I Peter 2: There Are No Shortcuts
Peter continues in his letter to instruct us in what our duties are and what our responsibilities entail as Christians. He has told us we are to be holy as God is holy. He told us to prepare our minds for action and be self-controlled. Sanctification is the process by which we are to be made holy. Sanctification means to be set apart- to be separate. We are to be separate from the works of the flesh, our old sinful nature. It is a process. It takes time. And there are no shortcuts.
Now to be separate, to be set apart rests on the fact of salvation. Peter is writing to those who have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God. When you have been born again, you have a new nature, and we are to live in that new nature by the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter mentioned earlier- you love the Lord Jesus and believe in Him even though you have not seen Him. The Holy Spirit through the Word of God can make the Lord Jesus real to us so that as we read what He has done for us- we love Him and believe in Him.
Therefore having been born again, Peter begins with what our responsibilities are in order to separate us from the works of the flesh. For the flesh, our old nature will continue to battle against our new nature. Peter begins with a list of things we are to lay aside or rid ourselves of which include: all malice, all guile (deceit), hypocrisies, envies, and slander (evil speaking) of all kinds.
Let us make sure we understand these works of the flesh we are to lay aside, to take off as it were, old filthy garments. It can also be likened to an examination by your physician who informs you- your arteries are being clogged by high cholesterol and you have to go on a healthier diet and exercise on a regular basis. Our flesh loves those things that are not good for us- including Blue Belle Ice Cream.
- Malice- the intent or desire to do evil, ill will. To want to cause harm to another. In I Peter I: 22b- we read you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart. ( with a pure heart fervently,KJV) Listen how Paul describes this type of love in I Corinthians 13: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but always rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. Malice comes from an unforgiving spirit that develops bitterness in ones heart until it becomes congealed anger seeking revenge. In other words, it keeps a list of wrongs done to one, either real or perceived. The Lord Jesus when he taught his disciples how to pray, taught them and us to ask the Lord to forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. *All of our sins are forgiven ( past,present and future) when we get saved. However, when we sin in the present our fellowship with God is broken, estranged. Jesus said to Peter unless I wash you, you have no part of me. ( John 13 I John I :9 says we if we confess our sins, the Lord Jesus will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- Guile or deceit-sly or cunning intelligence; artful deception, crafty. The very definition reminds me of the one who is called the deceiver, the devil himself. Deceit is used to make a good impression upon someone for personal gain or acclaim. In Acts 5, we see the use of guile by Ananias and Sapphira when they tried to represent themselves a being generous givers to the church. Peter was revealed the truth by the Holy Spirit regarding this deceitful act on their part. Listen to whom he credited this source: Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit? Do not think you are above being tempted to deceive others. Notice this act of deceit was within the church, where the enemy lurks to cause any problems he can.
- Hypocrisy-is defined as the practice of claiming to have moral standards and beliefs to which ones behavior does not conform; pretense, insincere. Much was said by the Lord about hypocrisy. The Lord referred to the hypocrisy of the religious acts done publicly to be seen and honored by men. He spoke of this in Matthew 6: 1-18, with their giving, their prayers and their fasting. In some ways, we might conclude, hypocrisy and deceit go hand-in-hand. The question is when you come to worship the Lord in Spirit and Truth on Sunday, do you behave the same way you do on Monday? For the very definition says a hypocrite is one who claims to have moral standards and beliefs but their behavior does not conform to those beliefs. They talk the talk, but do not walk the walk.
- Envy-is one of those words which can be used as a noun or a verb. As a noun it is defined as : a feeling of discontent; or a resentful longing aroused by someone elses possessions, quality or life. As a verb is defined as: to desire a quality or possession of another, i.e., I envy his or her________________ ( you fill in the blank- looks, figure, athletic ability, money, position, etc.)
- Slander(evil speaking) another word that can be used as a noun or verb. As a noun it is defined as : the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a persons reputation. As a verb it is defined as: making false or damaging statements about another person; to libel or defame.
We can see a connecting theme here that all of this comes from our old nature which is self-seeking and prideful. Out of this comes envy for what someone else has which means to covet. Covet is to desire something wrongfully, as in the 10 commandments to covet your neighbors wife. Ananias and Sapphira envied the praise of those who receiving praise in the early church for their generous giving. They desired to have the praise for themselves, not the Lord. Therefore, this led to an act of deceit and hypocrisy.
The first sin in the garden perpetrated by the deceiver the devil, was based on creating a feeling of discontent and thus a resentful longing to eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Lets study this original deception and we will see why Peters Rx for what is spiritually clogging our arteries is in a healthy diet and exercise.
First of all know this about the enemy, the devil: He cannot force anyone to do anything. He depends upon deceit. Return to Genesis 3 and let us study the wiles of the enemy.
- He questions Gods word- for accuracy, authority and acceptance. Did God REALLY say you must not eat from any tree in the garden? A question designed skillfully to cast doubt on Gods Word.
- He calls the Word of God, and thus God, a lie and a liar. And the serpent said unto the woman- you shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day you eat thereof, your eyes will be opened and you shall be as gods, knowing good from evil. Here we see malice- a congealed anger at God by Lucifer with the intention to do evil and cause harm. He uses guile, deceit to accomplish this harm. He pretends to be a helpful person who is exposing a God who is withholding good from Eve and Adam. Satan is a deceiver, the father of all lies, a hypocrite who can appear as an angel of light and quote scripture even to the Lord Jesus. All of this came as pride of his exalted position as high ranking angel in heaven caused him to envy God and fueled a wrongful desire to be worshipped himself. Cast out of heaven with a 1/3rd of the angels in a revolt, in a battle for supremacy. His anger has congealed over the centuries to make him the very personification of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander. Do you not see how active he is today in slandering Gods Word? And thus God Himself? He calls dark- light and light dark and has deceived many until our culture reflects his very character.
- Satans attack is three prong using the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. The first sin should be required study for all believers for it is a blueprint for the marketing and advertising campaign for sin. The essence of almost all advertising is to make you discontent with what you have and desire what is being advertised. Marketings role is to minimize the risk in order to maximize the interest. ( Easy low payments, money back guarantee, satisfaction guaranteed.) Notice what the enemy does first. He takes away the risk. You will surely not die! This allows him to maximize the interest_ you will be as gods. Satan appeals to the mind, the emotions to overrule the will.
- The enemy turns desire into a decision. He makes the sale, based on features, advantages and benefits he cannot deliver. False advertising gets our want to to overrule our should not. But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Dont be DECEIVED, my dear brothers. FOR EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT IS FROM ABOVE, COMING DOWN FROM THE FATHER OF THE HEAVENLY LIGHTS WHO DOES NOT CHANGE LIKE THE SHIFTING SHADOWS.( James 1; 14-17)
So what do we do? Peter is going to tell us what we must do to unclog our spiritual arteries so we have pure hearts. As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk, ( crave the pure milk) so that by it you may grow up, now that you have tasted the Lord is good. ( 1 Peter 2:2,3) You have to change your diet. You have to develop a new taste to satisfy your new nature. The NIV uses the word crave in place of the word desire in the KJV. Having witnessed recently the birth of our grandchildren, I noticed no one needed to teach them to crave milk. It was a natural part of being born, a God-placed instinct for health , growth and nutrition. The craving for the Word of God should be a part of the newborn Christian. How different would our church be if those who came through these doors craved the Word like a newborn craves milk.
Peter tells us it is by the Word of God you grow up in your salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good ( gracious). Interesting in using diet and what we eat and drink as a way of describing this relationship and process of sanctification. We can see things at a distance, as well as hear and smell them at a distance. To taste the Lord and realize His goodness, His graciousness, we must be united with Him. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you. He often used the terms drink, eat as a way of illustrating the process. In John 6, Jesus told the crowd: Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of God will give you. He told the Samaritan woman at the well, He could give her a drink of living water and she would never thirst again, for the water He gave her would become a spring of water welling up to eternal life. ( John 4) He said: I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. ( John 6:35)
Have you tasted the Lord and know for yourself He is good/ gracious? Without a hunger for the Word of God you will not grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. If you are going to enjoy good health- it requires a healthy diet and regular exercise. And do you know what it requires to stay on a healthy diet and a regime of regular exercise? You guessed it- discipline.
Lets explore this term discipline. Discipline is training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.( Mirriam-Webster Dictionary.) Now listen to what Paul wrote to Timothy: All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ( 2 Timothy 3) And our Lord Jesus stated this fact: If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. ( John 8:31,32) A disciple is a learner, a student, a follower. To be a disciple takes discipline. Listen again to Pauls teaching as he writes to Timothy: Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. ( I Timothy 4: 7,8) Godliness requires discipline. Peter and Paul and of course the Lord Jesus are teaching us the truth that discipline is required on our part in order to grow, mature and bear fruit.
God uses three primary catalysts for changing us and conforming us to the likeness of Christ.
- People- as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs27:17)
- Circumstances- we know that in ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called to His purpose. ( Romans 8:28) Financial pressure, health, storms of all kinds.
- Spiritual Disciplines- this catalysts differs from the first two, in that they are external, this is internal, as God works from the inside- out to change us. It also differs also in that we are given a choice regarding our involvement. We have something to do with this process as we place ourselves in the path of Jesus, of Gods grace as we seek Him with all our heart. Remember the story of Zacchaeus? Zach was a short man who wanted to see Jesus. And in his eagerness to do so, he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus. ( Luke 19) Would you do something so foolish as a grown man climbing a tree? What about Blind Bartimaeus? He had heard about Jesus and what He had done. When he heard Jesus was passing by the roadside where he sat, Bart began hollering at the top of his lungs_ Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me? Both of these men received what they sought from the Lord because they put themselves in position to receive. Spiritual disciplines do this and we have to choose to exercise them.
Now here is a truth we must learn from experience. Discipline is the price of freedom. In fact- freedom is the reward of discipline. If you continue in my word, you are my disciples, indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.
Do you want to be free? It takes discipline.
Spiritual Disciplines :
- Bible intake.
- Silence and Solitude
Those of who love basketball are in our favorite season. We have just finished the March Madness of NCAA play offs and now are in the midst of the NBA playoffs. If you have watched any of these games, you will have seen a commercial where a player for the LA Clippers who has amazing ability and a body shaped by years of training, weight lifting and exercise- in other words discipline. He visits himself when he was younger in high school and shows his younger self in this ad what he will look like in the future if he keeps up one thing— practice.
Now if you are a basketball aficionado, one of the most famous was Pistol Pete Maravich, whose ball handling, dribbling between his legs, and behind-the-back passes were amazing, not to mention his shooting prowess that made him the leading scorer in college basketball before the three point shot. He was inducted in the NBA Hall of Fame. Maravich became a Christian in his mid-thirties and died suddenly of a heart attack at age 40. A year before he died, he gave this interview:
The key to my ability was repetition. I practiced and practiced and practiced again. I gave the sport my total commitment. I tried everything I could in every way I could to perfect my skills. It was like an obsession. It paid off for me as a player. I m not so sure in life. If I had given that same devotion then to my faith, which is what I do now, Id have been a better person in the long run.
Are you willing to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness?
There are no shortcuts to any place worth going. ( Beverly Sills, Opera Diva)