However, a significant reason as to why I’ve become at least tender to the thought of the Church calendar is that by its use of ordering time in a Christian direction it shapes us as Christians. Instead of being shaped by Int’l Women’s Day, or Black History Month, or May Day we are shaped by Advent, Epiphany, Lenten, and Resurrection. If Christians have dominion over their Calendar as a habit, it is much easier to believe that they will practice dominion over other areas of life as a habit.
Another reason to be sympathetic to the Church Calendar is that as a people we are shaped by our customs and rituals. Customs become habit forming and as habits customs and rituals shape us. This is true both positively and negatively.
Negatively the custom of course language makes for a reinforcement of a course people.
Positively the custom of praying before meals works to make us a God-conscious people.
Meaning of Lent
Lent is characterized as a time of especial humility, meekness, and repentance in the Christian’s life. It was to be a time where the Christian identified with the Cross of Christ just as the Easter season was to be a time where the Christian identifies with the Resurrection and triumph of Christ. It became part of the texture of the Church giving a motif to the Christian calendar of humility followed by triumph.
However, over time Lent became burdened with showmanship. People became proud of their performances of humility and repentance.
Another danger in the Lenten season is that there crept into the Church a way of thinking that somehow self-denial and ritual performance was a means of earning favor with God in the sense that man was adding a something needed that wasn’t already present in Christ’s work. This reminds protestants that if we participate in Lent that to enter Lent properly we needs be convinced that there is nothing about Lent that is improving our right standing before God in Christ.
Of course, anything can become abused in the hands of fallen man. And all because a habit is abused doesn’t mean that it is inherently wrong. Scripture clearly calls for self-denial and inasmuch as lent has typically been a time emphasizing self-denial we shouldn’t dismiss that aspect of it out of hand.
In our text this morning Peter writes to believers telling them,
I Peter 5:6 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.
I am positing this morning that the call for humility, in order to be hearkened to requires also a spirit of repentance. We can not be a humble people if not repentant and where there is no repentance there can be no humility.
Scripture itself yokes the idea of humility and repentance together as it often associates repentance with humbling oneself.
I Chronicles 7:14 If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
I Kings 21:27ff — It came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently. 28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.”
Isaiah 57:15 — For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
“I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite
And so a humble people are characterized as a people who are familiar with repentance. This is why Luther could offer as #1 in his 99 Theses
When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
Of course, the virtues of both humbleness and repentance are byproducts of living before the face of God. I seriously doubt the ability of anyone to be adorned by these character markers who do not believe in the God of the Bible.
Men who do not believe in the God of the Bible have no sure foundation for either humbleness nor repentance. Men who do not believe in the God of the Bible live with themselves as the center of their reality and if anything approximating humility or repentance is pursued it is pursued with themselves at the center of their actions. How do I know this?
Well, men apart from Christ can only live with self at the center. Self never denies self. Self, by its definition, is anti-humble, and anti-repentant. Self, by definition, is proud and assertive. And so only the Christian man or woman is concerned for a Scriptural humility and repentance that reflects their “in-Christness.”
This call that Peter gives for humility and, by way of extension, repentance is a call for God’s people to become increasingly epistemologically self-conscious about the fact that our audience in all our living is primarily God. God is the one before whose presence we live in all our doing. God is to be the primary backdrop that should condition and inform all of our behavior. It is because of the reality of God that we can be a humble people.
Peter’s counsel here begins with the call of submissiveness to the Elders. But even this call of a proper submissiveness for the young was presaged by Peter’s teaching that the leadership should not be haughty with those they were to shepherd (vs. 3).
3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
This is why in vs. 5 Peter can start with the word “Likewise.” The Elders are not Shepherding as those who are “Lording over those in their charge,” and youth are in turn also being submissive to the Elders.
A brief excursion here.
We must add that this necessity to be submissive to your Elders adds credibility to the necessity to be in a congregation where you share a common confession and a common worldview with those who are Elders. If you are a Biblical Christian in a Church that is ruled by Elders that are Historical-Critical Christians you are setting yourself up for the necessary inability to be submissive to your Elders. There will be little capacity to be submissive in a Christ-honoring way if you are part of a congregation that does not share your core beliefs.
And practicing a lack of submissiveness, even as the needing to do so might be necessary is not a good thing to practice because it lays down a lack of humbleness as a principle of your life.
So, make sure you’re part of a Congregation where being submissive isn’t an automatic issue because of conflicting confessions and worldviews.
When Peter uses the word “elders” here it may be a reference to the leadership in the Church. More likely it is referring to seasoned saints in general.
This call for respecting of age is not without parallel in the Scripture. Paul can advise Timothy
“Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father…”
From this call to the youth being submissive to Elders Peter then moves to a call for a spirit of mutual submissiveness and to be clothed with humility.
Of course, human relations in Churches and in general work better where people are preferring one another. This idea of mutual submissiveness is consistently called for in Scripture.
Phil 3:3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Romans 12:10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Outdo yourselves in honoring one another.
However, we must keep before us that this call for being humble and mutual submissiveness does not eliminate proper hierarchy in the Scripture. For example, the fact that we are to be submissive to one another does not mean that parents are to be submissive to their children in terms of their proper roles. Submissiveness looks different according to the different stations and rank wherein God has called us.
What is being called for here is a spirit of humility in general.
Peter then, quoting from Proverbs 3:34, then provides the reason for humility,
“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble”
James 4:6 also cites this scripture.
6.) “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.”
Humble yourselves — The necessity to be pro-active about the matter
Might hand of God — Refers of God’s providential dealings.
6b.) The promise that God has not forgotten — (He may exalt you in due time.)
7.) Casting all your care upon him, for He cares for you
Of course the only reason we can be confident that God cares for us is because we are located and anchored in the finished work of Christ. We can obey this call to humility because we are safely ensconced in Christ.
4 thoughts on “Lent … I Peter 5 … Humility & Repentance”
Ah finally, a Reformed call to a return to the Church Calendar! In my studies I’ve learned that the eradication of it in pre-Independent America began with John Wesley through some of the still-popular Puritan influences of the day who wished to remain “forever in Easter” apparently. Little did they think of what chaos in our moving through time that experimentalist-method would lead to!
Pr. McAtee, is there a Rule of Fasting you and your church follow?
Gabe … No, we do not have a rule of fasting that the Church follows.
Whew, I haven’t one either but worried if this was unspiritual of me…but it’s not unspiritual, it’s Reformed freedom!