Sermon by Rev. Daniel L. Sonnenberg | August 28, 2011
1 Therefore, having gotten rid of all malice, all deceit, insincerity, envy, and every type of slander, 2 like newborn babies desire the pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation, 3 since you have tasted the Lord’s kindness.
Last time we finished chapter one. It ended by telling us that we have been born again into a new life that will last forever because “it comes from the eternal, living word of God.”
Today’s passage picks up where we left off. It tells us since we have been born again by the Word of God, we should be aware of several things about the Word and we should actively pursue one particular thing. It tells us,
- What the word destroys,
- What the word creates,
- The goal of the word,
- The starting point of the word,
First, it tells us,
What the Word destroys
It destroys the desire for things contrary to God’s word. Listen to verse 1.
1 … having gotten rid of all malice, all deceit, insincerity, envy, and every type of slander…
The verb translated “gotten rid of” has the meaning taking something off, or shedding, or discarding, or laying aside old clothing.
When the word of God penetrates our soul unto salvation, one aspect of this salvation is the gift of repentance. God’s Spirit enables us to repent, or turn away from a way of life – we get rid of, shed, discard, or throw away our former manner of life that is contrary to God’s word.
At age 20, I was given the gift of repentance. I began to see that though I knew the right thing to do, more and more I desired to do otherwise and was following through on those desires. I was living what felt like a double life, even attending church fairly frequently. Yet I was participating regularly in things that were forbidden by God’s Word. I realized that I was a slave to my sinful desires and that I needed a power greater than my own to set me free.
The new birth through the Word of God sets us free from the power of sin. We are no longer slaves to:
- Malice – the desire to hurt someone with our words or deeds
- Deceit –the desire to gain some advantage over another by means of ulterior motives
- Insincerity or hypocrisy – any type of pretense or inconsistency between belief and practice, inward thought and outward action, behavior in the church and behavior at home or school or marketplace. “Hypocrites in the church.”
- Envy – the desire for some privilege or benefit that belongs to another with resentment that another has it and you don’t
- Slander – the desire for revenge and self-benefit, often driven by a desire to deflect attention from our own failings. The worse we can make another appear, the better we appear.
Because we never reach perfection in this life, we continue to struggle with these, but they no longer rule over us. The word of God planted in us by the Spirit in salvation destroys their power.
We have looked at what the word of God destroys, now let’s look at
What the Word creates
It creates a desire or longing for the word of God. Not only this, we are commanded in this verse to pursue this longing. We are commanded to feel longings. Look at verse 2.
2 like newborn babies desire the pure spiritual milk…,
The word “desire” here is the same as we read earlier in Psalm 42, “As the deer longs for the water, so my soul longs for you, O Lord.”
But “desire” here is in the imperative mood, the only imperative in this passage. We are commanded to desire, to actively seek, rather than merely passively receive something.
What are we to actively desire? We are to desire or long for what is called “the pure spiritual milk.” Milk elsewhere in the NT is pictured as basic teaching for new converts. Milk is appropriate nourishment for newborn babies. Milk here is symbolic of appropriate spiritual nourishment for new believers and believers in general. Milk here is symbolic of the Word of God. This is a call to dependence on God’s word. This is the main point of the passage – we should actively depend on God’s word for spiritual nourishment as newborn babies depend on milk for their nourishment.
What kind of “milk” should we drink? It tells us to drink “pure” milk. This is intended to be the opposite of “deceit” in the previous verse. There is no deceit or untruth in it. It can be trusted.
Further, it is “spiritual” milk. This word is used elsewhere only in Rom 12:1 that says, “this is your spiritual or reasonable service,” meaning that which pertains to the rational word or logos.
This is no doubt “the word that was preached to you” or “the living and enduring word of God in previous verses 23 and 25 of chapter 1.
Therefore, Christians are encouraged to continue to immerse themselves in the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, not to leave behind what they learned when they were converted.
In what period of your life do you feel that you experienced the greatest degree of spiritual growth? Do you remember what was happening in your life at that time, or what you were doing to encourage that growth?
For me it was immediately after my conversion during the year and a half after becoming a Christian at age twenty. I was attending the Chapel Hill Bible Church and InterVarsity Fellowship, but that was not all. I felt so hungry for God’s word, I read it while I was eating breakfast, lunch and dinner when I was alone – even though I’d had a Bible for years. I listened to Christian teaching on the radio, I enjoyed worship services as never before and I shared my new faith with my co-workers and boss. It wasn’t because I was trying harder, it was because my heart had come alive by the work of the Spirit and I wanted to do these things.
This passage tells us not to leave that desire behind just because we’re no longer newborn Christians. It tells us to continue to pursue this desire.
This is good news for the person who thinks you are stuck the way you are, that you will never experience any more of God than you once did. This is what John Piper calls spiritual fatalism – the “feeling that genetic forces and family forces of your past experiences and present circumstances are too strong to allow me to ever change and become more zealous for God, more fervent, more delighted in God, more hungry for fellowship with Christ, or more at home with spiritual things, more bold, or more constant or joyful or hopeful.”
He says spiritual fatalism takes away hopes and dreams of change and growth. It’s like saying to a gawky little girl who feels like her body is all out of proportion: well, that’s the way you are, and you will always be that way, when in fact she I meant to grow and change. Physical fatalism says that her growth is stopped at age 13. Spiritual fatalism is even worse because we are meant to keep changing to the end of our lives. We never fully arrive spiritually like we do physically.
We are not meant to live year after year without much passion or zeal for God, or hope in his promises, thinking that’s just the way I am. We are not meant to just settle in – like an adolescent who stops growing and lives with pimples till he’s eighty.
But what if you don’t feel these longing for the Word? This passage says, “Go get them.” How can God command us to feel longings we don’t have? It would be like commanding a lame man to walk, wouldn’t it? Remember: God gives what he commands.
We’ve looked at what the Word destroys and what the Word creates, let’s look at
The goal of the Word –
The goal of the Word is to enable us to “grow up to salvation” …so that by it you may grow up to salvation…
Newborns are not meant to remain children forever. They are meant to grow up into adults. Likewise, newborn Christians are not meant to remain infants in the faith. We are meant to continue to grow into our salvation.
God is like the mother who buys clothing one or two or more sizes bigger than the child, so that he or she can grow into them. Likewise, God’s word enables us to continue to grow into the quadruple X salvation we will receive when we will receive as a reward when Christ returns.
We’ve looked at what the Word destroys, what the Word creates, the goal of the word, finally, let’s look at
The starting point of the Word –
The starting point of the word is the kindness of the Lord.
V3 “…if you have tasted of the kindness of the Lord”
In keeping with the metaphor of food, the image here is that of taste, like what we read earlier in Psa 34, “Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the person who takes refuge in him.”
Tasting speaks of our experience with the Lord. We have tasted of the kindness of the Lord when we heard the Gospel as in verse 25. We were born again because of God’s kindness through the word of God. It all began with the kindness of the Lord, and it was accomplished through the preaching of the Gospel through his word.
It can be translated, if you have tasted or since you have tasted. Have you tasted of the kindness or the goodness of the Lord in salvation? Have you allowed the Word to penetrate your heart to let the process begin, or like a rebellious child, have you refused to even taste the nutritious milk being offered to you in the word? I urge you to taste and see that the Lord is good, to receive the blessings he promises when Christ returns.
For those who have tasted of the kindness of the Lord. What has your experience been lately? Has your experience with the Lord left a good taste or bad taste, so to speak, in your mouth? Many people today say, I’m good with the Lord, but I can’t get over what happened to me in the church. May I suggest that it’s the Lord’s church, and if you have a bad taste with his church you have a bad taste with Him? The place to start to renew your heart with the Lord is with his Word. Let his Word remind you of his kindness and promise to work in and through your circumstances for his glory and your good.
I too felt disappointed with and angry about the church about the time I began seminary. I realized in time, that really, I was angry with and disappointed in God himself for allowing such things to happen in the church. But the more I studied Scripture, I discovered that God works all things for his glory and for my good at the same time even when it hurts.
So remember, even though we may no longer be newborn babies in Christ, we are still dependent on God’s word…
- Remember what the Word destroys – it destroys desires that are contrary to God’s word and will
- Remember what the Word creates – it creates the desire in you to continue to actively pursue longing for his word
- Remember the goal of the Word – is to enable you to grow into your salvation
- Remember the starting point of the Word – is daring to taste or taste again the kindness of the Lord
Click here for the series of twenty-three sermons on the entire book of 1 Peter.