The How is in the Who
THE HOW IS IN THE WHO
September 4, 2005
As Christians, we've got change coming in all areas of our lives. In our last look at 1 Peter we noted that we are challenged to grow in our reverence, faith and love.
The next 10 verses of the epistle of Peter to the Jewish Christians scattered all over Europe in the first century are focused more closely on how that change can take place in our lives.
Let’s read Chapter 2, verses 1- 10 together: Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-- 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. For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message--which is also what they were destined for. 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.
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.
The world may look skeptically and state that we have "turned religious", "switched crutches", or in psychological terms undertaken a "behavior modification".
But the fact is that the changes which are taking place go far beyond human efforts; instead Christ has introduced a complete inner transformation called the "new birth". We are given, at conversion, a brand new nature which needs to be nourished and matured. Peter is virtually telling us to change our diets if we want to grow spiritually.
A. CHANGE YOUR DIET v. 1-3
1. Put aside -- (throw away from you like a burning coat!)
i. all malice, which is any deep-seated hatred for others (the attitude that says, "I won't be happy until I see them suffer!")
The Spite House
Joseph Richardson, a New York millionaire lived and died in a house only five feet wide. It was called the "Spite House," and it deserved its name. Owning the narrow lot of land on which it was built, Mr. Richardson wished to sell it to the neighboring property owners. They would not pay him what he asked, and so he put up this house, which disfigured the block--and then condemned himself to a life of discomfort in it.
* Hating people is like burning down your own house to get rid of a rat.
--Harry Emerson Fosdick
put aside ...
ii. all guile, which is any and all deception and manipulation for the purpose of achieving selfish ends.
iii. hypocrisies, which are words and actions that do not reflect our true identity. An old country preacher said, "Be what you are and not what you ain't; because if you ain't what you are, then you are what you think you ain't."
The word hypocrite actually got its beginning in the theatre as actors and actresses played the parts of people they weren't anything like in character.
The world is full of people who are pretending they've got their lives all put together when in fact there is a void inside and underneath that facade is a spiritual vacuum.
iv. envies, which are any and all feelings of discontentment
. and jealousy. It is wishing you had her hair, his build, their home, his job, and so on.
v. evil speakings (slanderings) which are nothing but gossip. Gossip is inquiring or divulging information that discredits another individual or organization. If you're not part of the problem or part of the solution then close your ears and mouth.
If the Lord is going to be able to bring about the changes in our lives that are becoming of Christians we need to change our diet--put aside or push to the side the platter of the appetizers of the world, the flesh and the devil and start feeding on God's Word. Push the "off" button on the TV when movies built on these 5 sins of guilt, hypocrisy, malice, envy, and slander are aired.
2. Desire the Word (2-3)
If you've tasted the kindness of the Lord, then develop a hunger for the Word of God. There is nothing that transforms bad attitudes like the Word of God.
John McArthur says that “Love for and delight in God's Word always marks the truly saved. Jesus said, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32)
He adds: “The believer's delight in God's Word is the dominant theme of the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalms 119. About midway through the chapter, the psalmist summarizes his delight in and dependence on God's Word:”
“O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, for You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! From Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.” (Psalms 119:97-104
You've seen babies who are crying because they want their bottle, and you have to touch their lips with the nipple of the bottle in order to get them to stop crying so they can eat. Sometimes even a drop of milk on their tongue will get their attention and then watch them go after it, right?
Once we taste the kindness of the Lord we go after more and more of the Word of God. The result of desiring the Word is "growth in respect to salvation" -- That's change! That's change for the better!
Paul is challenging these hurting, persecuted people with an alternative response to the hardships of life.
You can feed on growing resentments, bitternesses, jealousies, and blame others, or you can feed on Gods WORD.
If we are going to benefit from the trials of life better respond by turning to God not against people!
* The How of spiritual growth
* The How of handling life's hardships isn't found in blaming others and it isn't found in ourselves.
The How is in the Who of the Bible!
As we turn to God's Word, the Bible, we discover Who Jesus really is.
B. DISCOVER WHO HE IS! (4-8)
Verses 4-8 are Peter's researched-conclusion as to who Jesus really is. Please turn to these verses as I read them again: As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-- 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. For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message--which is also what they were destined for.
He makes a summary statement and quickly quotes three portions of scripture which support his statement.
Peter has learned, the hard way (I can identify with that), not to run off at the mouth with grandiose statements which he hasn't thought through very carefully.
At the time of writing this epistle, were Peter asked, "Who do you say that I am?", he wouldn't have blurted out, "Thou art the Christ the Son of the Living God." Not now, not this time! He's grown and matured and sees Jesus more in comparison with his own finiteness, weakness and insignificance. He says four things about Christ all tied to the idea of a rock or stone.
When we open our Bibles, Peter says we are coming to Jesus as to a:
1. Living Stone (4-5)
2. Choice Stone (6a)
3. Precious Corner Stone (6b-7)
4. Stumbling Stone (8)
1. A LIVING STONE (4-5) -) “As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-- 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.”
This may seem rough and harsh to us, but not to the Jews who had their entire religious perspective focused on a massive structure of stone overlaid with gold and ornately decorated with precious gems! (the temple!)
Metaphorically calling Jesus a stone pointed to Jesus' invincible strength and everlasting duration. It taught that He is His servants protection, security and foundation for life. As a living stone He has eternal life in Himself.
Secondly, Peter introduces Jesus as
2. A CHOICE STONE 6 (a) "Behold I lay in Zion a Choice Stone" "rejected by men but choice and precious in the sight of God,"
In the great universal election of eternity past and future, Christ was rejected by men but chosen by God.
From God's perspective He is supreme, He is #1, He is the greatest! It matters not how the majority would vote--He is God's choice! All of scripture points at and exalts Jesus Christ -- all of creation glorifies Christ and in the end, for all eternity, every living being will acknowledge Jesus Christ for Who He is!!
Thirdly, Peter's Study caused him to introduce Jesus as:
3. THE PRECIOUS CORNERSTONE (6b-7) “ a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,”
He is the very foundation-stone of all our hopes and happiness. He communicates to us the true knowledge of God; through Him we have access to God; and through Him we are made partakers of all kinds of spiritual blessings.
Everything in our lives has purpose and fits together when we are in line with the Cornerstone. because where that brick was placed determined where every other brick would be laid!
Friends, when our lives are brought into line with the Cornerstone, He becomes very precious to us!!
So Peter says, when we begin to feed on God's Word we can expect to grow and change because we discover Jesus to be a living Stone, the Choice Stone and the precious Corner Stone. But Peter is always up front and honest. He says that Jesus is also...
3. A STUMBLING STONE (8) He is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to those who disbelieve or reject Him.
We know from the preceding verses what Peter thought of Jesus...
We know what God thinks of His Dear Son... But the choice is ours. If we choose to disbelieve we will face the eternal consequences.
When we change our diet and begin to feed on the word of God we discover Who Jesus is and secondly we
C. DISCOVER WHO WE ARE in relationship to Him.
(The How) to growth and experiencing spiritual transformation in our lives is found in seeing Who Jesus is and in seeing Who we really are as His people.
(THE HOW IS IN THE WHO)
Some of you are brand new Christians. Some of you have been saved for a year, others have followed Jesus their whole lives. I, ask all of you this question: Do you know Who you are as a Christian?
Peter says we are all...
1. chosen race
2. Royal priesthood
3. Holy nation
4. people for God's own possession
1. As A Chosen Race
- we all belong to one family (the family of God – as the song says, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God” – can you say Amen to that?)
- we are born to reproduce ourselves in terms of winning others to Christ sharing our faith, being witnesses of Jesus everywhere we go.
2. As A Royal Priesthood we are:
- born to worship God and pray for people around us, as we live holy, God honoring lives.
3. As A Holy Nation we are:
- all collected under one Head, one King, One Lord and one Ruler; we are governed by one law and devoted to the renewing and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit
4. As a People of God's Own Possession
- we are the people of His acquisition, His choice, His care, and His delight.
Note with me please that a Christian is nothing in/of/by himself!! Now I’ve got a confession to make here. On the day I was preparing this message I read the following in Henry Blackaby’s daily devotional, “Experiencing God Day by Day” This is what spoke to me: “Jesus insisted that in order to follow Him we must deny self. As long as we rely on our own resources, we will never place our trust in him.” That hit me like a ton of bricks! I suddenly realized (hey I told you I was a slow learner) that since the time we were called to candidate here, my plan (and I emphasize the “my”) has been to sell our house and business, pay off our debts, and buy a house here that was fully paid for. That sounds ok, doesn’t it? But, if this is what actually happens, how will I be depending on God for our provision? It’s pretty clear isn’t it? I won’t be! So the plan has changed. We will take whatever God provides for us and rely on Him to provide whatever else we may need. That way, it will be “Thy will be done” instead of my will be done.”
Every description Peter offers is a pluralistic word; "Race, Priesthood, Nation, People." In Jesus Christ, the precious cornerstone, we are all intricately placed together and built up as a spiritual house.
We stand alone when it comes to taking a stand for Christ, but after that we never stand alone. We are fitted together in such a way that we need each other, depend upon each other and grow as we stick to each other together (like glue). Notice how the early church is described in Acts 2:42-47 (NIV) : ”They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Let me put a plug in here for church membership. I believe that a natural part of spiritual growth is a willingness to identify with a local body of believers. We need the blessings, responsibilities and accountability of membership in a local church in order to continue to grow.
Let me conclude with Peter's closing statements.
The "HOW" of spiritual growth is found in Knowing Who Jesus Christ is and Who we are in relationship to Him.
But the end result of Spiritual growth is twofold:
a) Greater Worship (5b)
b) A Greater Witness (9b-10)
a) We are built up a spiritual house so we can "offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (5b)
That's Worship and it follows the section of our passage related to Discovering Who Jesus is.
Verses 9-10 tell us the end result of spiritual growth is "so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light, 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."
These verses follow immediately after the section of our passage related to Discovering Who We Are as Christians.
The end result of knowing who we are as Christians is a Greater Witness. We've received Mercy ( we didn't beg, borrow or steal it) but we received it. We have become children of God, part of the family of God and now we're really Somebodies! We're important to Him!!!
If we change our diet, we will change how we feel toward God and towards people and we will continue to grow in our Christian lives.
** Spiritual growth takes place as we see Jesus in the Bible for Who He is and WORSHIP HIM
** Spiritual growth takes place as we see ourselves in the Bible in relationship to Jesus, come to grips with Who We Are and WITNESS.
As we grow in Christ our priority will no longer be my own spiritual feeding! No longer will I expect others to minister to and provide for me. Instead, I will be focused on working in the lives of others, feeding them, encouraging them, leading them to grow in Christ and, in turn minister to others. You see, my friends, we no longer need to exist on a spiritual diet of milk and pablum. Nope, it’s steak, French fries and gravy for us now! We have to choose one or the other and this choice should be a no brainer, unless of course you’re addicted to pablum. As for me and my house, we will settle for the steak, French fries, and gravy (with maybe a little chocolate thrown in for desert. So which will it be for you? Come and taste that the Lord is good!
Now, who will you show and tell this week?