Connecting with God: The “Not So Secret” Recipe – 1 Peter 5

jayandduke575Do you know the dog in this picture beside Jay Bush of the “Bush’s Baked Beans” Company? I was shocked at some news I received recently. Let me gently share it with you. Regardless of the number of years you have been watching Bush’ Baked Bean commercials, the fact is that you have never actually seen on screen Jay Bush’s real dog, “Duke”. From an authoritative source known on the net as the “Dogington Post” comes this word:

When the time came for Jay Bush to appear in commercials as the spokesman for his family’s brand of baked beans, he turned to his Golden Retriever, Duketo, for comfort. At a meeting to discuss commercial ideas in 1996, someone at the table suggested Jay tell Duke the secret family recipe for the delicious beans. At first, the idea seemed silly, but Jay whispered in his dog’s ear and the famous Bush’s Baked Beans series of commercials was born. The real Duke Bush wasn’t a fan of the spotlight, however, so a look-alike professional dog actor was brought in to play the role.”

Can you believe they fooled us with an “impostor dog” like that? What is even WORSE than the fact that the dog was replaced by an actor was another shocking truth… THE DOG’S VOICE WAS THAT OF A HUMAN! That is right; the dog couldn’t speak even one line of dialogue. The whole thing is voiced over. What a charade! As you allow the shock of these truths to sink in, think for a moment about that dog himself. The actor pup that played “Duke” seemed on every commercial destined to give up the secret recipe for the beans, or as the Bush’s people would say: “He was going to ‘spill the beans on their secret bean recipe’! Each time he was thwarted from divulging the family’s precious secret, but he tries again on the next commercial.

This morning, I want to successfully play Duke’s role, and offer you an important recipe. I am neither a dog nor an actor, but for every believer that desires to hear it, the New Testament offers something much more precious than the herbs and spices added to beans. It exposes the ingredients for a thriving group of Jesus followers and warns them away from distracting temptations. This recipe comes from an Epistle, an old letter of the Apostle Peter to first century believers. When its warnings are heeded, it supplies a neighborhood with a solid group of believers that represent well the church of Jesus Christ; and I believe we want to become such a group.

You see, in His Word, God clearly expressed the nature and behaviors of people that truly honor and please Him. He has made clear what specific traits should mark Jesus followers, and He offered them to and through a group of people who were undergoing persecution and troubles from the world around them. Let’s be clear about the Word’s warning: When trouble comes without, we must become even more diligent about the display of character from within the body. One simple way to capture the idea of 1 Peter 5 is this…

Key Principle: Christians are to be known by their love for Jesus seen primarily in their behavior in the world and their relationships to one another.

In order to understand what God said to the church about relationships, we need to divide the passage into the three groups addressed in this passage, and then examine warnings to each concerning temptation areas that will draw them from the place of a testimony.

• The first group are leaders, and they are addressed in 1 Peter 5:1-4.
• The second group are called “young men” and are found in 1 Peter 5:5a.
• The final group is “the rest of you” in 1 Peter 5:5b-11. That last group included all the rest of those who named Christ as Savior among the churches.

By the look of the list, it appears that leaders were being tempted, young men were hesitant to follow, and the rest of the body needed fresh direction. The suffering, persecution and trouble they experienced was hindering their growth, while their behavior compromises were hurting their testimony. Here is the truth: Troubles will come to the people of God, both individually and collectively. We need to be strengthened and prepared, but we also need to be diligent to face temptations to relax our walk in the face of troubles.

Group One: Elders of congregations (5:1-4): Shepherd the flock among you.

Look for a few minutes at 1 Peter 5 as we deal with the writings to each of the three groups of people who were instructed to show Jesus by avoiding temptations specific to their position in the Body of Christ. The letter begins with the leadership.

1 Peter 5:1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as [your] fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,

Peter said he wanted to “exhort” the elders as one of them (5:1). The word exhort isn’t necessarily only used in the sense of “correct” nor is it to “tell them something they don’t already know.” The idea of exhorting is to come alongside and encourage. The word exhort is parakaleo means to call to one’s side, to address, to admonish, to strengthen. It’s almost like a coach or a fellow athlete coming alongside a runner who is struggling and encouraging them as they run hard the race.

Note that Peter identified himself in three ways:

First, he said he was a fellow elder: In effect, he said: “I do the job as you do!” He claimed that he understood the experience in the trenches and that surely helped his perspective! Talking down is never as effective as reaching across!

Second, he claimed he was a “first hand witness” of Jesus’ suffering, as the Gospel’s shared. He made the point that he was a qualified overseer with intimate experiences from hours with Jesus. Sharing Jesus requires knowing Jesus – and he could show that he truly did!

Third, he claimed to be a “witness to Jesus’ glory” (Mk. 8, Mt. 16 i.e. The Transfiguration). He said: “I have seen the Lord as few have and heard the Father’s voice from above affirming Him!” Peter made clear that he had already experienced the view of the glorious Jesus we will all later see!

“In other words,” Peter said, “I understand the struggles, I have seen real suffering and I know God’s power! I recognize the weight and responsibilities of the work, and I know intimately the source of the work.” Then he continued with the command to them…

1 Peter 5:2 “…shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to [the will of] God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Leaders were to TEND GOD’S FLOCK. Isn’t it significant that the Lord’s final instructions to Peter included: “Do you love me? Shepherd my sheep?” (cp. John 21). Peter learned to leave the nets and begin to tend the flocks. At the point where Peter made clear the command, he felt it necessary to spend a few moment cautioning leaders about seven temptations they would likely face as they led. This is the heart of the first four verses:

First, he warned of the temptation to be popular:

He told them to “exercise oversight“ (5:2a). With the term “episkopeo” he employed an apprenticeship term, which meant to inspect or watch over with a view toward correcting poor skills. This may not seem tough, but in my experience, it is one of the deepest tugs on the heart – to let matters go uncorrected because of the desire to be liked by others. When I take a moment and scroll down through Facebook, and someone has an article posted and liked that is rooted in falsehood and expresses terrible thinking, am I supposed to ‘message’ that person? Let me ask you: “How many of those a week should I be working on?” If I see someone in a church hallway speak badly to their spouse, should I be calling on them to discuss the matter? How many do you think I should call upon before people pull back from any relationship with me? It isn’t a joke. It is a real struggle for any leader to be careful about correction.

One of the reasons it is a struggle is the obvious: we who serve are all flawed. I make all sorts of mistakes myself. How am I supposed to be busy correcting others when I am still struggling with my own stupidity every day? Yet, that isn’t the only reason leaders are tempted to abandon oversight. Another reason is the reality that we don’t want to be held at arm’s length from people – and that is what inevitably happens when people think you may be paying attention to what they are doing wrong, and evaluating them – even when the leader isn’t. Servants of Jesus have always suffered from the desire to be a part of the group they lead, and that can be a temptation that will keep them from exercising oversight. Every leader should be warned that our work is measured. In the home, the parent must live with times of unpopularity. In the office, the leader must not be so much the friend to the workers that he allows the work to be shoddy.

With that in mind, the second temptation was to feel forced into leading:

Peter wrote: “Not under compulsion, but willingly (1 Peter 5:2b).” Bible students recall Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 3:1, where he says the man must aspire to do the job of leading. It is not a work to be taken because you feel like the need is there and no one can fill it. The only other use of the word “willingly” is:

Hebrews 10:26 “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…”

It is important to hit hard on this, since leaders in the congregation could easily approach the shepherding task with the wrong spirit. Peter made clear: “No one twisted your arm to force you to lead! You were not drafted, but a volunteer! It is hard to do the work in the flock well when you don’t have a call from God to do it – and that is something you should experience firsthand before being in the position.

Note Peter also qualifies it with “according to God’s desire”. The elder must show a desire, but have the stamp of God’s approval. People can’t just WANT to lead; they must be called by God to do so in His church.

Third, Peter warned of the temptation to control people.

He wrote to them they must not be “lording over the flock” (1 Peter 5:3a).

Some guys want to control outcomes: A preacher quit the ministry after 20 years and became a funeral director. When asked why he changed, he said: “I spent 3 years trying to straighten out John; but John’s still an alcoholic, then I spent 6 months trying to straighten out Susan’s marriage; but she filed for divorce, then I spent 2 1/2 years trying to straighten out Bob’s drug problem and he’s still an addict. Now at the funeral home when I straighten them out — they stay straight!” Leaders must recognize that faithfulness to the task is our call before God, but outcomes are not ours to control.

I want to say this with an honest heart. It is heartbreaking to watch people choose to do something that will hurt them, their family and their walk with God when you feel you have instructed them correctly in God’s Word. People do what they choose to do, and you cannot allow the pain of those moments to stop you or slow you from the call to shepherd… but it will be a temptation.

Fourth, you will face a temptation to gain in this world when your eyes should be on the next world:

Peter simply wrote they were to work, but “Not for gain” (1 Peter 5:2b).

Philip Parham tells the story of a rich industrialist who was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat. “Why aren’t you out there fishing?” he asked. “Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” said the fisherman. “Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?’ the rich man asked. “What would I do with them?” “You could earn more money,” came the impatient reply, “and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.” The fisherman asked, “Then what would I do?” “You could sit down and enjoy life,” said the industrialist. “What do you think I’m doing now?” the fisherman replied as he looked placidly out to sea. Our Daily Bread, May 18, 1994

When I am instructing young servants of Jesus I express it this way: “Get your joy from the Lord about the labors you do, and don’t look to be paid what you think is commensurate with the labor. Most people won’t know the hours of pain and labor you spent – but Jesus saw them all. He won’t forget. In the end, He is the One you labor FOR, and it is His measure that matters. Train yourself to want to make Him smile! Work for Him is wonderful, it just doesn’t always feel like that at the moment. In a sense, shepherding is very much like parenting.”

The fifth temptation Peter warned concerning was the pull toward laziness.

The Apostle told the leaders to be “eager” and not to get lazy or lax in the service of the King (1 Peter 5:2b). To want to do it when people are responding and lives appear to be changing is ONE THING. To stay at the task when they are dulled by their own bad choices can make you want to put less into the work – but that isn’t the time when you should. Evaluate why things aren’t going well, and then get back in for another solid round by working, preparing and caring for them. Ask God to clear the log jam that is holding back the flow, but don’t give up or back down to the challenge!

The sixth temptation was to live differently than we teach others to live – or to “talk and not walk” (1 Peter 5:3b).

Peter called the leaders to be “examples” to the flock. We aren’t free to make all the same choices of others – people are watching leaders. If you don’t want to be watched, don’t seek to lead… period.

The seventh and final temptation mentioned is that of losing sight of the goal (1 Peter 5:4).

We are to serve anticipating inspection of the Master concerning each of the temptations we have mentioned.

Note the Chief Shepherd is going to appear one day (5:4). This word is archipoimen (ar-khee-poy’mane) and is only used once in the New Testament and here only of Jesus. It’s something that refers to the fact that Jesus is the leader and overseer of the church. He is the head of the church as in Colossians 1:18. In fact, if you notice Peter refers to the church not as the elder’s flock, but as God’s flock.

The metaphor that Peter chose was of a “crown of glory.” Such a crown or “stephanos” (literally a “victor crown”) represented the eternal satisfaction given to true servant-leaders of Christ who avoid the siren calls and keep moving the flock to its pasture. The call to the coming of the Chief Shepherd wasn’t haphazard, but essential. People who lose track of the goal will be lulled to quit before the work is done. Consider this story:

It was a fog-shrouded morning, July 4, 1952, when a young woman named Florence Chadwick waded into the water off Catalina Island. She intended to swim the channel from the island to the California coast. Long-distance swimming was not new to her; she had been the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. The water was numbing cold that day. The fog was so thick she could hardly see the boats in her party. Several times sharks had to be driven away with rifle fire. She swam more than 15 hours before she asked to be taken out of the water. Her trainer tried to encourage her to swim on since they were so close to land, but when Florence looked, all she saw was fog. So she quit. . . only one-mile from her goal. Later she said, “I’m not excusing myself, but if I could have seen the land I might have made it.” It wasn’t the cold or fear or exhaustion that caused Florence Chadwick to fail. It was the fog.

Group Two: Younger men of the fellowship (5:5a): Temptation to Rebel – Be subject to your elders.

The second group has by a singular command offered by the elder to them. He wrote:

1 Peter 5:5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to [your] elders;

Every time I see the term hupotasso in Scripture, I recall the same idea. The word means “I place under, I subject myself to.” The operative part of the command is that it is something I MUST DO. No one can MAKE you be subject – it must be your choice.

I have noticed over time that problems I once would have acted quickly upon as a younger man, I will take more time to consider now. My age has convinced me that many of my younger actions were too rash, too hasty and too costly. I am certain that makes some who are younger on the team feel like I am putting off what must be done. At times, faster action proves to be better – but not always. It isn’t always easier for the younger to choose to be subject when they don’t think there is a need for delay. I understand. At the same time, this is God’s call to them.

Group Three: The whole congregation (5:5b-11):

The final group was that of the whole congregation. Listen to the words to them as a body that hungers to follow Jesus:

1 Peter 5:5b “…and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober [spirit], be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in [your] faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen [and] establish you. 11 To Him [be] dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Can you spot six temptations for the followers of Jesus here?

The first is the temptation to gain power or recognition instead of growing in sincere servant-hood (1 Peter 5:5b-6).

Peter told them to “Clothe yourselves with humility.” What a great expression. Our default suit will be self-oriented, but we can apply deliberate clothing of humility. Over my life I have learned something about clothing: you must make the effort to put it on! A good look takes work. This story made me smile:

An admirer of Leonard Bernstein, the famous orchestra conductor, came to him on one occasion and said, “Mr. Bernstein, what is the most difficult instrument to play?” He responded, “Second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with enthusiasm, or second French horn, or second flute, now that’s a problem. And if no one plays second, we have no harmony.” I think of that often: No harmony is heard when everyone wants to be first.

Listen to what humility sounds like:

Martin Luther was a man mightily used of God to bring revival to many people trapped in the stone-cold church of his time. Though God was working through him to bring new hope to multitudes, Luther recognized that God was the source of the new life, and not himself. The Papal Bull of 1521, which excommunicated him, called his followers ‘Lutherans.’ This horrified him. ’Please do not use my name,’ he wrote. ’Do not call yourselves Lutherans, but Christians…. Why should I, a miserable bag of worms, give my meaningless name to Christ’s children?’

A second temptation Peter warned them about was “worry” (1 Peter 5:7).

How famous are the words of the verse: “Cast your anxiety on the Lord”. As famous the words, so rare is their observance!

The Greek understanding of anxiety was to have a divided mind or to lose focus while attempting to focus on too many things. When we think we are called to control the outcomes, we worry. When we make ourselves too important in the process, we worry. When we won’t give God the situation, we worry. Beloved, there are many causes to worry, but only one solution. We must learn to deliberately give the problem and the process to God. There simply is no other way to regain our focus on our task. When we are busy playing Holy Spirit, we aren’t busy playing the role assigned to us!

A third temptation, like that experienced by leaders, is to become lazy about the enemy’s advancement in our lives (1 Peter 5:8).

Peter wrote: “Be of sober [spirit]” (the word nḗphō means to “be sober and unintoxicated” having clear presence of mind and judgment which enables one to be temperate and self-controlled)

He continued: “…be on the alert” watching for the adversary. That term grēgoreúō means literally to “stay awake”. You must understand the greatest deception the enemy has pulled off in the world is the one where he can stand unabashedly in our public square in all his evil regalia and not be noticed at all. The modern mind struggles even with the notion of evil. They keep thinking those who perform the most heinous acts can simply be reasoned with to gain a more acceptable outcome. They don’t get it: there truly is evil in the world – and it has a source.

A fourth temptation appears as a lulling to simply “give in” (1 Peter 5:8):

Believers don’t need to fear the enemy; they need to resist his advance in their lives. They need to resist his attempts to gain a hold in their anger, a fortress in their comic laughter, and a castle in their entertainment life. They need to watch out. He doesn’t want to harm us – he wants to shred our lives. He prowls and waits and watches while men and women stagger and slumber without a sense of the danger near them.

We remain on “lion alert “when we remove anything that hampers good judgment. If our mind is cluttered with lustful thoughts we won’t be prepared to flee from temptation as Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife asked him to sleep with her. If our mind is muddled with materialism it will be hard to offer our first fruits to God. If our mind is packed with pride it will be hard to keep from putting other people down so we look good.

A wise man once said: “The Devil climbs over the fence where it is the lowest.”

Therefore, if stealing is a weakness don’t stay in a room where another’s money is placed unattended. If gossip is your weakness, distance yourself from those friends with whom you are quick to spread the latest rumors. If you live in the lion’s den, it will only be a matter of time before you are devoured.

The enemy has several attack points you should become familiar with:

• DECEPTION for those not grounded in the Word of God!
• DELUSION for those who can be easily pressed into a mold of the world!
• DISSATISFACTION with things like your possessions; your positions; or your partner
• DEPRESSION over unresolved difficulties.
• DISAPPOINTMENT with how things are working out. This was how Satan got Judas. It wasn’t until he realized that Jesus wasn’t going to overthrow the Roman government and give him his place in the kingdom that disappointment took over.

A fifth temptation is the one where we feel uniquely picked on (1 Peter 5:9-10):

After Peter told the believers to resist the devil in verse 9, he told them to recognize they were not alone in persecution and trouble. This was not an uncommon experience. It appears that believers are consistently surprised that God both loves us and yet lets harm come to some of our number… but it is the truth.

In the end it is easy for us to forget the big picture of what God is doing. We easily forget God is doing a work in us and through us.

In 1502, when the Church of Santa Maria in Florence hired an artist and architect, they thought he would be perfect for the works of art they planned. A large and expensive block of marble was given to the church for the purposes of a sculpture, but the man drilled a large hole right at the bottom causing a crack that seemingly destroyed this magnificent piece of marble. The church released the artist from his contract and simply draped a sheet over the lost block. Michelangelo heard about it out of curiosity went to check it out. After a short time he began to work that hidden piece and sculpt what has come to be considered one of the greatest statues of David ever built.

When troubles come in our lives, we can feel like we want to hide under a sheet. We are broken. We didn’t become what we thought we would have. Never forget, in the capable hands of the Master, you can be molded into all that Jesus has made you to be!

Christians are to be known by their love for Jesus seen primarily in their behavior in the world and their relationships to one another.

It isn’t complicated; it is just hard.