1 Peter 2:1-12 1 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 As you come to him, the living Stone–rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him– 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
How many of you have learned everything you need to know about how to succeed spiritually? Me neither! That’s why today is a day for all of us to GROW UP! Look at your neighbor and say, “Would you GROW UP?” 🙂
The older I get the more I learn I don’t know anything! Did you know Redwoods don’t burn? I just learned that this past week! I am ready for Jeopardy! J I also just learned this week that when the writer of Hebrews wrote about us having an anchor for our souls he used the language ancient people would have used to describe how a sailing vessel would be tied to rocks imbedded in the shoreline. The more I can discover and uncover and learn the richer my understanding of people, relationships, the consequences of decisions and the intricacies of God’s Word which will provide a deep anchor for my spiritual life. 🙂 And no matter how old I get, if I are breathing, I can still learn something.
I read a story this week about a police officer who stopped a car that was filled with elderly ladies. The car was traveling too slowly on a major highway. The officer came up to the car and talked to the driver. The conversation went something like this. The officer asked, “Ma’am, why are you driving so slowly?” She replied, “Well, officer, I’ve seen all these signs along the way that say 20 and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been going 20.” The officer replied, “Ma’am, those are signs indicating the number of the highway. It’s highway 20. You’re going much too slow.” “Thank you officer,” she responded. “Thank you so much I didn’t realize that.” But then the officer happened to look in the back seat and he noticed three elderly ladies with panic stricken looks on their faces and white knuckles from having held on to one another too tightly. The officer looked back at the driver and said, “Ma’am, what’s wrong with these ladies in the back seat?” Oh, officer, you see, we just got off highway 101 a few miles ago.” (http://www.preaching.com/sermons/11565743/page-3/)
We are all still learning to read spiritual road signs in order that we can continue on our journey with Christ. Peter’s words from the book of I Peter 2 give us some guidance on how we can choose to grow up this morning.
His words encourage us first to:
Put Childish Things Away-Revisit verse one with me. “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”
Peter said we are to get rid of “malice.” “Malice” is a desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another person. Reduced to its childhood form, perhaps we could say malice is the attitude that if someone hits us we are going to hit them back. It is rooted in the idea of not only getting even with someone but making them pay. When we operate with malicious thoughts or actions we are secretly hoping someone will feel the way they made us feel or worse.
As one author I read this week suggested, Jesus wants us to grow up away from malice and into mercy.
A young woman was brutally raped and murdered. The assailant was arrested and convicted of the crime and sent to prison. The mother of the victim harbored anger and bitterness in her heart toward the man who had taken her life. She was also a Christian. In time, God convicted the woman about her hatred toward this felon. She came to recognize her own sin and was able to forgive this young man in her heart. Eventually, she wrote the man in prison, to tell him of her change of heart. This was still not enough. She knew that she would have to visit the man face to face. And this she did.
Sometime later, a Prison Fellowship instructor visited the prison where this young man was incarcerated, to teach a weekend seminar. As he looked out into the audience, he saw the young man who had killed the young woman. Beside him sat the girl’s mother. In the prisoner’s hands was a Bible, with an inscription in the front which read something like this: “To my son …” (https://bible.org/seriespage/17-malice-mercy-ephesians-431-32)
Wow! How many of you know it takes maturity in Christ to get there? Perhaps many of us are thinking, “I could never do that. I could never forgive someone who had tortured and killed one of my children.” Maybe many of us are thinking, “I wouldn’t even want to.”
Peter says we are to let go of malice and that we should develop and extend mercy. We can stop a lot of malice before it starts by forgiving quickly. People make mistakes. People can be impulsive. People can be having a bad day. People can be selfish. People you encounter may hurt you because they are also in some kind of emotional or physical pain themselves. Some people are offensive because they lack social skills or social awareness. Some people haven’t been taught to be sensitive to others. Some people are desperate and are living recklessly and they aren’t even thinking about the consequences for their actions. Non-Christians aren’t always going to value being at peace with people. People who aren’t living for Christ are often only living for self, and when that happens there will be offenses committed against other people.
Posting comments on social media is one way I see malice at work in people’s hearts and lives today. Usually those comments are in code or are disguised so as to appear general, but the person making the comment knows who they are intending to hurt and the targeted person is keenly aware of the verbal missile being sent. Those kinds of posts usually begin with : “Some people are so _____________. . . “ or “I am so over trying to please people who . . .” One of my “favorite” kinds of malicious post is when I see people use Scripture to make their point. How about this one, “Well . . . Jesus said to take the log out of your own eye first” (you know who you are!)
We need to move from malice to mercy. Jesus came not to make us pay for what we have done, but to pay the price for us. What a merciful High Priest. What a merciful servant. He treats us better than our sinful selves deserve. What maturity. When was the last time you were hurt by someone and you chose to treat them better than they deserved? It’s time to put away our “I’m going to get even” attitude and pull out our “I’m going to bless you” attitude.
The rest of Peter’s list includes: deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Slander and malice are very closely related. I know it’s a “free country” and you can say anything you want. But don’t be naïve. What you say will always have a consequence whether a good one or a bad one. The quickest way to hurt your reputation and witness for Christ is to start talking poorly about other people. We are to use “grown up” language, spiritually speaking, as we grow up in Christ.
Deceit and hypocrisy are almost twins. Children will try to trick or fool people in order to hide the truth about their behavior. Parents can see right through it. Add thirty years to a five-year-old and not much really changes. People can still see right through the acts we try to put on in order to cover up where we are failing or falling short. Part of maturing in Christ is being willing to confess you aren’t perfect and that you need help. Facades are an impediment to faith. We will never grow in Christ if we aren’t honest about our struggles.
Envy is as childish as it gets. Wanting something just because someone else has something can cause us to do all kinds of crazy. Abusing credit cards, stealing, “robbing Peter to pay Paul” all when if we had just been content with what we had to start with could have kept us from all of that mess. Growing up in Christ involves cultivating a spirit of contentment.
Do you see yourself in any of those descriptions? Maybe it isn’t malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander but it is something else listed elsewhere in Scripture that you need to put away in order to grow up in your salvation experience with Christ. Today is a day to grow up.
Second, Peter tells us we need to: Develop the Right Appetites. Look at Peter’s admonition in verse 2: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk.” We are to develop an appetite for spiritual things. One observation I want to make is that I see a lot of Christians feeding or satisfying their fleshly or worldly appetite instead of or more than they are feeding their spiritual appetite.
It’s not very popular to suggest that following Christ and growing up in Christ involves saying “no” to yourself at times. But growing up in Christ means just that. Listen to Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. It isn’t natural for us to tell ourselves, “no.” But maturing in the grace of God as saved people means we will learn to stop ourselves before an impulse leads to an exploration and an exploration leads to sin.
Just this week I recalled something that happened to me when I was single. I used to hang out with some couples from my church, and on one occasion I had a thought about one of the men in the group who was married. The thought was simply, “If anything ever happened to his wife, I could love their child.” I was immediately surprised that I had that thought because I knew what it meant, and I knew where it could lead. Having the thought wasn’t sinful, but I had a decision to make about what I was going to do with that thought. Praise God that because I had been cultivating a spiritual appetite, I immediately knew that thought was a temptation from Satan. I called my prayer partner and said, “We have to talk.” I confessed the thought to her, and we went to prayer. God delivered me from letting that thought continue or to grow.
There may be something that catches your eye. It might look appealing, but just because you are drawn to it doesn’t mean God intends for you to pursue it, possess it, or experience it. The whole “forbidden fruit” concept in the Garden still applies to us today. There are some things that are still off limits for God’s people. Sex outside of marriage is off limits. Pornography is off limits. Homes, clothes, vacations and cars we don’t have the money for are off limits. I love spy kinds of movies where people are working undercover for the CIA. They are action-packed, suspenseful, and often romantic. There have been times when I have seen a movie trailer for one that I think looks so good, but when I get to the theater or to the store to rent the movie, I find out it is Rated-R. I made the decision long before I met my husband that I wasn’t going to feed a Rated-R appetite. Nudity and the F-bomb weren’t something I needed to expose myself to. The acting in the movie may have been spectacular and the music amazing, but for me, attending that kind of movie would be feeding the wrong appetite.
I have learned, when you give in to a desire, any desire, you give it some kind of power and position in your life. It will tempt you to pursue more of whatever it is and often in greater quantities with more intensity. It will stay in your mind and work on you in ways you couldn’t predict. You may flash back to how you felt and how your flesh came alive when you viewed that “soft” pornography. Before you know it, you are stopping at the store on the way home from work to buy something you then have to hide under the seat in your car so your family doesn’t see it. It happens often subtly and slowly. My husband, Thom, has said this about addiction: “The man takes a drink. The drink takes a drink. The drink takes the man.” Desires are a natural part of life. What we do with our desires will either be natural and lead to the natural consequences or will be godly and will produce the supernatural blessings that will result from making the right choice.
If we are going to grow up in our salvation, we have to move away from a natural existence to a supernatural one. Peter says we should crave spiritual food. The more we crave of Jesus, and feed that craving, the more we will desire of Him and the things of righteousness. When we do, we can enjoy life more because we won’t have to try to hide things and we won’t feel the pressure, guilt, and shame of poor choices.
Third, Peter suggests we need to: Possess a Teachable Spirit Look at verse 5: “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
God is doing some work on you in order to do His work through you. When you become saved, you become a material God uses to build His kingdom. He wants to place you into His spiritual house in a certain way. He may have to do lots of reshaping and sanding to be able to put you just where He wants you to be used. People who grow up in Christ are coachable, moldable, and teachable. They work with the Spirit of God. They don’t resist the Spirit’s forming power in their lives. We don’t simply believe in order to be saved, but we believe in order to become like Christ in order that as many possible will become saved!
We need to let the Builder do His work. Just as a personal trainer will help you become physically fit, God wants to help you be at your best for Him. Listen to Philippians 2:12-13 “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
Working out your salvation means walking it out and living it out as Jesus did. God will work in you in order that you can walk out your salvation. When was the last time that you knew God was working on you and in you? Through you? When you came here this morning did you come with the goal of learning and growing? Is this a “teachable moment” for anyone here this morning?
The word “disciple” means a learner. You can’t be a good disciple without being a learner.
Parents, are you modeling what it means to be teachable to your children? Do they see you willing to admit mistakes and own your faults? Do you ever tell them you are sorry? Do they see you trying to learn and grow in Christ? Is that the area in which you could choose to grow up this morning?
Once you desire to become teachable it will impact every area of your life for the better. If you are married, do you know everything there is to know about marriage and meeting your spouse’s needs? When was the last time you asked your spouse to teach you how to be a better spouse? Could you do that today? More marriages between Christians would succeed if people would desire to learn how to be a better husband or wife.
If you are a parent, do you know everything there is to know about parenting? When was the last time you asked your kids how you could be a better parent?
Pastor and Leadership Expert John Maxwell has developed a series of questions we should ask ourselves in order to see if we are teachable:
- Am I open to other people’s ideas?
- Do I listen more than I talk?
- Am I open to changing my opinion based on new information?
- Do I readily admit when I am wrong?
- Do I observe before acting on a situation?
- Do I ask questions?
- Am I willing to ask a question that will expose my ignorance?
- Am I open to doing things in a way I haven’t done before?
- Am I willing to ask for directions?
- Do I act defensive when criticized, or do I listen openly for truth?
If you answered “no” to one or more of these questions, then you have room to grow in the area of teachability. You need to soften your attitude, learn humility, and remember the words of John Wooden: “Everything we know we learned from someone else!”
Pride will keep us from growing up in Christ because it will keep us from having a teachable spirit. How many of the Psalms have the words, “Teach me, guide me, or instruct me?” I didn’t count, but it is overwhelming. Many of the Psalms were written by David, of course, who failed God miserably, confessed his sin, and then asked God to give him a willing spirit, a teachable spirit so he could change. No wonder God called him the “man after His own heart.” God loves to work with willing people! “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34)
Finally, Peter tells us from this passage that in order to grow up in our salvation we need to: Embrace Our Spiritual Identity-Look at verses 9-12 of our text: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
Let me summarize what Peter says here: Show people who God is through your worship and your works. If you are going to grow up in your salvation you need to become a worshiper and you need to become a worker. You have been called out of darkness so that you can praise the Lord here when we gather and out in the world when we are scattered. You have been given the identity of child of God so that you can do good deeds that will convince the world that Jesus is alive because He is alive in you.
And God is calling some of you out today who want to be a Christian on Sunday but worshiping and working for Him and in His name in your home, your school, your neighborhood, your workplace, and in the marketplace isn’t something you have embraced. It is time to grow up. It is immature and childish to claim Christ on Sunday and then to spend the rest of the week pretending to be someone else. Paul said he wasn’t ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16). Are you embracing your identity and your mission at all times everywhere you go?
God is asking for us to grow up in Him by putting childish things away. He has spoken to me about a little childish attitude I’ve got going on. He wants us to develop the right appetites. Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness? If you do, you will be filled (Mt. 5:6). If not, you will chase more and more of that which will never satisfy and cause heartbreak and sorrow. Are you teachable? Are you willing to learn to be a better dad, a better wife, a better friend, a better son or daughter, a better employee, a better learner of Jesus? Are you willing to grow as a worshiper and worker in the Kingdom of God? God is here, and He is giving us all a little growing room and growing time. Will you accept the opportunity to change and become more like Jesus?