SALT 21/9/03 1 Peter 2:1-17
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. 6 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." 7 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, " 8 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. 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. 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
I was recently watching a television programme about young people and their jobs. One smart young woman working in a Department Store shared how she felt uncomfortable when she went for a job interview in a suit only to discover that everyone there was wearing jeans! Her discomfort was magnified when she realised after a while that he dress was tucked into her pants ( underwear/briefs - U.S.A.? )!
We live in a world where image is considered very important. We see this in television and in newspapers. There is a television program that helps people improve their image and their ability to approach people and converse to get a date, for example. Another gives people's wardrobe a makeover once it has been seriously criticised by a pair of overly candid women.
I wonder if any of us here today deliberately portray a certain image, either through our actions, our demeanor or in what we wear?
I wonder if we are aware of the image that other people have of us?
In today's reading Peter refers to four images of the Christian. That of: Babies, verses 2-3; Stones in a temple, verses 4-8; Priestly People, verses 9-10; and Foreigners, verses 11.
He also refers to how we should act as believers, and what this should result in.
Four images of the Christian.
Babies, verses 2-3;
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.
Chloe, who is two, likes milk. She often comes to Melanie or me during the day and says, 'Give me some milk.' We ask her whether she would like to ask us more politely before we consider her request!
Babies long for milk. They are eager to drink it and they want it frequently, often crying for it and waking up their parents during the night. Milk helps to satisfy and nourish the baby resulting in it growing and becoming healthy. Perhaps the reason that Chloe has grown from a 4lb 13 oz baby to the child she is now is because of her love of milk. Once she had tasted it a few times she knew it was good stuff and has continued to drink it.
Christians are to be like babies. Unlike Hebrews 5, which tells some believers that they are immature and should now be on solid food and not milk, there is no suggestion here that the recipients of this letter are immature. The ' spiritual milk' represents the Bible which is pure as opposed to the malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander mentioned in the first verse. Therefore the translation might be expanded to "crave the unadulterated spiritual milk of the word." The believer will have tasted the word already, knowing the grace and goodness of God. Continuing to feed on the word will lead to a continuing and continuous growth for every believer. None of us are going to be perfect this side of glory, so there will always be room for growth, and God's goal is that we will continue to grow. If we stand still we still fall behind what God wants us to be.
If I can illustrate this using a train. Imagine that God wants you to be on a train going at a speed of 5 miles per hour, but you have missed it and are stuck in the station until the next one comes four hours later. Even though you have not moved and even though it is a slow but steady train, after four hours you are twenty miles behind the point where you should be! We are to keep going and keep growing with God. We are to do this by continually drinking in God's word, the Bible. This can happen in church, in a home group or in our private devotions.
Stones in a temple, verses 4-8;
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. 6 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." 7 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, " 8 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.
Peter reminds us of Jesus who is compared to a living stone in the Bible. He uses various Old Testament passages where Jesus is compared to a cornerstone, a large and important part of the foundations that lined up two walls. He is compared to a capstone, the last stone in an arch that is the crowning glory and holds it together. In these analogies He is precious to God and to believers. However, he is also compared to a stone that some people trip over and fall. This is because these people do not accept Jesus. Just as believers have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father ( 1:2 ) so they stumble because this is also what they were destined for, (2:8). This does not mean that God has destined these people for hell but rather that, at present they do not accept Jesus but they still have a chance to repent and trust in Him. If people do not repent, however, this will lead to condemnation and they will be responsible for their disobedience and its consequences themselves. We must also remember that God is outside time and, therefore, He will know the eternal destiny of everyone, believer and unbeliever.
For those who do believe Peter calls them to be living stones, just as Jesus is called the living stone. The Old Testament featured successive Temples in Jerusalem that were seen as the place where God lived. Throughout history people have stood in awe at the beauty and wonder of them. They were a forerunner or a shadow of something better that was to come. With the coming of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit God's dwelling is in people. It is about life not dead stones! Peter is referring to a spiritual house or temple for God built with the living stones of people. This is not any less 'real' than a temple that is a building. As each person comes to faith their 'stone' is added to the spiritual temple of God. We may be different sizes and shapes but we all have a part to play in the new temple or worshipping community of Jesus.
On Wednesday night four stones were added to God's temple here in Talke and in the world. We had three 'tweenagers' and one young mum Confirmed, more than Audley or Kidsgrove church. All around the country churches are crying our for people of this age and background to some to church. The Confirmation Service has been on the Notice Sheet for months and I encouraged folk to come and support them yet only and five or so people from this congregation came. This lack of support is not unusual for a Confirmation Service.
If we are to seriously take on board the teachings of the Bible then we are going to have to be more committed to God and one another. If we do not how are we going to attract new people?
( Babies, verses 2-3; Stones in a temple, verses 4-8; )
Priestly People, verses 9-10;
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.
Believers are chosen by God, showing His kindness and undeserved favour, something we looked at earlier. "Royal" refers to the fact that believers belong to King Jesus, we are part of His royal household.
priesthood does not refer to the need to continually offer sacrifices like the priests of the Old Testament. However, we are to continually offer our whole beings to God as living sacrifices ( Romans 12:1 ). Priesthood refers to the role of all of us in contributing to the worship, prayer and work of God through Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Whilst some people may be involved in leading, preaching, reading the Bible and interceding we all have a part to play. It is important that as many of us come as often as possible because there is a different feel to our worship when there is say 50 people here rather than 30. The attitude with which we approach our worship is also important. Do we come consciously wanting to worship God even if all of the music is not to our taste, ready to hear and obey His word even if this will alter our lives?
God doesn't call believers into a cozy individual sanitized or ecstatic existence. He calls unto into the messy world of being part of His people. We are part of the people of God , verse 10, stressing God's ownership of us. We are a 'holy nation' verse 9, set apart by and for God to do His will. This will not only involves us deliberately and at times painfully worshipping, interceding and ministering together. It will also involves us in witnessing to the outside world so they can know God's love and salvation for themselves. Verse 9b, that you may declare that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light..
Each year the Churches Advertising Network launches a Christmas Advertising campaign. We have used their material in the past. This year the picture is of a nativity scene with Mary , Joseph and shepherds gathered around the baby Jesus who is wearing a Santa hat and coat. The title is, "Go on, ask him for something this Christmas", cf www.churchads.org.uk.
This campaign has attracted criticism in the past but you need to ask the question, 'What alternative witness are these detractors offering instead?' It is easy to be critical or to do nothing, but each of us needs to ask ourselves; "How we are declaring the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light ( v.9 ) other than when we come to church?" The Old Testament priests acted as intermediaries between people and God. How do we respond to that duty in prayer and in words and in actions?
Babies, verses 2-3; Stones in a temple, verses 4-8; Priestly People, verses 9-10; and Foreigners, verses 11.
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
H.S.B.C. has an advertising campaign showing cultural differences round the world. For example, that it is a compliment in some places to finish all of ones food and an insult to ones host to do the same thing in another country. I suppose many of us have been abroad and noticed different ways of doing things compared to our own country. Perhaps there have also been times when we have been aware of the hostility of local people to whom we are foreigners.
Peter reminds his 'dear friends' or 'beloved' that they are do not belong to the world, which symbolises everything that is contrary to God's perfect will. We are to be 'in it not of it'. That is to say, we are to inhabit the world but not absorb its values. This will result in Christians feeling alien from the culture that surrounds them. It will also lead to hostility from those around us. So when we encounter these feelings or this opposition we can rejoice because it is a sign that we are destined for something a lot better, greater, longer lasting. We are citizens of heaven.
The newspapers and televisions have recently featured stories of the debauchery that has been occurring at a Greek tourist resort. The assumption of many, young British tourists going to this resort is that they can get away with behaviour that they would not think of doing at home.
Verse 11 is a turning point in this letter with Peter being very specific and practical about the conduct that is expected from God's people. The way to act is not to follow sinful desires, which war against your soul. One of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-control so we are to follow the desires of the Spirit who lives within us. We are not to follow our sinful desires, things that come from within us and are contrary to God's perfect will. How do we know what God's will is? From God's written word the Bible that we are to crave as babies crave milk, as we saw earlier.
There is a war going on for our very being, which war against your soul. As Christians we need to put on the armour of God to help as we fight against our sinful nature.
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Peter then tells his readers to live good lives that will result in people coming to faith and glorifying God, verse 12. Doing good will also silence those who criticise, verse 15.
Believers are to put other people before themselves. God first, others second, ourselves last.
The first practical commands that he gives are to submit to those in authority of all ranks because they are placed there by God. However, where there is a clash between what God requires and what the views of those in authority we have to follow God's way. Fellow believers are to be especially loved, everyone respected and God feared.
So let us be;
Babies, drinking in the milk of God's word the Bible and growing in our faith.
Stones in God's temple. Taking our full part in God's household of faith.
Priests, offering ourselves in worship, witness and work as God's people.
Foreigners, remembering that we do not belong to the world, we are destined for greater things.
John Kenneth Galbraith, in his autobiography, A Life in Our Times, illustrates the devotion of Emily Gloria Wilson, his family's housekeeper: 'It had been a wearying day, and I asked Emily to hold all telephone calls while I had a nap. Shortly thereafter the phone rang. Lyndon Johnson was calling from the White House. "Get me Ken Galbraith. This is Lyndon Johnson." "He is sleeping, Mr. President. He said not to disturb him." "Well, wake him up. I want to talk to him." "No, Mr. President. I work for him, not you. When I called the President back, he could scarcely control his pleasure. "Tell that woman I want her here in the White House."'
We are to be servants, freed from the power of sin to do follow our master's will. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.