concern

Because He Cares For You (1 Peter 5:6-7)

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You can see the Facebook Live stream of the sermon here. You can listen to audio here.

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Peter has written a lot about difficult matters so far in his letter to the church.

  • living in a hostile culture
  • being holy and genuinely abstain from sin and evil
  • living “above reproach” and never give anyone reason to come down on us
  • absorbing all the unfair criticism or suffering we will experience as we are faithful to Jesus
  • loving each other well in church community so that Christ’s love flowing through us can cover the multitude of sin around us
  • using our gifts maximally to lead and serve with mutual submission and humility?

The payoff is amazing: if a church community is like this, it would be a beautiful thing internally and externally. It would be a taste of heaven.  God has revealed what a fully embraced life in His kingdom looks like, and it’s a vision of the good life, at least as much as we can experience it on this side of heaven.

I suspect all of us have experienced it at some time and in some way.

  • Someone has loved us far more than we deserve
  • Someone has inexplicably hung in with us in spite of all the things we have done that would give them reason to push us away
  • We have seen holiness modeled – never perfectly, but at least in someone we have seen a serious commitment to living as one called out from the corruption of sin and callousness of culture
  • We have had an opportunity to see how our gifts make a difference, or we have benefited from someone else lavishly sharing and helping through the strength God has given them
  • We’ve experienced the grace of someone humbly serving us; we’ve had the privilege to do the same
  • We’ve seen the gospel both modeled and preached, where the words of life matched the life, where the hope of salvation and restoration is made clear in the real stories of broken sinners made whole.

That’s good stuff. That’s church at its finest.

But this “high calling” also sounds exhausting and little overwhelming.

  • “There is none righteous” (Romans 3:10).
  • There is a war within that Paul so clearly explained (Romans 7).
  • There is a need to “die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31) and “mortify” your sinful flesh (Colossians 3:5) as we “discipline our body a bring it into submission” so that we are not disqualified from effective ministry on behalf of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:27).
  • There are “thorns in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12) that remind us that, at the end of the day, it is God’s grace the carries us, that it is in our weakness that God’s strength is perfected; that there is a reason God must increase while we decrease.

This call to unreproachable holiness and love sounds exhausting and overwhelming to me simply because I know myself.I don’t have to look any further than the mirror to know that the Bible raised the bar above what Anthony is able to achieve. But Peter knows this. How would he not?

  • He’s the guy who was really proud of forgiving his brother a whole seven times, which wasn’t even close. (Matthew 18)
  • He argued with the others about who was the greatest, and I assume he made the case for himself.
  • He went to sleep in the Garden when Jesus asked him to keep watch (Mark 14). Jesus said, “You’re spirit is willing, but your flesh is weak.”
  • Then he cut off a dude’s ear, totally missing the point that Jesus’ Kingdom was not of this world. (Matthew 26)
  • And then he totally and publicly denied Jesus (Matthew 26)

It’s that Peter who insists we be holy and blameless. How could he demand this of us when he couldn’t even do it?

Because it’s also that Peter whom Jesus later forgave, reinstated, and commanded: “Feed my sheep…You must follow me.” (John 21) And it was that Peter who went on to be one of the authors of the New Testament, and eventually to give his life as a martyr for the sake of Christ.

Peter knew flourishing and failure; he knew forgiveness and restoration. He knew that the power of our testimony was not just about what we get right but also about how God moves in and uses us when we get it wrong. This too, is how we display Christ to the world. But that can only happen if we continually repent and surrender to the work of God. This brings us today today's text:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your cares (anxiety) on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Considering all of what has preceded this in 1 Peter, I assume the cares come from 1) persecution, and 2) the high call in our lives (he just talked about life together in the church). What is concerning his audience?  Living above reproach in their culture and in their church.

This will cause care and anxiety. But God cares…so give that over to him. That will require humility, but it is in our humility that we are raised up. It’s dying so we can live. It’s decreasing so God can increase in us. It’s God’s plan for our flourishing in the Kingdom of God and embodying the good news of the Gospel in our culture.

This command concerning our cares is found many places in Scripture.

“Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken (made to slip, fall or fail).”  (Psalms 55:22)

“Blessed be the Lord, Who daily bears our burden, the God Who is our salvation.” (Psalm 68:19)

“Be careful for nothing: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall watch over your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

The Bible address other things that cause anxiety: “Take no thought for the things of tomorrow…” (Matthew 6:34) This broadly covers all the things we worry about: jobs, health, family, relationships. Everything that keeps us up at night. The things that give us anxiety and fear.

I could talk a lot about why it’s a bad idea to let these things eat away at us, but you know this. I don’t think I have to convince you it’s a terrible thing to be overshadowed or weighed down by anxiety.

Anxiety and depression have become close companions since my heart attack (and depression even before then). In prepping this past week, I found myself comforted and encouraged simply by reading what so many Christians have said about this issue.

“But He cares for us. My soul, has not Jesus proved it? Did He not care for you when He embarked in the work of your salvation? Did He not care for you when you were dead in trespasses and in sins? (Ephesians 2:1- note) And when the Holy Spirit convinced you of sin, and broke your heart, and led you in holy contrition to the cross, did not Jesus manifest His care for you then by raising you up from His feet, enfolding you in His arms, and applying His atoning blood to your conscience, saying to your tempest-tossed spirit, 'Peace, be still,' and there was peace? The Lord cares for you still. He cares for your needs, for your trials, for your temptations, for your sorrows. Still more, He cares for…  the doubts and fears and tremblings which sometimes assail you--for the darkness which often enshrouds you--for the loneliness and solitude of the way by which He is leading you home to Himself.”  - Octavius Winslow

“Treat cares as you treat sins. Hand them over to Jesus one by one as they occur. Commit them to Him. Roll them upon Him. Make them his. By an act of faith look to Him, saying, "This, Lord, and this, and this, I cannot bear. Thou hast taken my sins; take my cares: I lay them upon Thee, and trust Thee to do for me all, and more than all, I need. I will trust, and not be afraid…"  -  F.B. Meyer

“There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for His people to make show of Him and not to use Him. He loves to be worked. He is a great laborer. He always was for His Father, and now He loves to be a great laborer for His brethren. The more burdens you put on His shoulders, the better He will love you. Cast your burden on Him.” – Spurgeon

“I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air.” – Dr. E Stanley Jones

“You are staggering beneath a weight which your Father would not feel. What seems to you a crushing burden, would be to him but as the small dust of the balance… O child of suffering, be thou patient; God has not passed thee over in his providence. He who is the feeder of sparrows, will also furnish you with what you need. Sit not down in despair; hope on, hope ever… There is One who careth for you. His eye is fixed on you… He, if thou art one of his family, will bind up thy wounds, and heal thy broken heart. Doubt not his grace because of thy tribulation, but believe that he loveth thee as much in seasons of trouble as in times of happiness… He has never refused to bear your burdens, he has never fainted under their weight. Come, then, soul! have done with fretful care, and leave all thy concerns in the hand of a gracious God.” -Spurgeon

The Lord your God neither accepts nor rejects… because of the high or the low frame with which you approach Him. To suppose that He did—that the spiritual tone of your mind influenced His decision—were to make the turning point of His love to center in you rather than in Himself… God’s dealings with us from first to last, in the greatest and in the least… proceed upon the principle of His most free grace. And since He finds the motive of love and the bestowment of blessing solely within Himself, He, the unchangeable One, will not revoke the love, nor withdraw the gift, influenced by any fickleness or change He traces in you. Then, be your frame low, your heart dead, your faith weak—arise, and draw near to God… and the blessing, the richest God can bestow, or you desire, awaits your full acceptance. Little, obscure, despised, unworthy though you may be, or deem yourself to be, the Lord has an interest in you… Others may have ceased to care for you. Change has congealed the warm current of love, distance intercepts its flow, or death has stilled its pulse, and you feel as if there existed in this wide world no heart, no spirit, no mind that responded to, or that chimed and blended with your own. Yes; there is One!—Jesus cares for you.  – Octavius Winslow

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SOME RECOMMENDED SONGS

Selah – I look To You

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gP2IzErAQPs[/embed]

Kari Jobe – I am Not Alone

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow4OfW4DP9s[/embed]

Kari Jobe -  Be Still My Soul

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jY_csMVzvgo[/embed]

Laura Story –He Will Not Let Go

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaHISTo7g4w[/embed]

Laura Story - Perfect Peace

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKynh0Spy-Q[/embed]

Needtobreathe – Lay ‘Em Down

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PN-BMHi5L8[/embed]

Ginny Owens – If You Want Me To

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaXxwFpavj4[/embed]

Finding Favour – Cast My Cares

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKuAMmTqUbs[/embed]

Alisa Turner – My Prayer For You

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hj_0pvIGkks[/embed]

 

 

 

One of the Rare Ones (Philippians 2:19- 23)

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I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy your way. He will visit soon so that he may report to me how you are doing. To hear all that is going on with you will truly encourage my heart. There is no one like Timothy. What sets him apart from others is his deep concern for you and your spiritual journey. This is rare, my friends, for most people only care about themselves, not about what is dear to the heart of Jesus the Anointed. You know Timothy is genuine in the Lord’s ways. He has been a faithful partner to me as we express the good news of the gospel, as much as my own flesh and blood would have been. I expect to send him soon, and I will as soon as I see how things turn out here. (Philippians 2:19-23) This remarkable claim about the character of Timothy is bookended between a comment about his concern for the spiritual journey of others and his preaching of the gospel. We are going to talk more next week about the latter, so this week I want to focus on the former.

Remember Paul is writing to Philippi, a Roman colony populated by people who had been raised in a worldview that believed that empathy between humans and the gods was not possible.

  • In the Iliad, Homer writes that “we live in unhappiness, but the gods themselves have no sorrows.”
  • Aristotle said that the gods cannot be an example for human conduct because the gods are far removed from human life.

When it comes to Jesus, we see a remarkably different claim. The writer of Hebrews noted:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace. ” (Hebrews 4:14 -15).

God empathizes with human experience not just by knowing about it but by entering into it. This is an new concept of what was God was like for the converts in Philippi. Leading up to the comment that Timothy’s ‘deep concern’ reveals the heart of Jesus, we have the first half of Philippians 2 by way of explanation: In Jesus, God took upon himself humanity as an act of obedience to God and service to us through His death on the cross.

Joan Osborne sang, “What if God was one of us?” In Christian theology, He was. God’s love for us was concrete and complete in Jesus. Through Jesus, God demonstrates that He is not an aloof, unfeeling God. He understands the problems of being human because in Jesus He lived with us as one of us. How many times have we said to someone else during difficult times, “You don’t know what it’s like to be me. If you only knew…” He knows what it’s like. Either Jesus or someone close to Jesus struggled with physical frailty or poverty, faced death and loneliness, had to figure out how to get along with unlikable people, etc.

Through Christ, we are shown that God understands us. Through Christ, we are also shown that God has provided a way for human experience to be redeemed.

  • Our sickness is not the end of the story; one day, God will wipe all tears from our eyes.
  • Death is the end of this life, but not of life in the greater sense of the word – a New Heaven and New Earth await.
  • We may be lonely, but we are not alone.
  • We may not like everybody – and they may not like us – but with the help of the Holy Spirit we can learn to love.
  • Our sins are killing us spiritually, breaking the world and alienating us from God and others – but this, too, can be redeemed because of Jesus.

Though Jesus ended his time on earth, his presence remains in two important ways: the Holy Spirit and the Church.

First, Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “But the truth is that My departure will be a gift that will serve you well, because if I don’t leave, the great Helper (Advocate; Counselor) will not come to your aid. When I leave, I will send Him to you. When He arrives, He will uncover the sins of the world, expose unbelief as sin, and allow all to see their sins in the light of righteousness for the first time.” (John 16:7-9)[1]

Second, God’s presence is embodied in the church, the ‘body of Christ,’ the physical representation of God’s Kingdom on earth. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul gave an extended analogy of the church as the body of Christ that ends with the following: “You are the body of Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King; each and every one of you is a vital member.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)

We can’t save the world like Jesus did – we aren’t little Jesusus waiting to blossom – but we have His Word in front of us, His Spirit within us, and His Church around us, and we have been tasked with representing Jesus through our faithful presence in the world.

This brings us back to our text. "There is no one like Timothy. What sets him apart from others is his deep concern for you and your spiritual journey. This is rare, my friends, for most people only care about themselves, not about what is dear to the heart of Jesus the Anointed.  You know Timothy is genuine in the Lord’s ways."

Paul does not say that Timothy was bolder than anyone else, or knew the Old Testament better than anyone else, or had the best prayer life of anyone Paul knew (though he may have had all these things). There was no one like Timothy because Timothy’s concern for their spiritual journey reflected the heart of Jesus, and it set him apart.

“This is rare, my friends.”

I would like to offer some tips for how to become one of the rare ones as we reflect the heart of Jesus by demonstrating our concern for the spiritual journey of others. Two points of clarity first:

  • Paul does not say precisely how Timothy did this, so I am going to fill in some blanks based on what we see modeled different places in Scripture and what we have learned is effective simply by studying relationships (this kind of study is a form of ‘general revelation’ in that God reveals truth to all people about things like this through His creation. He let’s us figure some stuff out).
  • This is going to be a discussion about how we can care about others in a broader sense than “deep concern for your spiritual journey”, I want to talk about how we can care for others generally, with the hope that as we practice these principles, it will be purposeful preparation for us to minister effectively in deeply spiritual situations as well.

Pray. If we want to show true and deep concern for others, we will need God’s help. The Bible tells us that God gives wisdom generously (James 1:5). We will need more wisdom than we have; we will need more depth of emotion than we have on our own; we will most likely be over our heads at some point if not often. We cannot be proud and effective when it comes to caring for others – “most people care only about themselves, “ and they are neither rare nor set apart like Timothy. We must be humble, and prayer reminds us that we must have God in the midst of this enterprise so that He can be strong when we are weak. If you don’t know what to say to someone, ask God to inspire your conversation. If you walk away from a meeting feeling like you blew it, pray that God’s strength is magnified in your weakness. If you just don’t care about someone like you should, ask God to work in you “to will and to do to fulfill His good purposes.”

Observe and Listen. Jesus “saw” the crowds (Matthew 9:36); when he met with people like Nicodemus (John 3), he heard his questions – but he also heard what was in Nicodemus’s heart. This is not shallow engagement. This is a purposeful quest to understand the person in front of you. This is being aware of body language, tone, and facial expression as well as what is being said or done. This is getting to know someone’s past and present so there is a context for understanding. So we are praying and putting sweat equity into a relationship.I remember once after a youth group session one of the other leaders came up to me and said, “It’s okay. You don’t need to worry about how you look.” Her tip? I kept grabbing my shirt and ‘fluffing’ it because I was self-conscious that the shirt made my gut look big. That has always stood out to me, because I knew she was genuinely seeing me. She cared. You don’t need to parse every little thing or stare at people creepily. Just be aware of dynamics. Just because you should or could dig doesn’t mean you must dig in the moment. Be present; be alert; if something nags at you, at least file it away as something you may want to revisit later. People feel cared for when they realize someone else is taking the time to see beyond the surface.

Ask Appropriate Questions. If it’s not your place to pry, don’t. But if you have a relationship that allows this, pursue others with questions. Seek to know rather than be known. People feel cared for when you show that you want to get to know or understand them. It can be a simple as, “Are you sure?” when someone says they are fine and you don’t buy it. It could be, “How can I pray for you?” when someone says they are tired. It could be, “Did you say everything you really wanted to say in that conversation?”It could be asking questions a week later about something you talked about before just to let people know you haven’t forgotten. This should be done in conjunction with prayer/observation/listening, because you will need wisdom both supernatural and practical. If you pry when it’s not your place, that’s going to backfire. If you try to become someone’s confidant when they don’t want you as that – that’s not going to work. Appropriate questions are asked in a timely manner, with a caring spirit, in a manner that matches the depth or quality of the relationship.

Empathize. Romans 12:15-16 states: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Ecclesiastes talks about their being a time to laugh, cry, live, die, etc. In other words, seek to understand where someone is and respond in a way that is appropriate to the situation emotionally. Is someone celebrating? Celebrate. Is someone mourning? Mourn. Is someone wanting to talk deeply about life? Don’t just skim the surface. Are they needing a day where they just laugh about silly things? Do that with them.Pray some more wisdom, because we need wisdom in this too. People can celebrate bad things -they might be excited about the pleasures of sin. People might want to always talk on the surface and we recognize that we will have to choose some times to push them deeper. There are times when the best thing we can do is counter where someone is at – for example, if someone is trapped in depression we don’t want to respond in a way that double up on what’s happening. Part of relying on the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives is to pray for wisdom in those situations so that we respond appropriately. We pray, we listen and observe, we engage, we empathize – but we do it all remembering that the goal is their good and God’s glory.

Be patient. Numerous times, the Old Testament reminds us that God is “slow to anger and abounding in mercy.” (Just google the phrase J ) Romans 2:4 talks about the “riches of His kindness, forebearance and patience” which is intended to lead us to repentance. If we want to show deep concern for people, particularly in their spiritual journey, it will most likely be an investment. Expect to spend time, and be willing to give people time.You are not the Holy Spirit. You can’t do God’s work inside of another person. God’s timing is almost certainly different from yours. Be patient. It’s one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, one of the signs that God is at work in your life. Be faithfully present in people’s lives. You may walk with someone for weeks or years before you see your investment in their life bear fruit. Stay with it. How long has Jesus been patient with you?

Serve. “God demonstrated his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We see in Jesus that genuine love is demonstrated love. If Jesus is our model, our love for God and others will be a demonstrated love. The Bible is clear that our faith is an active faith.

“Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and you gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink: I was a stranger and you took Me in: naked, and you clothed Me: I was sick, and you visited Me: I was in prison, and you came unto Me.” ( 25:34-37)[2] 

Words are crucial, but they are not always enough. It’s one thing to say, “I care about you.” It’s another thing to give money or things, spend time, lend cars, talk on the phone, pay a bill, etc. My mom has decided that in her retirement she is going to drive people who don’t have cars to their appointments. It’s a large need in her area, and their church is doing it as part of a purposeful outreach. She sits with people in church who are sitting by themselves; she invites other people over for meals. Sheila reminded me of friend who has watched our kids over the years not because she always wanted to, or because it was easy – it wasn’t – but because it was how she demonstrated her love for us. Love is costly. Jesus’ love required him to be ‘broken and spilled out’ physically for us. Modeling the love of Jesus will require us to be ‘broken and spilled out’ in some sense as we serve others.

Timothy was one of the rare ones in whom everyone saw concern that revealed the heart of God. No wonder Paul “hopes to send Timothy your way.” Who wouldn’t want someone like Timothy joining them for a while? I suspect that this ‘practice of rarity’ in even the most ordinary of moments primes us for engagement in the spiritual journey of others toward and with Jesus.

May I encourage you with a vision of church life together? What happens if in our interaction with others we demonstrated these things in a way the increasingly revealed a transformation taking place in us as we become increasingly like Christ?

  • Praying
  • Observing and Listening
  • Asking Appropriate Questions
  • Empathizing
  • Showing Patience
  • Serving

We would be a church full of “rare ones,” and not just when it came to friendships and ‘felt needs’. We would be constantly reminded of God’s love for us as we experienced the love of God’s people.

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[1] If you love Me, obey the commandments I have given you. I will ask the Father to send you another Helper, the Spirit of truth, who will remain constantly with you. The world does not recognize the Spirit of truth, because it does not know the Spirit and is unable to receive Him. But you do know the Spirit because He lives with you, and He will dwell in you." (John 14:15-17)

[2] Christians are to be “given to hospitality” and willing to “distribute to the necessity of the saints” (romans 12:13) and show “hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Peter 4:9)