1 Peter 1: 22 -2: 10
Peter’s first letter in the NT is written to a church in distress, and Peter encourages them by pointing to a common hope and a common power at work among them that binds them together.
In the first 10 verses of chapter 2, we find a command and then an explanation for how to accomplish the command.
The command? Very simple: Grow up.
Peter doesn’t phrase this as an imperative here, but this is clearly his desire for these believers. The behaviors he mentions in vs. 1, “malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander,” these are spiritually childish behaviors he wants them to leave behind. He is concerned because some of these believers don’t appear to have gotten past the baby stage in Jesus, and he fears that if they remain as spiritual toddlers they are not going to be able to endure the persecution or ups and downs that are coming their way.
Can I ask:
Are you a little like that?
Are you the kind of person who is spiritually hot one day, but cold the next?
You go to camp or a Christian event; or spend some time with a spiritual friend; hear a sermon, and things are spiritually hot in you, but then it just fades?
One minute you are really confident in your faith; the next, filled with questions and doubts?
One minute, praying fervently. The next, unsure if any of this is true?
Peter says it is because you haven’t grown up yet. I’ve always thought Peter’s analogy with young children here is really helpful. Think about kids in light of that list in vs 1, malice, envy, etc.
I’m not trying to dog on kids, but kids can be:
Unstable in their emotions: Right? They can go from the heights of exaltation to the depths of despair in a matter of seconds. If someone took a toy from my son Rufus, or mom left the room—he would go into tribulation of soul. But if you give him a toy or poked him in the tummy he starts giggling. They go from one extreme to the other, really fast. Sometimes the emotions are even mixed together (they are laughing and crying at the same time - you parents remember that?).
Many Christians are like that. They can be on top of the world spiritually, overflowing with the love of God, and the slightest thing - a little financial trouble, a relational breakdown, a spiritual setback - upsets them and makes them question everything. Adults aren’t like that. Adults are more steady in their emotional stamina.
Kids can be insecure: Kids need constant reassurance that their parents care about them and aren’t going anywhere.
Baby Christians are like that. They are insecure about the goodness and promises of God - something bad happens and they’re like, ‘Why God! Where are you?”
How about this one? Kids can be gullible: Kids will believe anything. The Apostle Paul says that a lot of Christians are like this. In Ephesians 4:14, Paul says to the Ephesians, “You’re like children, you get blown about by every wind of doctrine.” A lot of Christians are suckers for a powerful speaker; a miracle story; the latest bestselling book. You’ll believe any teacher with slick production and a good worship band.
One more. Kids can be possessive: Every parent knows that one word declaration that defines arguments between young siblings. What is it? “Mine.” I hold tightly to what I want because my happiness depends on it.
When Christians are like that, that leads to that list in vs. 1 Peter is telling to rid ourselves of: malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. Those come from a childish, insecure, possessive way of looking at the world!
1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
Many Christians are unstable in their emotions, insecure, gullible, and really possessive with their stuff.
Peter tells them, you need to grow up! Why is that so important? Because living in a harsh world requires a grown-up hope. You need a grown-up, unwavering faith built on the rock-solid hope of the empty tomb.
That’s the command. Next, he tells you how. One thing I love about Peter - he doesn’t just smack you upside the head. He gives you 4 practical ways to grow up. They are: Imbibe the word; establish your foundation; embrace your identity; excel at your purpose.
Imbibe/Drink the word (vs. 1:22-2:3)
2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8).
Babies grow by drinking milk. Lots of it. Several times a day. Not one glass in a week and another next week. All day, every day, several times a day.
That’s what Christians need to do with the word, Peter says. Imagine if a mother only fed her baby one day a week. What would happen to that baby? If it even survived, it would likely grow up malnourished, with serious growth defects.
Peter in these verses gives 3 (three) qualities of the Word that explain why the Word is so necessary to our lives.
First, the word is imperishable. This was the end of the last chapter. Peter said, vs. 23, “...you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable... “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
Everything else in the world is temporary, but God’s word is forever. If you build your life on anything else -
the approval of people;
the strength of your family ties,
the love of your spouse,
your financial security,
You’ll feel insecure and constantly anxious. Whatever it is, eventually it will fade. And if your life is built on it, so will you, along with it.
The only way to find permanence in your life is to build it on the word of God because it is imperishable.
Second, he says, the word is living. Verse 23 says, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.
The Bible is not just a book of theological doctrine and premises, it is the living, breathing, word of God. In this book you encounter the very voice of God; the same voice that
created the stars,
gave sight to the blind, and
raised the dead.
Scripture is not just about learning ancient truths, it is about God speaking to you, in real time, with real direction and putting that kind of life in your soul. Without that, your soul will wither and die.
Third, the word gives you confidence. Go back to vs. 3 in chapter 2 (2:3). You see where he says, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Throughout the book, Peter interchanges “word of God” and the person of Jesus seamlessly. For example, at the end of chapter 1 Peter is talking about building our lives on the word; and then in chapter 2 he shifts to the rock we build on being Jesus. For Peter, “the word” and “Jesus” are the same. In the word of the gospel you meet Jesus, who gives you a taste of the goodness of God and teaches you that in all things you can trust him. In Jesus you see that at your worst moment Jesus still loved you, and you know that if he loved you then he will never leave you now.
So, Peter says, nourish yourself constantly on that good gospel word! Drink it like the milk a baby drinks to survive and without which he’ll remain severely undernourished. For some of you, the only Bible you get is from me.
Let me ask:
Do you have a quiet time?
Do you have a daily time you pour the Word into you?
If not, I can guarantee you you are withering up spiritually. I don’t care how long you’ve been a Christian or how many facts you know, if you are not hearing the voice of God on a regular basis, your soul is withering. You need the constant intake of the imperishable, life-giving, word of God.
As a Christian at any age, the most important thing you need is a steady diet of God’s good, imperishable, gospel word.
The second thing we can do to grow up is:
2. Establish your foundation: Jesus (vv. 5–6)
5 You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 28:16).
Part of imbibing or drinking the word is establishing your foundation. A foundation is what you build your life on. A key word to underline in these verses is “cornerstone.” I’m not a builder, but I do know this: the cornerstone is the most important stone, the foundation stone. The cornerstone holds together all the other stones - all of them eventually tie back into it. If the cornerstone is stable, the rest of the building will be OK.
Martin Luther, commenting on this passage, said that for each of us, our lives have a cornerstone. Your cornerstone is whatever you build the rest of your life on. It’s your anchor. Your foundation. It’s what you turn back to when other parts of your life crumble. When life falls apart for you, what do you retreat into to tell yourself that it’s going to be ok? That there is hope? That things will be ok in the future?
Do you find yourself thinking, “Well, I've still got plenty of money so I’ll probably be ok..” If so, money is your cornerstone.
Is it, “At least I have a strong family.” If so, marriage and family are your cornerstone.
Is it, “I’m talented and people like me and I can always rebuild,” or maybe, “I’m a good person and good guys eventually win,” then your goodness is your cornerstone.
Peter tells us that if your cornerstone is anything else but Jesus, your life will be characterized by instability, manifested in all those things Peter listed out in vs. 1: malice; hatred; envy (jealousy of others); deceit—lying to make yourself look better - hypocrisy; slander; codependency; many other things.
Either you build your life on Jesus, or the Kingship of Jesus will ultimately crush you. We’ll come back to that, let me make clear: For you to make any progress in the Christian life, your life has to have a foundation, a cornerstone. A rock that sustains you in any and every storm you go through. Jesus is the only solid foundation- -as we sing here, all other ground is sinking sand.
Could we just take a moment and celebrate the confidence we have in Jesus?
3. Embrace your identity (v. 9a, 10)
9 But you are (this is who you are now) a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.
10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
Establishing your foundation will lead you to embracing your new identity. I want to talk for just a moment about this massively important concept of identity.
Identity, simply defined, is your self-definition of who you are, your value, the role you are here to play. Clayton King’s definition of identity is very helpful: Identity is what the most important person (or people) in your life thinks about you. REPEAT.
Who is that for you?
Most of us live our whole lives plagued with the question, “Am I enough?” and trying to prove to ourselves and others that we are enough. Am I man enough? Am I strong enough? Smart enough? Pretty enough? Skinny enough? Good enough?
And the point of just about every advertisement we see on TV is that we’re NOT enough:
You’re not a good enough mom unless you use this brand.
You’re not a good enough husband unless you buy this jewelry.
You’re not a good enough person unless you take this holiday trip.
And even if you are enough right now, you live with the fear that one day you won’t.
Instagram and FB are built on showing that you are not enough. Everybody puts up a fake life designed to scream, “You’re ok, but I’m more” and you wonder “Am I really enough?” She puts up that picture of her perfect little kids but you aren’t even looking at her kids, you’re looking past them at that new kitchen she has and wondering, “Why is her life so much better than mine?”
Peter tells us we can stop this frantic/wild race to the top. Because Jesus is our foundation, we have a new identity. You are (vs. 9) a chosen race, he says. God chose you to be in his family. What’s more: You are “a royal priesthood.” In Israel, the chosen people, there was a specially chosen line of royalty - the line of Judah, and a separate specially chosen line of priesthood--the line of Levi. Peter says in Jesus, you are all of these. You are the chosen of the chosen of the chosen! He continues, a people for his possession. You are a valued possession Jesus purchased with his blood! The King of Kings sets his affection on you and he has a plan for you.
Friend, what more do you need to be “enough?” You are not enough because you are more remarkable than someone else, or because you got to the top, or you are better, but because of who loves you, stands behind you, and has put you into service.
Listen: You will never win enough to feel like you are enough. And the good news is that you don’t need to. Jesus won for you. He values you and promises he has a plan to use you for good. That is enough.
4. Excel at your purpose (v. 9b)
vs. 9: “...that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Once you imbibe the word, establish your foundation, and embrace your identity, you are ready to live out your purpose.
Our job is to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us from darkness to light. I love Peter’s imagery here. In Genesis, God created the world ex nihilo. There was nothing, and then God created everything. That’s you. You were completely unrighteous. Spiritually dead. And then God spoke and made you righteous and alive. Proclaim that.
You’re here to declare his excellencies, not your own. As he reminds in vs. 11, we are sojourners, exiles - you’re passing through. We don’t care how many people know our name; we only care how many people know his name.
The measure of our lives is not how many people knew your name, but how many people you caused to know his name. This is the purpose God created you for, and you’ll never GROW UP spiritually until you’ve embraced it. Finding your purpose is one of the most important things about you, and an essential understanding that enables you to grow up and be who God created you to be.
So, these 4 things tie together in the process of growing up: imbibing the word; establishing your foundation; embracing your identity, and excelling at your purpose.
Let me close with Peter’s warning. Peter says that this word, this hope, this new identity is offered to you in Jesus the cornerstone. He’s ready for all you who would receive him. But if you don’t receive him, that cornerstone turns into the rock that crushes you.
It’s like C.S. Lewis said: there are only two categories of people. Those who become insanely happy in Jesus and those who find Jesus to be their worst enemy.
Which category are you in? Are you in the category of those who have found security and identity in him and are learning to be insanely happy in him, or have you made yourself his enemy?
Have you surrendered your life to Christ and his purposes? If not, do so right now! Pray with me...