A SUMMARY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
1 Peter 5:6-14
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 13, 2013
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. Greet one another with the kiss of love.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
-- 1 Peter 5:6-14, ESV
We now reach the conclusion of a book of the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit and informed by the personality of the imminent Apostle Peter, about the Christian life. These last verses form a perfect summary of the major themes already discussed. They provide a thorough check-up for Christians, so that we may examine our lives to see if we are running within the parameters set forth in the Christian faith. And, they provide a pathway for those who wish to enter in and enjoy the “peace” found only “in Christ.” Let’s go.
The Christian Life is a Submissive Life
“Humble yourselves.” Peter begins his parting words by putting emphasis on the recurring theme of humility, or submission. Christians are to humbly submit to government (ref. 2:13-17), employers (ref. 2:18-25), family roles (ref. 3:1-7), church leaders (ref. 5:1-5), and to one another (ref. 5:5). This time, however, he puts away the pea shooter and pulls out the canon. This time, we are commanded to humbly submit to “the mighty hand of God.”
On one “hand,” it is the sovereign providence of God that has placed you in the country, vocation, family, and church you are in; therefore, you show your humility before God by gladly submitting to the various authorities He has placed in your life, for your good and His ultimate glory. I realize this can seem chafing and unfair at times for some of us, but whenever you think you’ve got a better plan than God then you’ve missed the mark from the start. But for those willing to embrace the call of the cross there is a crown. God will “exalt you,” literally lift you up, a term found 21 times in the New Testament, generally used to speak of Christ (ref. John 12:32; Acts 5:31), but also of Christians, of people who demonstrate the true, Christ-like character of humble, submissive, obedient faith (ref. Matthew 23:12; James 4:10). On one “hand,” submit to God and you will be raised up with Him in Heaven.
On the other “hand,” as you submit to God your faithful obedience, God also wants you to surrender to Him your problems, your pain, your “anxieties.” The command is to literally “cast” them, like a person placing a heavy load on an animal to carry. The Christian life, the submissive life, is a hard life, and often our principles can cause us pain. Ironically, taking this hand of God can be harder than taking the other. I can freely and joyfully give to God my obedience, but I find it hard to give Him my problems. I want to fix them. I want to change them. I want to manage them. But, as I am finally learning, I cannot. And if I keep on trying to carry them myself, I will break down. I’ve got to, you’ve got to, we’ve got to give them to God to carry until He can unload them whenever and wherever they belong (ref. also Matthew 11:28-30).
The Christian Life is a Serious Life
“Be sober-minded.” In other words, be serious about the Christian life, for it is a battlefield not a ball field, and there is a ruthless enemy. And when you get wounded by the aforementioned anxieties, he will sound the attack (like “a roaring lion”). He is “the devil,” he is real, and his intent is to kill your Christian faith and testimony. He wants you to drop out of church. He wants you to shut your Bible and keep it closed. He wants you to give up on praying. He wants nominal Christians who really aren’t saved to give up the pursuit of Christ and he wants true Christians to be silenced in their witness for Christ.
Take your enemy, take your friends in Christ, take your Christian life seriously and “resist him, firm in your faith.” How did our Lord Jesus Christ resist the devil when He was on earth? With fasting, prayers, and an expertise in the word of God (ref. Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus also engaged in regular public and private worship, fellowship with believers, and in evangelism and ministry. His was a serious life, not devoid of fun and laughter nor rest and recreation, but a life totally committed to God. I think when it comes to real, saving, biblical Christianity, there is only a choice between total commitment and no commitment at all. The Christian life is a serious life.
The Christian Life is a Suffering Life
The good news is that Jesus saves! The bad news is that if Jesus has saved you, and you are demonstrating it with a submissive and serious Christian life, then you will have to suffer (ref. 1:6-7, 3:13-17, 4:1, 4:12-19). You will face spiritual warfare and attack, as previously discussed. And, friends will hurt you even more than enemies (ref. Judas Iscariot). For two thousand years, “the same kinds of suffering” has been shared by true Christians living the true Christian life.
The only real good news I can share with you about this bad news is that this suffering for the cause of Christ is only for “a little while.” But then again, I cannot tell you how long this little while may last. In some ways, it is a momentary pain that results in immediate earthly gain, as we experience God’s hand to “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish” our faith for Him on earth. For others, it is a lifetime of submission and serious suffering that finds relief only in the passing from this life to the next, where we live in God’s “dominion, forever and ever. Amen.”
The latter was probably true for “Silvanus” (Silas), the church meeting in “Bablyon” (Rome), John “Mark,” and Simon Peter himself. Maybe I’m bragging when I shouldn’t, maybe I’m just negative and pessimistic, or maybe I’m more fortunate and blessed than I realize, but I’ve been following Jesus now for three decades, and there has never been a time when it hasn’t hurt. Sometimes, to be sure, my own sin and stupidity have put me in a pickle. But most of the time, I have been hurt or persecuted or betrayed because I’ve simply tried to be a submissive and serious Christian, willing to suffer for the cause, truth, and glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
So if the Christian life is so hard, why do it?
The Christian Life is a Life of Grace, Love, and Peace
There are many reasons, and Simon Peter summarizes by listing three: “grace,” “love,” and “peace.”
Christians are saved and sustained by the free grace of God. God’s grace permits earthly suffering and promises “eternal glory.” I truly believe one is worth the other. If you are trusting in your own ingenuity or words to curry favor with God, you will one day quit when the going gets tough, or you will tough it out only to be shocked at the end when you are ushered into eternal perdition because you came before “the mighty hand of God” clothed in your own filthy rags rather than the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. The Christian life is the only life of grace.
Christians are saved and sustained by the love of God. “The kiss” may be only a symbolic Eastern greeting, but “love” is the heart of the Christian life. It is offered by grace, received through faith, and shared with one another so that other people may come to know God and know we are God’s children (ref. John 13:35). The Christian life is the only life that truly experiences and shares the love of God.
Christians are saved and sustained by the peace of God, and this “peace” is only found “in Christ.” You will never find peace in money, in sex, in entertainment, in success, and especially not in religion. The Christian life is the only lived not lived in constant unsettledness and open hostility with God. Through the grace of the gospel, the love of God offers peace. Christians embrace it, with submission, seriousness, suffering, and all.
Are there other attributes that are a part of the Christian life? Sure, but these sum it up pretty good. So let us ask God for the grace to submit to His Lordship in our lives. Let us ask God for love enough to put Him first, others above our own selves, and reach out to the lost. Let us ask God for peace, even in the midst of problems and pain, knowing that He knows and He does all things well. Let grace, love, and peace save us, let it sustain us here and now, and let it take us all the way home. This is the Christian life.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org