The gym is filled with an interesting range of people. In the one near my home, many seniors work out to try to keep their heart in shape, and some do it even for power lifting. Personally, I do it to feel better and to keep my energy level high. What I know from those who do it is that weightlifting intentionally stresses a specific muscle group to the point where your body (if you are the one lifting) must adapt to meet the unaccustomed demands. Muscles must be pushed to a new adaptation threshold in order to gain strength and size. Without a sufficient resistance, the movement offers no benefits. For example, I curl my biceps many times a day to lift a fork with food on it, but that movement won’t really build my bicep muscle. It will, on the other hand, clearly add to the size of my mid-section! In the case of muscle building, resistance is a GOOD THING.
Conversely, as I grow in the Spirit of God and walk with Him, resistance isn’t good for much unless it is working the “resolve against sin” muscle group. Even though it doesn’t help me grow, I find myself resisting God’s work in me at every stage. I see it in my easily knocked out of whack attitudes, my impatience and my hard heart to things that should make me sing out in praise! Paul said it so well when he complained in Romans 7:
Romans 7:15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
Later, he continues with the other side of the coin:
Romans 7:19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.
Virtually every believer I know can identify with the two sides of this coin. I do what I know God doesn’t want me to do, and I don’t work hard enough at what He DOES want me to do! Can you identify with that in your walk? In our lesson today, Peter chimes in with Paul, but he offers both warning and encouragement. The lesson is this…
Key Principle: God is at work building His people, but resistant believers hold back God’s work struggling within the family.
Don’t begin the lesson with discouraging thoughts about your current lack of obedience. Stop! Think for a moment of the resources God provides for you! Here is Peter’s encouraging word…
Encouragement #1: We possess the sure solution to life’s issues (1:22-25).
Don’t look in the second chapter, but rather at the end of the first chapter to drop into the context of the discussion. Peter wrote:
Context: 1 Peter 1: 22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, “All flesh is like grass, And all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, And the flower falls off, 25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you.
Peter made clear he was speaking to believers. They saw God work, at least initially when they gave their heart to Jesus. In that way, they “purified their souls”. He could tell because they had a God “water mark” on their life – the love of the brothers and sisters in Christ. Don’t forget, one of the underlying marks of a life in relationship to Jesus is the mark of a love for the people who love Jesus. Verse 23 acknowledges openly that they trusted God’s Word – and that brought life to them.
Stop for a moment and think about how you came to Jesus Christ. You trusted the Word of God, just as Peter said believers did two thousand years ago. You took God at His Word. We need to recognize the power of God’s Word to save, and the threat that Word is to the enemy of God. He will stop at nothing to mock the word on comedy channels, erode the Word on pseudo-science channels and criticize the Word’s veracity and principles on news channels. He will make light of it, and if he can’t stop you from hearing it, he’ll work to confuse your understanding of it by swirling huge lies into the mix of what you hear. The other day I listened to a well-known Christian speaker teaching that one cannot judge another’s experience by the Word of God, because that experience is more powerful and personal than even God’s Word. That was on the Christian radio.
Satan is in the business of telling lies, weaving deception and bringing confusion. How often I have people tell me “that is just your interpretation” when they offer no other interpretation that even vaguely fits the narrative! Let’s be clear; Satan has taken the high ground in the public square. He occupies many critical vantage points of the educational process. He owns Hollywood and Wall Street. He is pouring it on. Our culture grows in its will to mock even the foundations of the ethic that brought it into being. Yet, we stick to the Word. Why?, The Word endures forever. CNN will cease. Fox will go dark. The University of Paganism will one day be silent. The King’s words will never die. Armies will march against it, but the Word will stand. Terror will try to boot its truth from view, but one hundred million million years from now, God’s Word will stand sure.
The late Dr. R. G. Lee, former pastor of the Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis TN expressed the value of God’s Word in this way:
“The Bible is a book beyond all books as a river is above and beyond a rivulet. The Bible is a book beyond all books as the sun is above and beyond a candle in brightness. The Bible is a book beyond all books as the wings of an eagle is above and beyond the wings of a sparrow. It is supernatural in origin, eternal in duration, inexpressible in value, immeasurable in influence, infinite in scope, divine in authorship, human in penmanship, regenerative in power, infallible in authority, universal in interest, personal in application, and inspired in totality. This is the Book that has walked more paths, traveled more highways, knocked at more doors and spoken to more people in their mother tongue than in other book this world has ever known or will know.” (From a sermon by Rev. John D. Jones, That Ye May Grow, 7/20/2011)
Why not crack it open this week and let it help you KEEP GROWING? After all, the father of lies will have many avenues into your mind. How about buying up some ammunition of the Spirit to give God something to recall in your heart when life starts looking dark?
There is another encouragement Peter offered…
Encouragement #2: We can take action to get ready for God to work in and through us (2:1-2).
We don’t have to sit still while life rolls by. We can follow God, but there is a first step – and it involves re-training what you WANT. It requires dieting and exercise. The diet is what you will eliminate from your intake, and your “exercise” is what you will add to build muscles of the Spirit. Peter said it this way:
1 Peter 2:1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander…
God’s work in us is deliberate. We cannot do it, but we can prepare for it. Peter offered two action steps – one to get something out, and the other to encourage something into our hearts.
First, we prepare by cleaning off the table before he places in front of us something new. There are five things taking up the space of your heart that need to be cleaned out:
• Clean off malice. The Greek term kakía means the underlying principle of doing evil or harming someone, even if it is lurking in your heart and has not been outwardly expressed. Clean out your heart of hate.
• Clean off deceit. The Greek term dólos means the use of trickery or bait to “hook” people into doing what you want them to do or believing what yu what you want them to believe. It is particularly used of baiting those already in overt emotional pain. Clean out your thoughts of ungodly motivations.
• Clean off hypocrisy. The Greek term hypókrisis comes from a thebian word for actors and refers to “someone acting under a mask”. Clean out your hidden agendas that are being masked.
• Clean off envy. The Greek term phthónos refers to a strong desire that has soured due to the influence of sin; and is demonstrable in being energized when someone else experiences misfortune or pain. Clean out your hardness of heart.
• Clean off slander. The Greek term katalalía is evil speech or slander. Clean out your bad vocabulary about others.
When I stop hating, tricking, faking, hoping for another’s pain and harboring a mean spirit, the table is now ready to be set by God to feed on better things. Where will I find them? That has to do with the second action step… Second, we can also reset our “longing” and hungers. Peter continued:
1 Peter 2: 2 “…like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,
Think about those words for a moment. A believer should HUNGER for the Word – and that is clear. At the same time, look at the last part of the verse…they should long to GROW in respect to their Spiritual rescue. The obvious question I need to pose is this: “Are you truly concerned about GROWING in your faith?” I have run into MANY people who were content to have walked an aisle or prayed a prayer when they were children – and they seem utterly unconcerned about growth. Here is what I know about them: God is not about to do a great work through them. They are inconsequential to God’s forward plan, because they thought the object of the Gospel and God’s great gift of His Son was nothing more than an opportunity for them to come to Christ, period.
Not everyone looks at learning about God in the church like it is something they should or would enjoy. Some are reluctant to be too involved. That reminds me of the poor boy who misunderstood the Pastor a few years ago:
One Sunday morning the pastor noticed little Alex was staring up at the large plaque that hung in the foyer of the church. The plaque was covered with names, and small American flags were mounted on either side of it. The seven-year-old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside the boy, and said quietly, “Good morning Alex.” “Good morning pastor,” replied the young man, still focused on the plaque. “Pastor McGhee, what is this?” “Well, son, it’s a memorial to all the young men and women who died in the service.” Soberly, they stood together, staring at the large plaque. Little Alex’s voice was barely audible when he asked, “Which service, the 9:00 or the 11:00?”
The truth is we can get ready for God’s use of our lives if we clean up a few things, and if we hunger and seek His direction in His Word. Babies desire milk because God gave them the instinctive hunger so they might grow. The same is true of God’s spiritual children. Peter continued…
Encouragement #3: When God moves, watch God draw and change people to bring Him praise, and join in (2:3-10)!
Preparation is fun, but nothing compares to watching God at work in a life. Peter reminds:
1 Peter 2:3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. 4 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “The stone which the builders rejected, This became the very corner stone,” 8 and, “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
First, note the beginning of this idea in verse three is directed to the believer – they are the ones who have been changed, and they are the ones who can see God at work. It is for that reason Peter referred to them as those who “grew in salvation and tasted the kindness of the Lord.” (2:3). People who don’t know God don’t know where to look to see His more subtle works. Like Elijah running from Jezebel, they think God will come in the earthquake, the mighty wind and the fire, but don’t have ears to hear the still small voice in the light breeze. If you don’t know God, you are really missing the incredible things He does everyday!
Second, recognize that God saved us to build our lives together into a greater work that is being done for Himself, and a work of His own hands (2:4-5). This new work is built on Jesus (2:6). The world will never understand why Jesus is at the center of all we do. All they know of Jesus are a few bullet points and pop sayings. They haven’t seen His love, experienced His grace or thought for a moment about His majesty seated above in Heaven’s throne. They have considered the baby in the manger. They may have seen His limp body sagging from an artistic representation of the Cross. What they haven’t seen is the real Jesus – the Lord of Heaven and Savior of Men! Just to know God is building our lives into something because of Jesus, by His power and according to His will is stunning.
Third, try to grasp that God promised our new life would be fulfilling, not disappointing (2:6b). Peter, with the voice of one giving a promise, said: “Listen to me, you who trust God. You will NOT be disappointed trusting Jesus with your future! Believers aren’t just anticipating Heaven; we are enjoying life NOW!
Fourth, expect that many will think we are wrong or crazy (2:7-8). Jesus is offensive to those who study Him closely but do not follow Him. He calls men to follow Him no matter the cost. In a world that measures benefit strictly in this life, He will never be popular! Believers don’t think like them, and measure things differently…
Pat Summerall, the well-known sports announcer who died in 2013 in Dallas, trusted Christ with his life and overcame alcohol in the late 60’s. As he describes his life with Christ, he says, “It’s like an alcoholic looking for a drink. If he wants it bad enough, he can find it – no matter what. I’m like that when it comes to finding prayer services and Bible studies. No matter where I am working, I know that they’re out there and I can find them.” (Art Stricklin, Sports Spectrum, Nov/Dec 2001, p. 27. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Love and Longing, 5/13/2011)
Fifth, don’t forget the changes in us are purposeful! Both the ability to truly praise and the notion of unity come from the work of God in us! (2:9-10). Peter reminded the early believers they were CHOSEN in order that they would become a people for God that would raise up a banner of proclamation. The mercy a believer received at salvation was purposed to bring God glory. If the believer keeps silent about God’s goodness, his or her salvation doesn’t bring about, at least in this life, a major purpose for which God provided it! God doesn’t just toss out His objectives, they are carefully planned…
British sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein was once visited in his studio by the eminent author and fellow Briton, George Bernard Shaw. Noticing a huge block of stone standing in one corner Shaw asked what it was for. “I don’t know yet. I’m still making plans,” replied Epstein. Shaw was astounded. “You mean you plan your work. Why, I change my mind several times a day!” “That’s all very well with a four-ounce manuscript,” replied the sculptor, “but not with a four-ton block of stone.” It is worth remembering the bigger the vision the more extensive the plan. God’s plan for you and I was to be proclaimers of His excellence!
Peter then turned his attention to the toughest words of the argument. They weren’t meant to be unduly harsh, but rather to empower. We CAN become what God intends for us! How? Here is the encouragement…
Encouragement #4: If we push hard against five points of resistance and they will fall for God’s glory! (2:-25)
God intended our walk to be tough, and He never said otherwise. There is no overt promise that if we “take up His Cross daily” our version will come with a convenient and padded carry handle. Yet, the joy and encouragement in the struggle is this: It is not impossible to walk with God. The journey is is not “beyond us” if we call upon His power and presence to make it through! Frankly, we must be willing to armor up and allow God to empower us to walk in victory. Here is what Peter taught them to do:
First, commit that we won’t baby ourselves and indulge our fallen nature.
1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. There is simply no reason to mince words with this – we must draw a line in the sand and tell our mind and body that we will not allow our desires to lead us. Christ will lead us. His Word will be our command.
Second, we must walk with our testimony in mind.
1 Peter 2:12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. It isn’t good enough that we know Him, we must look for ways to show others how THEY can know Him as well. Our lives are God’s display – so we must be careful what they show! John R. W. Stott made the point clear: “Peter would prepare the church, not simply to endure persecution, but to find in persecution an opportunity for witness.”
I love this little story…Bill White of Paramount, California talks about being in Compton, California, working with volunteers from several different churches on a Saturday doing projects to serve the city. At lunch time, he was headed down a narrow side street when he saw dozens of church volunteers (maybe 50 in all), all dressed in yellow shirts, streaming out of one of the sites. They had just completed a makeover of a local house. Bill was six or eight houses away when he passed a married couple working in their own yard. He paused to compliment the woman on her roses, and she asked him what they were doing down the street. Bill told her that they represented a band of churches united in their desire to serve the city. Then they continued to talk about how that neighborhood had been radically transformed by these Christians’ simple acts of goodness. When the woman’s husband saw Bill’s yellow “volunteer shirt,” he turned off his weed-whacker, set it down and started walking straight towards his wife and Bill. Bill says, “I will never forget his words. After looking into my eyes,” Bill says, “he nodded approvingly towards the renovated house down the street and then said, ‘I love your heart. Where can I get a heart like yours?'” Flabbergasted, Bill simply replied, “We got our hearts from Jesus, and he would be glad to give you one like his, too.” And before he left, they had a great conversation about the unparalleled gospel of Jesus Christ and his power to change hearts, homes, neighborhoods, and cities. That’s how it’s done, my friends. Simply BE who you are in Christ and reflect His love to a dark and broken world. (From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Living Stones, 5/19/2011)
Third, we must respect authority and demonstrate a submissive spirit when possible.
1 Peter 2:13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God. 17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. We are called to respect, not rationalize. We are commanded to submit, not be subversive. Christians should be the one group their leaders can look to for peace and direction when confusion reigns.
Fourth, we must become more patient with difficult people.
1 Peter 2:18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
Fifth, we must be secured by our purpose while we follow Jesus’ example.
1 Peter 2:21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
God is at work building His people, but resistant believers hold back God’s work struggling within the family.
Before Michelangelo created the masterpiece we know simply as “David,” Agostino d’ Antonio had worked diligently but unsuccessfully on a large piece of marble. He gave up his effort and said, “I can do nothing with it.” Some others tried after him but failed. This piece of marble was laid in a rubbish heap for 40 years. Out strolling one day Michelangelo saw the stone and believed that it had great possibilities. We know what happened. From that seemingly worthless stone was carved one of the world’s masterpieces of sculpture- David. For Michelangelo, the job of the sculptor was to free the forms that were already inside the stone. He believed every stone had a sculpture within it, and the work of sculpting was simply a matter of chipping away all that was not a part of the statue.
When Jesus looks at us, He sees not a rough piece of rock but He sees inside of us the potential to be a beautiful dressed stone useful in his temple. As the Master Sculptor He is able to chip away all that is not a part of what He wants us to be.