A Taste For Christian Discipleship
Discipleship, Obedience, Love, Putting Off Sin
Some things cannot be fully understood until you experience them yourself. For example: you don’t really understand the challenges and joys of marriage until you have been married. You don’t understand the bond between a parent and child until you have been a parent. You don’t know what it is like to go through surgery, or chemotherapy, or live with some kind of disability until you have experienced these things. It is also hard to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ until you have actually tried to follow Him. It is hard to understand the joy (rather than burden) of obedience until you have dared to do what God says.
In our text his morning the key phrase is in 2:3 “now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” Before we look at the text you need to hear the disclaimer: “Some of what Peter tells us here will make no sense to people who have not tried to follow Christ.”
Peter gives us some clear instruction in 1 Peter 1:22-2:3. These instructions are meant to deepen the relationship we have with God and enrich our relationship with each other. You might say that these verses are the practical outworking of what it means to “be holy as he is holy”.
22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,
“All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25but the word of the Lord stands forever.”
And this is the word that was preached to you.
Peter reminds us that true faith is more than mental assent. It is not merely learning stuff about God, it is walking with Him in life; it has a practical effect on us. Peter reminds us that being holy (or purifying ourselves) involves obeying the truth of God. One of the first evidences of obedience is a new love for the people around us.
Peter used two different words for love. First he used the word “philadelphia” (brotherly love) when he calls us to “have sincere love for your brothers”. However, when he said “Love one another deeply, from the heart” he changed to the much more intense word, “agape”, which denotes a sacrificial or giving love. So Peter is advocating something that is more than an emotional attraction or a casual regard for others. He says we will have a love for other that is deep and based on the deepest values of our heart. It is a love anchored not to what someone can do for us; it is based on the value of the person as a child of God.
Peter says this love begins with “your brothers”. I believe he is talking about fellow believers. When we start to truly love, we manifest this love first with fellow believers. Though it is true that we are not only to love other members of the church but we are certainly to love other members of the body of Christ.
There is good reason love starts with the body of Christ is,
Because we have shared a common experience in Christ. Soldiers who have been through war together have a deep love for each other. People who have been roommates throughout college have a deep relationship with each other because of all they have shared together. Have you ever listened to two people who have had heart surgery (or any other kind of surgery) talk to each other. There may not be “love” but there is empathy and connection because they are tied together by a common experience. In the body of Christ we share the common experience of being “snatched from the flames of Hell”. We know we do not deserve God’s favor but have been made new by His grace. It is an incredible connection we share. We are now part of the same family!
Because the Lord, whom we love, wants us to love each other. Jesus told the disciples He wanted them to love one another. He prayed that his followers might be “one, even as we are one.” Most of the time we love those that are loved by someone we love. For example, when we get married to someone we usually grow to love the family of our spouse. If a spouse comes into the marriage with children we will love those children because they are loved by the one we love. By the same token, since God loves other believers, we should love them too.
Because we are one body. When a part of our physical body rebels, we are in trouble. (Think about having a sore toe!) We cannot ignore disease in one part of the body because it affects the whole! In the body of Christ we cannot function effectively if parts of the body are rebelling against others. When we spend our time tearing down other churches and ministries we are compromising the health of the Church at large.
Because the church is the “Laboratory” for Christian instruction. If you took biology or chemistry you will remember that there were two parts to the class. There was the lecture and the lab. In the lecture you learned principles but in the lab you tested or “experienced” those principles. Our relationships with each other in the church are the laboratory where we put what we are learning into practice. For example, it is one thing to learn about forgiveness . . . it is another to actually forgive that person who keeps sitting in your seat! It is one thing to talk about compassion; it is another to truly weep with those who “weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice.”
Remove the Garbage
There is a second command
rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.
Here is a simple principle: if you are going to do something positive it will involve getting rid of things that hinder you from achieving your goal. Peter tells us that there are some things we must address if we are going to love each other.
Imagine that you have gone out and purchased new furniture for your home. Before you can move in the new furniture you have to deal with the old furniture. You sell it, store it, or put it in another place. In the same way, if we are going to gain the new heart that God gives to us we have to deal with the old ways of doing things.
Each of these vices destroy (rather than develop) relationships. This is especially true in a time of persecution and pressure (which is what was happening in Peter’s day and is a lesser effect in our own). It is when we are frustrated or under great pressure that we often do the most damage to the relationships around us. These vices often lurk beneath the surface and come out at these times when we are most vulnerable. We are wise to attack them now . . . before they do great damage. I doubt that this is an exhaustive list but let’s look at the vices Peter addresses.
Malice is an angry attitude or evil intent toward another. It is that desire to see bad things happen to someone else. We experience malice when we secretly smile (rather than mourn) when something bad happens to someone else. Sometimes gossip is malicious because it is meant to put someone in a bad light.
Deceit is a word that refers to “bait” or a “fishhook.” It is the idea of fooling someone in order to take advantage of them. It is about getting what you want by making the truth fit your needs. When we twist the truth to suit our purposes . . . we are no longer presenting the truth but a lie. Lying destroys relationships.
Hypocrisy is about being a pretender. In this case we pretend to love someone but really are only using them for our own purposes. These people say all the right things when they stand before you and then attack you when your back is turned. These people are especially hurtful because their attack seems to come from nowhere. You are being assaulted by someone you thought was your friend.
Envy has two sides to it. There is the negative side where we don’t want someone to have something they have. In other words we may be angry that someone was able to move into a new home, or took a nice vacation, or was given a promotion at work. It may not be anything you want or desire . . . you just don’t want them to have it. On the “positive” side envy can manifest itself by a positive desire for something that belongs to someone else. It leads us to want to “take” something from another. It may be a job, a spouse, a position of influence. Envy produces a spirit of competition rather than a spirit of cooperation.
Slander is when we defame someone else. We slander another when we magnify someone’s faults or twist their words to hurt them or cast them in a negative public light. Slander includes gossip or the sharing of unfavorable information about another (whether it is true or not). Slander is selfish because it is designed to make us look good while putting down another.
Let’s be honest here. We hate these things when we see them in others. However, we often justify them when we are the perpetrators. We need to turn that around. We must show grace to others while being ruthless in weeding these things out of our own lives.
Sometimes it is helpful to take a negative prohibition and restate it as its positive opposite. So here are the positives,
Instead of simmering in malice, pursue love, mercy and grace. Look for things to love and admire about a person rather than looking for the negative.
Instead of manipulating through deceit, be a person who speaks the truth in love. Find ways to speak hard things in a loving and constructive way and work to also be honest about the treasures that you see in a person (as you try this you will get better about spotting treasure in people).
Instead of hypocrisy, pursue authenticity. Be honest in your relationships (that is not the same thing as being mean). Be honest about your weaknesses (it will help you in dealing with the weaknesses of others).
Instead of stoking the fires of envy, pursue contentment. Focus on what you have been given and give thanks. Work hard to share in the joy of others.
Instead of slanderously tearing people down, work to build others up through words of encouragement. Try to spotlight strengths.
It is impossible to love when these vices occupy our lives. When we pursue the virtues love is a natural byproduct.
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.
This seems to be the underlying principle: passionately pursue the way of Christ. The word here is a strong one. It is a yearning that consumes us.
Have you ever been in a situation when you wanted something . . . badly? Perhaps you really wanted a relationship with a boy or a girl. Maybe it was a certain car (or in my case . . .some gadget). Maybe you greatly desired clothes, a house, or even a position of authority. Sometimes we can want these things so much that others would say we were “obsessed” with them.
When this happens our thoughts and our conversation keep coming back to the object of our affection (even though it drives our friends crazy). Sometimes we become so obsessed that we do something foolish, sinful or destructive.
Peter says we should have this kind of relentless passion for the things of God. Peter illustrates this with a baby. When a baby is hungry it doesn’t take the attitude of “I am hungry. I’ll wait around here and when I get the opportunity, and it is convenient for everyone, I will calmly request that I be fed.” No . . . . the baby screams at the top of their lungs. If mom or dad pick them up and rock them but don’t feed them they don’t think, “Well this is nice”. They keep screaming because they want to be fed.
Is this the kind of passion you have toward discipleship? We talk about wanting to grow in the Lord but we say we don’t have time or we don’t have the energy (Do you see how deceit creeps into our own justifications?) Peter challenges us to really want a deep relationship with God.
The question is: How do you create a desire for something? Much of the time it is through exposure. Advertisers have learned that if they can expose you to an ad enough times they will create a desire within you. On the internet ads are “targeted”; in other words sites like “Google” follow your interests and place ads on the page that will most likely interest you. Consequently you will see the same ad again and again.
There was a day when I was disinterested in pizza. Now there are times when I crave pizza. There was a time when I didn’t drink coffee. Now there are times when I say, “I NEED a cup of coffee.” Some of you can say the same thing about chocolate, Chinese food, a steak, or even a “need” to travel. Increased exposure led to greater appetite.
I think it is the same way in our relationship with God. We develop a craving by a regular exposure to God’s Word, God’s people, and God’s priorities. If you daily read the Bible and embrace what you understand the Bible to be saying . . . you will develop a hunger for the Word. You will discover that your heart seems to come alive as God’s truth cuts into your soul. Before long you will be memorizing those words and crave the meat of God’s Word. The same is true for prayer.
If you regularly work at prayer you will slowly develop a delight for those times of prayer. You will long to visit with and listen to the Lord.
If you develop the regular habit of worship there may be days when you “get nothing out of worship”. There will be times when you feel you have “better things to do”. But if you continue to expose yourself to the discipline of worship, you will soon find yourself looking forward to these meetings with God’s people. You will feel empty when you miss a week. You may start to love the music, the environment, the teaching, and the people. However, what you crave the most is the quiet time of connecting with the Lord.
As you dare to do what God has told you to do you will start to see that God knows what He is doing. At the beginning you resisted His guidance, now you will begin to enthusiastically seek His guidance because you will have developed an appetite for wisdom.
The whole point is that we will be obedient, we will do what God says because we have tasted that the Lord is good. Because we have had a taste of His greatness, we want more. I read this great story from one author,
The Vietnam War was mercifully drawing to a close during my middle-school years. And that meant that young men who had been sent over to fight were now returning to the States. Each one needed a fresh start on life. For one man that meant enrolling at Judson College.
Judson College is on the Fox River in Illinois. During the frigid winter months the man stood alone along the river’s frozen edge, tending a covey of ducks. He fed them. He cut through the ice to open up an area of water for them. In short, he met their every need during the cold season. Every day.
A man on campus was asked why the man cared so much about the ducks. His answer was powerful: “He has just returned from the war in Vietnam. The story is that ducks saved his life. His unit had been ambushed. Many of his friends had been killed, and while he hadn’t been shot, he lay down to look like he had. He hoped they would go away. But they didn’t. The enemy kept coming. Through the fields they came. They’d put one more shot in every fallen man to ensure that he was dead. But suddenly a covey of ducks flew overhead, and the attention of the soldiers was diverted. In their excitement they began running after the ducks to shoot at them instead. In the end, they stopped checking the field for men and left. That’s how the man down by the river escaped. And now he has a special love for ducks. He loves because he lives.”
This is what Peter is saying. If we have experienced God’s rescue from the slavery, drudgery and threat of sin; if we have experienced the warmth of God’s love; if we have known His provision and seen His wisdom at work in our lives; we should respond like this soldier. We should be people who are eager to respond. We should want to honor this One who has done such great things for us.
If you have tasted that the Lord is good, you will have a yearning to love, you will work to eliminate things that keep you from loving, and you will have a passion for the things of God. You will understand that these commands are not given by God to nag or control us . . . they are meant to cheer us on.