. There are three pot-holes that can destroy the alignment of elders with the word of God. Pastoring merely out of obligation. Pastoring for greedy wealth. And misusing their authority.
In the last decade alone, have we not seen countless examples of churches left in shambles, because their leaders were guiding out of greedy motives?
With all of these sad examples fresh on our hearts, it may be tempting to think that the solution is to strip authority from shepherds. Especially, if we have been wounded by shepherds in the past. But the end result of this plan, is sheep roaming around on their own. The very scene that caused Jesus to have gut-level compassion when he saw that the people “were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus’ solution for weary sheep is to give them qualified and caring shepherds. Look back at the positives in this verse, picture leaders exercising oversight willingly in love, eagerly as God would have them, living as examples of Jesus’ care. After all, they do not own the sheep, the text gives us the clue that the sheep are temporarily “in your charge”. Shepherds are stewards who will be held accountable...
Pastor Michael’s first Sunday fell on me and my wife’s family vacation. On that pivotal Sunday morning, though my body was in the Adirondack's of New York, my heart was at Ironbridge. The service was not live streamed, so all that we could do was pray and wait to hear the result of the vote. We really wanted the vote to pass.
That morning we went to a service in New York and the Pastor preached on Psalm 23. As I was listening, an overwhelming peace calmed me. “No matter what the outcome of the vote is today, the Lord is my Shepherd.” “No matter what Ironbridge decides, Jesus will restore my soul and lead me!” “No matter what happens, we will not be Shepherd-less, for Jesus himself is our Shepherd!”
4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
When this passage was written, victorious athletes were given crowns made of olive branch . I looked it up this week, an olive wreath will last approximately 2-4 weeks in that condition before it fades. All of that training and exercise, for 2-4 weeks of glory. Glory in our modern day lasts even shorter than that. Athletes practice their whole lives to make it to the super bowl. The day after we are talking about our favorite potato chip commercial from the night before!
Jesus’ honor for faithful shepherds stands in magnificent contrast to man’s empty praise. Those who teach and lead the flock, with honor, will receive an unfading crown of glory.
There may be times when Pastor Michael will feel undervalued, unknown, unappreciated, and understaffed. Barely holding on. What Jesus will be holding is an unfading crown of glory for every tearful prayer, every messy counseling session, every sorrowful hospital visit, and every late night hour spent laboring to prepare the message.
If our leaders are eager to shepherd as God would have them, why would we not want to follow?
And if we are to follow them, we will need humility.
Our generations are united because our attitude is humility.
Our generations are united because our attitude is humility.
5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. This verse immediately sparks two questions. 1. Why does Peter call for the younger to trust their pastors? 2. Who are the “younger”? In this context, the word “elder” is referring to an office of spiritual authority. Not physical age. When Paul wrote to a young leader in the church, Timothy, he specifically instructed him to be courageous despite his youth. 1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” So we know that leaders in the church can be young in age. If you were to review the qualification for overseer’s it does have a chronological requirement, but it is not regarding physical age. “He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and incur the same condemnation as the devil.” We are told that Satan, who was once an angel, fell from heaven because of pride. He thought he knew better than God. The same pride can rise within us if we have an attitude of suspicion towards shepherds, instead of humility.
There will be times, especially if you are new to the faith, when the decisions of your pastors may seem peculiar. Unless they are clearly going against the scripture, trust God by trusting pastors he has enabled to lead through the appointing of the congregation.
If we believe that God is doing his job of holding them accountable, then we are free to follow with trusting hearts. God outlines this attitude in 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.”
In my meetings with Pastor Michael, he has already challenged me to do things that push me out of my comfort zone. It is in those moments that I remember James’ description of wisdom: being “open to reason”. This is the heart of humility: if what I am being instructed is reasonable, and aligned with scripture, I am open to follow.
To be fair to this text, let’s say that this verse is referring to chronological youth. Some of the commentaries I read argued for this case. Let me say to those of us who are young in age. The young people that the elders will want to place in leadership are those humble enough to follow. Older generations have lived long enough to see that pride comes before the fall.
The world tells us to replace the mature. God tells us to respect the mature.
The shocking thing about pride is its hiddenness. For example, if as I was talking to the younger people, you were thinking “finally, we need to put that group in their place.” That attitude would reveal a heart of pride and a spiritual immaturity. That is why Paul goes on to say to everyone....
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
During college I had the privilege to spend a couple months in India doing missions work. Each student got paired with a full time missionary. My pairing happened to be one of my hero’s. He was my youth pastor growing up and one of my dad’s closest friends. To my surprise, when we first arrived, one of the first tasks he asked me and my partner to do was put together furniture with him. If you know me, you know that it would be more fitting to call me a handy-baby than a handy-man. I did my best work on the furniture, but I was slower than Christmas. In contrast, the missionary had an injured hand and worked in double-speed.
The next day, he had surgery, and I availed myself to some of his leftovers in the fridge as me and his children ate dinner together. When he came home from his surgery, and found me eating at the table, I could tell something was off. He yelled at me and my partner, describing frustration that yesterday he put together furniture quicker with one hand than we did with four. I was shocked and embarrassed. Immediately I learned two valuable lessons: don’t hang out with people right after surgery and don’t eat someone else's leftovers! We went back to our apartment ashamed and confused. Surprisingly, we got a knock on the door. It was the missionary. He apologized for yelling and proceeded to tell us a story about my dad. My dad was a seminary professor in Colombia, South America. During the end of a semester, him and his students put on a banquet to honor sponsors and guests. When it came time to serve, none of the seminary students moved. In shock, my dad, the professor, put on an apron, as the students watched him begin to go table-by-table serving the food. The missionary reminded us that Jesus came to serve, not to be served. Through that story, he changed the attitude of our mission trip. If we were there for God, then we should be there to serve.
Peter was present when Jesus washed the disciples feet. Perhaps he had this image in mind when he tells us to clothe ourselves in humility. John 13:4 Jesus “rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.” If any child had the right to resist the leaders of the temple, it was Jesus. Instead, he asked them questions. If any child had the right to vier from his parents guidance it was Jesus. Instead he obeyed his parents. If any leader had the right to be served by his followers it was Jesus. Instead, he washed their feet.
This is what leadership in the church looks like. It looks like a towel. The way up is down. Suffering leads to glory. Humility leads to exaltation.
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
Do you want to be a leader? Do you want your voice to be heard? Become a good follower. Serve. Trust God’s hand on your life. He will raise you up at the proper time.
Charles Spurgeon once wisely said, "Humility is a qualification for greatness. Do you know how to be little? You are learning to be great. Can you submit? You are learning to rule. My symbolic sketch of a perfected Christian would be a king keeping the door, or a prince feeding lambs, or, better still, the Master washing His disciples’ feet."
And the only way we will be able to continue in humility is if...
Our faith in God is stronger than our fear of the enemy.
Our faith in God is stronger than our fear of the enemy.
7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. If we apply verses 1-6, we’ll have a lot less anxieties to cast to God. If leaders guide in humility and love, the people rejoice. If we trust God to bless us at the proper time, we are far less prone to have selfish worries. How many anxieties rise in our hearts because of pride? We are anxious about our jobs because we want to be seen as successful. We are worried about our social media because we want to be seen as popular. We stress about stuff, not because we lack what we need, but because we lack contentment.
Nonetheless, as we walk through this life, genuine worries will rise to the surface of our hearts. What should we do when we are worried?
We are used to throwing our anxieties onto something or someone. Some may escape their burdens through the bottle of alcohol. Some may flee from fears through the fantasy of pornography. Or perhaps, your relief is less extreme. Maybe you are accustomed to going to friends. This can be a healthy tactic, but it is not a sufficient tactic.
God is the one who can do something about our anxieties. Cast your worries onto God. You can be confident that he cares.
Do you believe that he cares? What are we telling ourselves and showing the world, when we are troubled that God won’t provide? When we lack hope for tomorrow? That attitude will cause us to take matters into our own hands, instead of throwing the weight of our heart onto God.
In 2021, a group of Australian farmers found a sheep running wild that clearly had not been sheared in many years. When the sheep was found, it had approximately 75 pounds of wool cut off. These farmers named the sheep Baarack (poor sheep must have been made fun of a lot in middle school). The farmers mentioned how easy it was for them to catch Baarack. Imagine how freely Baarack is moving now that he is free from all of that weight.
Some of us are walking around with souls that look like Baarack! What advice would you have for this person? Go to a caring shepherd! Stop running around in the wild with all of this weight! If this sheep would have been connected to a flock, guided by a good shepherd, it would have never got into this condition.
Next time you feel anxious, I want to give an image that will help you remember this passage. Bingo. Yes, bingo. In bingo, the game leader will roll the balls around in the cage. Pull one out at a time. And scream the number out loud. B7! This is what we should do when we feel anxious. Not bingo. But calling our anxieties out to God. Stop the jumping thoughts that are rolling around in the cage of your mind. Pull one thought out at a time. Call that anxiety out by name. Give it to the God who cares for you.
Believing that God cares for us can help us live life more carefree. But it should not lead us to be spiritually careless.
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,
One of the key reasons we have chronic worries, is because we have a constant accuser who hates God and hates us, Satan. And this lion like enemy would love to gobble up some tasty, weighed down, sheep. Peter himself knew this reality all too well.
On the night that Jesus was betrayed, he and a few disciples were gathered in the garden. Jesus asked some of them to stay awake and pray with him. Instead of being sober-minded, Peter fell asleep. Peter was worried instead of watchful. His lack of alertness, led to the biggest regret of his life.
It is no surprise then, that Peter describes Satan as a roaring lion. Some Christians teachers talk about Satan like he is a teddy bear. As if he was no threat. For example, I hear people emphasize that Satan is like a Lion, but not actually a lion. As if this means that we do not need to watch out for him. I wish satan were a lion! If that were the case, all he can do to me is bite my arm off . He is way worse than that. He can cause the man who penned these words to deny he even knew Jesus! The passage uses the image of a lion to teach us that we shouldn't be messing around with darkness. It doesn't say, he is moving around like a cute koala seeking whom he may cuddle. No, be alert, Peter says! Pay attention, look out. Resist his temptations. And how do we resist?
We resist the enemy by standing firm in our faith. Next time you are tempted to gossip. Remember, this is someone made in the image of God. Next time you look down on someone, remember this is someone for whom Jesus died! Next time you are despairing about the frailty of your life, remember, Jesus overcome death! What can he not overcome in your life? What can he not accomplish through our church?
I was a shy kid when I was young. Some people made me nervous to be around. If I got scared, I wouldn’t run. I would stand behind my dad and grab onto his pant leg.
If Satan is prowling around us, wouldn’t it make more sense to run instead of stand? Not if we are near the Chief Shepherd. Satan has successfully harmed many sheep, but he has lost every battle against our Shepherd. If we stand with the Shepherd, we will be safe from being devoured by the adversary.
Our suffering is shared and our salvation is sure.
Our suffering is shared and our salvation is sure.
One of the most amazing truths that rose to the surface as I was preparing this week, was the communal nature of this passage. Even anxiety, that feels so personal, was to be handled communally. The “your” in “your anxieties” is plural in greek.
This truth alone, is part of our solution. As we travel through this land like sheep, we need to be a part of the flock. We need to remember that we are not alone.
the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
If believers in completely different contexts are experiencing the same kinds of suffering, how much more do people in this room know how to provide healing for what you are going through? There is another in this room who is loosing opportunities because they have integrity at their job. There is another in this room who has felt the sting of losing a parent. There is another in this room who is being made fun of at school because they associate with Jesus. No matter what suffering you are experiencing there is another in this room, who has been there, another who can bear that burden with you.
This is why it is vital that you belong to a bridge group. Fall is a perfect time to integrate into a community of Christians during your weekly rhythms. Talk to one of our pastors and we would be happy to connect you with a group that will share the pain and joys of this life.
10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, Our suffering is like a vapor. Our enjoyment of God will be eternal. In 2022, it is genuinely hard to be a Christian. Sometimes our suffering and pain feels like it will never go away. We are like kids in the back seat on our way to vacation asking our dad, “are we there yet?” His response is, “just a little while longer”. If I know that it will only be a few minutes before I can get out of the car, stretch my legs, and run around like a freely, I can handle the car ride a little bit better.
will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Ironbridge, this has been my prayer for us as we enter this new chapter. We have experienced suffering. This church has been through pain. But God is revealing the purpose of the pain. He wants to exalt us by teaching us humility. He wants to exalt us by showing us our need for him. He wants to exalt us at the proper time, when we realize that our mission is to exalt him.
And at that proper time, God himself will restore broken families. God himself will confirm faithful shepherds. God himself will strengthen our faith. God himself will establish our love.
How can we become a community God exalts? By exalting Jesus. The one who was lifted up on a cross, so we could be lifted up to heaven.
Philippians 2:8-9 “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,”
For believers in the room, let us remember Jesus’ humility and give him the glory he deserves by believing in his care for us.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
After a passage like today’s, what words are more fitting than these?
11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.