|LIVING BY GOD'S WORD
1 PETER 1:22-2:3
Series: Living For Heaven In A Hell Bound World - Part Three
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
September 9, 2012
Please turn with me to 1 Peter 1 - starting at verse 22. Peter is writing to Christians - both Jews and Gentiles - who were living in what is today northern and western Turkey. These were believers in Jesus who - because of their faith in Jesus - were living as exiles - aliens.
Jewish believers who had been exiled from their own people because of their faith in Jesus. Kicked out of their families and nation. Gentile believers who have left behind their former culture. Both Jewish and Gentile believers are struggling to live Godly in an ungodly society.
Which is a struggle that we face - trying to live for God where the rubber meets the asphalt of the culture we live in. We live in two worlds - heaven - where we’re headed - and this world which is moving in a totally opposite direction.
(Cartoon) “Whoa Dude Bummer”
What we’ve been looking at over the last couple of Sundays - here in 1st Peter - is how we live for heaven in a hell bound world. Coming to 1 Peter 1:22 - Peter’s focus is on living for heaven by living by God’s word.
1 Peter 1 - starting at verse 22: Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “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.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
Let’s pause there and unpack what Peter is writing..
This is who? Andrew Jackson - 7th President of the United States - currently appearing on $20 bills.
Before Andrew Jackson was President Jackson, Andrew Jackson served as commander of the Tennessee militia. During the war of 1812, his troops had reached an all-time low in their morale. They became hugely critical of each other - arguing and bickering and fighting among themselves. Its reported that at one point - when tensions were at the breaking point - Jackson called them all together and said, “Gentlemen! Let’s remember, the enemy is over there!” (1)
Sometimes - in the church - sometimes we get confused about that.
One of the huge turn offs for people - when it comes to the Gospel and the church - one of the huge turn offs is Christians. God’s people treating God’s people ungodly. Who wants to be a part of that?
But that’s not true everywhere. Sadly. And let’s agree that we’re not perfect - yet. Let’s be careful with our pride. We’re loving and proud of it.
One of the truths that Peter is getting at here in these verses is that we’ve been saved by God for something a whole lot better than a cold war of self-seeking factions and bitterness and arguments and having an unloving attitude towards each other.
God - when we were undeserving - unworthy - and unable to save ourselves - totally disobedient to God and worthy of God’s condemnation and punishment - worthy of being totally toasted forever in Hell - Jesus - God in the flesh - Jesus goes to the cross - dies in our place taking our penalty for our sin.
Remember this? God’s grace changes everything. Including our relationships.
As we confess our sin, trust God with our lives, and claim Jesus as our Savior - God puts on Jesus all of the sin, condemnation, and wrath that should have been ours and gives to us the righteousness of Jesus. Jesus gets our death. We get life with God.
Obedience to the truth means that we’ve responded to God’s grace - to the truth of the gospel - responded by receiving the good news of what God has done for us in Jesus - received it personally for ourselves - and repented of our sin.
What we looked at last Sunday. Break the chains and live separate - holy. We’ve trusted God with our lives to do with as He wills with the result that God has given us new life - reborn life - renewed life with Him forever .
Jesus - when He shared the last supper with His disciples - Jesus told His disciples “By this all people will know that you are My disciples if you have - what? love for one another.” (John 13:35) Jesus’ disciples - saved by grace - love each other.
Peter writes - verse 22 - that because of our obedience to the truth our souls have been purified - the crud of sin and the selfishness of our former selves apart from Jesus - all that has been removed - we’ve been purified so that we are able to have a sincere - without drama - brotherly love.
The word here for love is “philadelphia” - brotherly love - friendship - quality relational love between siblings in Jesus.
Peter writes - verse 22 - because of what God has done in your life because you were obedient to the truth - God’ purifying you and enabling your brotherly love - therefore - the therefore is implied - therefore - you must - command imperative - therefore love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
Love here is the Greek word “agape” - different from “philadelphia.” Agape is the kind of commitment love demonstrated by Jesus dying on the cross for us - because of God’s grace not our merit. A commitment to love regardless. That’s taking phildelphia to the next level.
Peter writes - love - agape - earnestly.
Have you ever had one of those awkward moments when you meet someone and you’re not sure if you should shake their hand? They don’t put out their hand and so you’re not sure if you should. Earnestly - in the original Greek - earnestly literally means to stretch out your hand to someone - first.
Earnestly is being proactive not reactive. God not waiting around to see if we’d reach out to Him. He came and died.
In verse 23 Peter goes off talking about God’s word. In those days the prophetic word and the Law - think Old Testament. Today we’ve got all 66 books of the Bible. Peter’s point in verses 22 to 25 is The Authority of God’s Word Over Our Lives. Let’s say that together. “The authority of God’s word over our lives.”
In verse 23 Peter goes off talking about God’s word. Why?
Hold onto this - the quality of our relationships together as siblings in Jesus is one huge indication of the authority we give God’s word over our lives. Put slightly different: The quality of our relationships as a church is a result of the authority we give God’s word over our lives. The same can be said about any of our relationships - at home - with our spouse - our kids - our parents - at work - at school.
Crucial to how we do life is the authority of God’s word over our lives. Relationships are real time gut check to see what kind of authority God’s word really does have over us.
Verse 23 - Peter writes that we are “born again - into this new life of obedience and pure love - we are - born again not of perishable seed but of imperishable seed through the living and abiding word of God.”
Imperishable means… imperishable. The opposite of perishable. Something that doesn’t break down - fall apart - become useless - or need a warranty.
Peter writes that we are born of imperishable seed. To grab that we need to think of Jesus’ parable about the sower and the seed. (Matthew 13:1-23)
Remember this? A sower goes out to sow seed and apparently - as a sower - he’s pretty inept. He has really bad aim.
Some of the seed lands where? On the path - hard packed dirt - nothing grows there. Birds come and eat the seed. Some seed lands where? Rocky ground. Not much soil. Plants quickly spring up - and having no soil - plants quickly die. Some seed lands… among the thorns and gets choked out. Some seed lands… on good soil and produces a bumper crop.
The ground is us - specifically our hearts. The seed is… the word of God.
According to Peter - we’re born of imperishable seed - God’s imperishable word planted in receptive - obedient - hearts - ours. The very life we share in relationship with each other comes from God’s imperishable word planted in our hearts.
Peter writes that the imperishable word - as a seed implanted - the imperishable word of God is living.
One of my jobs along the way was as a librarian down at Biola - filing returned books - putting books back on the stacks. In the old Biola library there were stacks way in the back of the back of the library. You had to passed shelf after shelf of books - go through doors - and then down these hidden stairs to get there.
It was like descending into the catacombs. There was this stillness. There were dead guys back there doing research. The books back there were long lost dusty old volumes that no one but some Ph.D. student pursing some obscure doctorate would ever even think about hunting for. Like Chaucer but worse.
God’s word is alive. Its not some dusty old tome that has no relevance for our lives today. God’s word is as relevant for our lives today and tomorrow as it was when God’s people - inspired by God - wrote it down way back then.
Then Peter writes - in verse 23 - that
God’s word is abiding.
That word “abiding” means that God’s word
God’s word abides. It endures. It remains - forever. When all the perishable stuff of this world turns to dust and God purifies this world with fire - God’s word will remain - unchanged - eternal. Forever into eternity God’s word remains.
To illustrate his point Peter quotes from Isaiah - verse 24: “all flesh - meaning humanity - 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.” (From Isaiah 40:6,8)
We are moment. You are forever.
Lord of the ages. God before time.
We are a vapor. You are eternal. (2)
Heard that? God is eternal. God’s word is eternal. We’re not. We live forever in relationship with God and each other because God - God’s word says we will.
God gave His word to the prophet Jeremiah - God’s prophetic word about what He - God - was going to do in judging Israel and Judah and the nations. God’s desire was that His people would hear His word and repent - turn back from sin to living in obedience to God.
Jeremiah calls Baruch - who’s Jeremiah’s
friend who’s also serving God - Jeremiah calls Baruch
and tells Baruch to write down God’s words on a scroll
- take the scroll to the Temple - and then read God’s
word to the people.
Which Baruch does.
There are some officials who hear the word of God - take the scroll to the King Jehoiakim - who hears God’s word - and as God’s word is being read to him - King Jehoiakim systematically slices off that section of the scroll - section by section as its being read - and burns those sections - one by one - in the fire. Out of sight. Out of mind. “I can’t hear you now.”
God comes to Jeremiah and tells Jeremiah to take another scroll and write down God’s word - same prophecy written down again on the new scroll - with a special addendum just for King Jehoiakim basically saying, “You’ve ignored My word. But everything I said is still going to take place. And by the way, you’re toast.” (Jeremiah 36:1-32)
We know from history that everything God said He would do He did and King Jehoiakim was toast - withering grass compared to the forever living abiding word of God.
God’s word - His demands on our life - what He desires for us - our relationships - doesn’t change - or go away - simply because we just don’t choose to receive it - just because we don’t choose obey God’s enduring word.
Hebrews 4:12 says: “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
I may have shared this in the past. When I was in High School our Spanish language class performed the play “Blancanieves” - Snow White. My part was the Espejo - the mirror. I made this wooden frame with a wire mess for the mirror part. The audience could sort of see my face - but not really. If I have to say so myself it was pretty cool.
The evil queen would come and ask the question: “Espejo, Dime. Soy la más hermosa?” “Tell me. Am I the most beautiful.” I would have to answer: “No, Reina. No eres la más hermosa. You’re not the most beautiful. Más bella es la dulce princesita Blancanieves.” Snow White.
The queen would go off in a rage. “No! No! La más bella soy yo! I’m the most beautiful.”
Sometimes we don’t want to hear what the mirror says. When it comes to listening to God’s word some of us have selective hearing. We pick and choose from God’s word. We only want to do what we think makes sense to us. Sometimes we’ve gotten so accustomed to the trial - the pain - that we’re fearful to trust God’s word. Fearful to risk doing something unknown.
word of God cuts - cuts
to the deepest part of who we are. It exposes
our sin and demands change. Its
demands an alive response because the word of God is
alive - inspired and applied to our lives by the
living God. To
bring life. To
shape life. Necessary
for healing and wholeness and victory in life. Necessary as
the authority for how we do life - even life together.
It would be so easy to get up on Sunday morning - get dressed - drive to church - and bypass the Service of Worship - going straight to the coffee and Lipton tea - and just hang out together. In fact - just skip church all together and head over to Paul’s - which is open now. We could avoid going to Bible study or avoid spending time personally reading and studying God’s word. Maybe that’s easier.
When we come inside - when we come together before God we experience God’s presence - we hear God’s word - and if we’re honest with ourselves - we need to change. We all need to change. And change is hard.
Change means giving God’s word authority over our lives. Are we together?
The Bible is to have authority over our lives, not just when it seems reasonable or convenient or fits our framework of understanding and experience. God’s word should replace our wisdom - our clever schemes and perspectives of things. God’s word should be so deeply embedded within us that our natural reaction will be to live in obedience to it as an integral part of our nature.
Still together? When we
choose to not give God’s word authority over how we
live our lives then who or what does have that
culture with its humanist reasoning and philosophy? The United
Robert’s Rules of Order. The Church
Ultimately... Satan - who’s going to use the authority of this world that we place ourselves under - by abdication or choice - Satan will use that authority to suck us back into the world - destroying our relationships and witness - to use us to distract and destroy our families - to chew us up - abuse us - and keep us enslaved to the crud and culture of this world bound for Hell.
But - if we choose to allow God’s word to be the authority over how we live our lives - how we live our lives together - as we seek to live in obedience to God’s word - God will use His word to change not only our lives individually freeing us and renewing us - at the core level - purifying us - but God will use His word to change our relationships together - here at Creekside - in our homes - at school - at work - even in how we live in an ungodly society filled with this side of hell experiences.
Let’s go on to chapter two. Verses 1 to 3 focus on The Application of God’s Word to Our Lives. Let’s say that together. “The application of God’s word to our lives.”
1 Peter 2 - verse 1: So - which is kind of like a therefore - so - meaning because God’s word is to have authority over our lives - even our relationships together in Christ - so put away all malice and deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
“Put away” literally has the idea of stripping off filthy clothing. Think working on the car - covered in grease and crud. Then think yard work - coming in hot - sweaty - covered in mud and fertilizer. Yeeech filthy. We got to take it off - put it away - before we can get purified.
Five filthy things we need to put away.
“Malice” - which has the idea of intimidation with anger - bullying - winning by running over other people. Malice comes out in our relationships with harshness and irritability - being discourteous in the way we talk to each other in our families.
“Deceit” comes from Peter’s experience as a fisherman. The word in Greek has the idea of “catching with bait.” It means being cunning or deceptive - trickiness.
Hypocrisy is like that. It means “To speak out from under a mask.” In Greek it’s the word they used for an actor. An actor would put on a mask - maybe with a smile or a frown - and the actor would speak from behind the mask. But - the mask smiling or frowning - didn’t express the true feelings of the actor behind the mask.
How often is Sunday morning one long tense - sometime argumentative - irritable experience getting to church where suddenly we’re the most loving put together Godly family in creation?
Envy is feeling ill toward someone else because of what they’ve been blessed with - their home - clothes - occupation - even that they have a job. Why do they have what I deserve?
Slander literally means “evil speech.” Its like gossip on steroids. Intentionally tearing someone else down by what we say.
All of these boil down to how we treat others - unloving relationships. Examples of a basic heart attitude under the authority of the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I. I win. You loose. Its all about me. Which describes a whole lot of what relationships are like in this hell bound world.
Let’s be careful. It would be so easy to say they need to hear this - whoever they are. Peter is writing to who? Us. We need to put away these filthy things away. To strip off the crud. Because its easy - isn’t it? Easy for us to get soiled - filthy with sin. Caught up in how the world does relationships. To place ourselves under the authority of how this world does life. We need to examine our lives under lens of God’s word.
What do you struggle with most in your relationships? Do you struggle with malice - evil thoughts and intentions - suppressed anger. Or with deceit - half-truths, lies. Or hypocrisy - putting on a show. Or envy - jealousy. Or slander - gossip, cynical comments, undue criticism. Be honest. We all struggle.
Are you treating your siblings in Jesus the way God’s word says you should? What about your spouse? Or your kids? Or the people at work? Or school?
Peter is giving us an invitation - a challenge - to think through how we’re treating people. Are we stretching out in love - passionately proactive? Even to those that are outside the box of our comfort zone? Or, are our actions something less? What’s coming out of your heart and mouth? What does that show us about our willingness to submit to the authority of God’s word?
What are we clothing ourselves with that’s against what God’s word says? What are you hanging on to? Clinging to? Why? Put it aside. Its filthy. Drop it. Let go of it.
Grab this - First: Applying God’s word to our lives is a choice to put away anything that is contrary to the authority of the word God over our lives.
Second: Applying God’s word to our lives is a choice to long for the authority of God’s word over our lives.
Peter writes - verse 2: Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
To long for - in the Greek - is a word that has the idea of passion - desire - pursuit - lust. The hunger of a newborn baby is legendary. When they want to be fed they let you know. There’s passion - longing - desire in that cry. And nothing but momma's milk is going to fulfill that longing.
Chuck Swindoll writes this: “If the goal of the Christian life is spiritual maturity, then the nourishment comes from God’s word.” (3)
If we’ve tasted that the Lord is good - and we have - by His grace - by His work in our lives - then we are to passionately desire God’s word. That’s what Christians bent on growing spiritually - on spiritual maturity - do.
How’s your longing these days? Are you actively seeking to implant and nourish the imperishable seed of God’s word in you heart?
Tough questions - potentially embarrassing if we asked for a show of hands. Which we won’t.
How many of you - in the last week have had a time of reading God’s word. Not reading a devotional about God’s word or someone else's’ study of God’s word. There is a place for that. But you personally have taken up your Bible to read a portion of Scripture for yourself.
How often have you done that: Once? Daily?
How many you have read the Bible - from Genesis to Revelation? Not just parts of it. But the whole thing? Maps excluded.
It is tragic - alarming - how many Christians will say they believe the Bible but they’ve never read it - even after decades of being a Christian.
How do you know it says what it says if you’ve never read it for yourself? How do you know what you’re missing?
Another question. These are tough. Aren’t they?
What is your program for the systematic study of God’s word? Maybe that’s something you’ve never thought about. Hopefully it involves more than just hearing a sermon on Sunday - or listening to people talking about a book you’ve never read for yourself.
People say they don’t have time to read God’s word. They’re too busy. That’s a choice.
People say they don’t understand the Bible. Its beyond them. Ultimately its beyond all of us. But not understanding isn’t a reason not to read it. It should be motivation to read it. To study it. Get together with other believers and get help.
Really tough question. Is Christ-like spiritual maturity your primary ambition?
If someone were to follow you around for a week and post a video of your life on YouTube - assuming you got hits - what would people conclude about your desire to mature as a Christian?
Please here me on this. The point of this isn’t some kind of guilt trip. But this: If Peter is to believed - and we do believe Peter - then all of our relationships are directly affected - good or bad - by the authority God’s word has over our lives. Or conversely - the quality of our relationships are a huge indicator of whether or not God’s word really does have authority over our lives.
If we let that truth honestly sink in to our hearts - why wouldn’t we drop anything that keeps us from passionately seeking to implant the imperishable seed of God’s word in our lives? To live in obedience to God’s word? To live under its authority?
To be a Christian in today’s confused society is becoming increasingly more difficult. And, we could share example after example of that. But, Creekside Church - Christians of the greater Merced metroplex - here’s Peter’s encouragement - when we receive and obey God’s word - as His word begins to change us - we grow in maturity - living in His strength and power and wisdom and victory - in our relationships - in all areas of our lives - living in our mixed up bound for Hell world.
1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on James, 1 and 2 Peter - Zondervan, 2010
2. Be Unto Your Name - Lynn DeShazo and Gary Sadler
3. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on James, 1 and 2 Peter - Zondervan, 2010
General reference: Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on James, 1 and 2 Peter - Zondervan, 2010
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.