Growing Up In the Christian Life 1 Peter 2a
1 Peter 1:23-2:10
Stephen Caswell © 2000
Which Kind Of Christian Are You?
A lot of Christians are like wheelbarrows—not good unless pushed.
Some are like canoes—they need to be paddled.
Some are like kites—if you don’t keep a string on them, they fly away.
Some are like kittens—they are more contented when petted.
Some are like a football—you can’t tell what way they will bounce next.
Some are like balloons—full of wind and ready to blow up.
Some are like trailers—they have to be pulled.
Some are like lights—they keep going on and off.
And there are those who always seek to let the Holy Spirit lead them.
Last week Peter shared the greatest motive for holiness of all, the love of God. God saved us through the precious blood of His Son. He planned this before the world began. He made us partakers of the divine nature through the new birth. Since God has been so gracious to us we ought to live lives that glorify Him. This means being holy in all our conduct. Today Peter emphasizes the importance of growth in the Christian life. Last week we saw that our salvation started with a new birth. Today I want to look at the Christian life from birth to adulthood. We will look at: 1. Birth, 2. Growth, 3 Vocation.
1 Pet 1:23-25 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
The Birth Of Jonathan
On the April 12 2000 Jonathan Mark was born into our family. Sandy and myself are delighted with our little boy. All babies enter the world through birth. But that's not really where they start. As you know it requires two parents to conceive a child. The child that is born receives the nature of his parents. Even though physical life is a miracle, our first birth is still a birth of flesh, and the flesh is corruptible. Everyone that is born into this world inherits Adam's sinful nature. This birth inevitably leads us to death. For man to receive eternal life requires a new birth.
Just as two parents are required to have a baby, spiritual children need two parents too. The Word of God and Spirit of God are our parents. John 3:3-6 Jesus answered and said to him, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to Him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? Jesus answered, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
1 Peter 1:23 says that the Word of God is one of our parents, whilst John 3:5-6 informs us that the Holy Spirit is the other. These two parents work together to conceive a child of God. This new birth gives us new life, a new nature and a new and living hope. I spoke about this last week so I won't dwell on it today. But needless to say the only way to become a part of God's family is to be born into it. This was the truth that Nicodemus had to learn.
How have you responded to the Gospel of Christ? Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins on the cross and that God raised Him from the dead? Have you received Jesus Christ as your Savior? Have you been born again by the Word of God and the Spirit of God?
1 Peter 2:1-3 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
Babies Need To Grow
Very soon after Jonathan's birth he started to feed. Like all new babies, he needed regular meals. It is natural for babies to desire their mother's milk. They need it to grow. If you forget their feed time they soon remind you. Unfortunately some mothers spoil their children by giving them sweets and juices too early. Then they don't like the plain food that is best for them. A mother's milk is full of vitamins and minerals. It is also rich in antibiotics that help fight off infection. God has provided a mother's milk to help babies grow healthy and strong. After four months we added solids to Jonathan's milk diet. Because he is growing he can now digest other foods as well. In fact Jonathan is developing his muscles through exercise.
Start With Milk
The same is true in the Christian life. Believers must start off on the pure milk of the Word. Sometimes children have no appetite for milk because they have been eating the wrong things. Peter warns us that nature determines our appetite. If we allow the old nature to set the menu we will eat the wrong food. The old nature hankers after malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and evil speaking. Peter warned his readers to lay aside these wrong attitudes of the heart that would hinder their appetite and spiritual growth. If we allow these attitudes and actions in our lives, we will lose our appetite for the pure word of God. If we stop feeding on the Word, we stop growing, and we stop enjoying the grace that we find in the Lord.
However, the new nature gives us a desire for the pure milk of the Word. Babes in Christ must regularly feed on this. The word tasted geuomai in verse 3 means to eat, to experience, to enjoy, to partake of. Psalm 34:8 says: Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! When Christians are growing in the Word, they are peacemakers, not troublemakers. As young believers feed on the pure Word of God they see how gracious God is.
I can't prove this to you, you have to try it yourself. Each one of us must be careful what appetites we develop. Our diet ultimately determines our lifestyle. It determines whether we are spiritual or carnal.
Growth Requires Solid Food And Exercise
But what happens when infants stay on milk? They don't grow up. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2: And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able. To develop from infancy into childhood and then adolescence requires solid food and exercise. Christians exercise by practicing what they have learned. The study of God's Word coupled with exercise brings growth. This enables believers to eat the meat of the word also. God didn't give us His Word to fill our heads with knowledge. He gave us His Word to make us holy. Many Christians are overweight because they take in and never give out. They remain spiritual babies. Babies are beautiful but they are immature. How tragic it is when a baby doesn't develop normally!!
Hebrews 5:12-14 warns of this: For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. The word exercise gumnazw in verse 14 means to train in the gymnasium, or disciplined exercise. To grow in the Christian life requires that we apply what we learn from God's Word in everyday life. Christians that eat and don't exercise end up flabby and overweight. God wants us to learn His Word and then apply it in our daily lives. Applying the Word develops our spiritual muscles. It enables us to discern good from evil and grow in Christ likeness.
Are you growing in the Christian life? Or are you a spiritual baby? What sort of appetite do you have? Do you hunger for God's Word? Or do you feed on malice, deceit, envy and evil speaking? Do you spend more time in the Word or in front of the T.V? Only the Word of God is pure and can nourish us in godliness. Worldly appetites lead to hypocrisy. Hypocrites are people who believe and say one thing but live another. Are you applying the Word in your life? Have you developed spiritual discernment through exercise? Are you able to digest solid foods yet? Do you sink your teeth into the meat of the Word like Romans and Hebrews?
Our Hopes For Our Children
We all love our kids and enjoy having them with us. Watching them grow up is one of the greatest joys in life. But as much as we enjoy their company we still want them to grow up and live fulfilling lives of their own. We want them to mature and find their own vocations. We don't want them to spend the rest of their lives with us. Growth and maturity mean moving out of home and raising their own families. In the same way Christians must develop from babes in Christ to mature adults. God wants us to grow into healthy Christians that live and work for Him. Too many Christians stay at home in the nursery instead of getting out into the work force. The Lord has already chosen the vocations that He wants His children to do. Every believer is called to work for the Lord. Peter uses three illustrations to describe our tasks. A Spiritual House, A Royal Priesthood, A Holy Nation.
a. Spiritual House
1 Peter 2:4-6 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.
Firstly, Peter illustrates believers as part of a spiritual house. This speaks of our unity. There is only one house of God, one holy temple. It is made up of every born again believer. To become part of this spiritual house one must be rightly aligned with the Corner Stone, Jesus Christ. Verses 6-8 make this very clear. Those who reject the Corner Stone will not become a part of God's Spiritual house. The Corner stone is the most important stone in a building. It determines the shape of the structure. God Himself placed Jesus Christ as the Corner Stone. Those who receive Him are saved. Those who reject Him will be damned. Believers must follow Christ's blueprints for His spiritual house. He wants each stone to fulfill their position in the Church. Living stones don't go off and do their own thing.
The spiritual house also speaks of diversity. Many stones are needed to make a house. In fact early architecture has a beauty all its own. When you look at it you see many stones of different shapes and sizes all fitted together to create a beautiful structure. The same is true of God's house. Every believer has a part to play in God's house. Each believer has different gifts and abilities. Nevertheless every stone is needed to complete God's house. Unfortunately God's spiritual house has many holes in it today because believers won't get involved. They won't place themselves in God's spiritual house. They don't regularly attend Church or Bible Study. Peter calls believers living stones. This means that they are active not dead. Unfortunately many believers are stone dead. They aren't cemented in God's spiritual house.
The Spiritual house also speaks of purity. Why you ask? Because it belongs to God and He Himself dwells within. He dwells in this spiritual house and commands us to be holy. Ephesians 2:19-22 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
b. Royal Priesthood
1 Peter 2:5b, 9a a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood,
Secondly, Peter uses the illustration of the priesthood serving in God's house. The first picture highlighted the fact that God dwells with His people. But the emphasis on the second picture is one of service.
The Old Testament Priesthood
Under the old covenant the priests served in the tabernacle or the temple. Not everyone could serve in the temple. Only men from the tribe of Levi could serve the Lord. And only the sons of Aaron served as priests. There were no chairs inside the temple or tabernacle for the priests to sit upon. They worked continually. The priests offered incense and sacrifices in the temple. They presented gifts and offered up prayers to the Lord. Their ministry was to intercede on behalf of the people. They endeavored to help the people get right with God. Nothing glorifies God like a changed life, a sinner that has become a saint, holy.
The New Testament Priesthood
Under the New Covenant God has made every believer a priest. In fact he calls Christians holy priests and royal priests. Jesus Christ is our Great High Priest and we serve under Him. Hebrews 7 tells us that Jesus Christ is a royal priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. If we are royal priests how should we serve? Peter says that we are to offer up spiritual sacrifices. We don't have to offer up animal sacrifices because Christ's perfect sacrifice has once and for all cleansed us from sin. I would like to suggest that there are five kinds of spiritual sacrifices that we can offer up to God. These sacrifices are acceptable when offered up through Jesus Christ. But service done for ourselves will be rejected.
1. Our Service
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. First and foremost God wants us. He wants us lock stock and barrel. A sacrifice had no will of its own. In fact it gave up its life to serve another. This verse tells us that service involves sacrifice. Phil 2:17 says this too. If your service for the Lord doesn't cost you something it's not very valuable to God either. A sacrifice gave all it had. If we want to be living sacrifices for God then it will cost us our will, our desires, in fact all that we have. This is what God wants from us more than anything else. But look at what He has already given us!
2. Lives Won To Christ
Romans 15:16 that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Paul says that souls won to Christ are an acceptable offering to the Lord. He is pleased to accept repentant sinners into His kingdom. Daniel says that those who save souls are wise. God is pleased when we present an offering of saved sinners unto Him.
Hebrews 13:16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. God is pleased when believers share their possessions with others in need. Barnabas was a believer who offered up this kind of sacrifice. When there was a need he sold a piece of land and gave the proceeds to the apostles to share with the poor. Of course few are in a position to give that much. But Jesus said even a cup of cold water given in His name would bring a reward. It isn't the amount that matters; it's being good stewards of what we do have. It's caring enough to do something in a needy world. But look at what God has shared!
Hebrews 13:15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. The writer of Hebrews tells us to continually praise and thank the Lord. This means praising God when things are going well and when they're not. Job had this attitude when he lost everything. He said, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. I am sure that God regarded Job's praise as a beautiful sacrifice. If we look at our circumstances and focus only on them it is hard to praise God. But when we remember how much the Lord loves us and that He's always with us we can praise Him even during the deepest trials. Job knew this well, he said though He slay me yet will I praise Him.
Phil 4:18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. Giving is another sacrifice that we can offer up to God. The Lord is pleased when we give to support His work. Even though the Philippians were not a wealthy Church they gave at least three times to support the apostle Paul. They also gave generously to help the poor in Judea.
A Chinese Sells Himself
Lough Fook, a Chinese Christian, moved with compassion for the coolies in the South African mines, sold himself for a term of five years as a coolie slave, and was transported to Demerara, to carry the Gospel to his countrymen working there. He toiled in the mines with them and preached Jesus while he toiled, till he had scores of whom he could speak as Paul of Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds. Lough Fook died; but not until he had won to the Savior nearly 200 disciples who joined the Christian church. Lough Fook followed Jesus' example who took upon Him the form of a bond slave. If Christ became a servant, shouldn't we?
c. Holy Nation
1 Peter 2:9b-10 a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
The third picture that Peter presents is that of a holy nation. God called Abraham out of Ur to form a holy nation for Himself. When you read Exodus you find that it was God's intention for all of Israel to be a kingdom of priests. Exodus 19:5-6a Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. After the golden calf incident the Lord changed His plan limiting the priesthood to the tribe of Levi. But God's intention for Israel to be a holy nation still remained. Unfortunately for the most part they failed. God had to punish them and they never accomplished His purpose for them. He wanted Israel to declare His salvation to the nations.
The Church's Calling
Under the New Covenant God has given this task to the Church. Christ commissioned the Church to take the Gospel to every creature. The word proclaim ejxaggellw in verse 9 means to declare, to tell forth, to show, to advertise. God commands Christians to share the good news with all. Verse 9 contains a purpose clause. That you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. We must tell all men how God has saved us. He has saved us from darkness. He has been merciful unto us by forgiving our sins and making us His people. Formerly we weren't God's people, Israel was. But now, Christians are citizens of heaven. As heavenly citizens we must live holy lives. The Gospel loses its impact when revealed through dirty channels. Only a holy people can impact a godless society with the Gospel. We must present the Gospel clearly and back it up with pure lives. God commands all men to repent and be saved. This is the message that we must share.
a. Spiritual House - God calls us to unity, purity and diversity. Have you committed yourself to God's spiritual house as a living stone? Are you following the Lord's plans for His Church? Or are you doing your own thing?
b. Royal Priesthood - God has made all believers priests. Are you serving as a priest in the Lord's work? What sacrifices have you made for God? Have you presented yourself to God as a living sacrifice? Are you seeking to win the lost? Do you offer up the sacrifice of praise? Are you sharing with the needy? Are you giving regularly to support the Lord's work?
c. Holy Nation - God saved us to be His own special people. He called us to be holy. He wants us to proclaim His salvation to the lost around about us. Are you living a holy life? Are you sharing the Gospel with those lost in darkness? If not, why not? For this is our calling.
The Christian life doesn't begin with baptism or confirmation. It starts with a new birth.
Every one starts the Christian life as a baby. But babies are supposed to grow. Are you growing in your Christian life, or are you still in the nursery feeding on milk?
Growing up is a normal part of life. God wants His children to mature and serve Him. Are you offering up spiritual sacrifices to the Lord? Are you living a holy life?
2 Peter 3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.