Sermon series: Holy God, Holy People
At one time, I was a youth pastor in Nashville, Tennessee. In the copy room of the church there was a poster over the copier, with several interesting facts.
Babe Ruth was homerun king and strike out leader at the same time.
Thomas Edison designed over 500 light bulbs before he got one to work.
Henry Ford forgot to put a reverse in the first car he built.
William Jennings Bryant invited the land-locked country of Switzerland to a naval convention.
I think the point of the poster was, no matter who we are, we will make some mistakes along the way. I have learned that the real difference between a successful life and a failed life is not in the ability of the person. It is the desire in the person. Maybe you have heard the old Southern statement, "it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog." The secret of a successful Christian life is not in victories or perfection, but in the desire, drive, and determination of the believer.
I. The diet of a holy people (vv. 1-3)
Peter starts his definition of the successful Christian life by looking at our diet. He points out foods to remove from our diet, and foods to introduce. In the removal of bad food, Peter lists wickedness, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. In dietary terms, these are junk foods, loaded with empty calories and no nutritional value.
You have no doubt heard about the Atkins diet or the South Beach diet. Both diets attempt to remove many of the carbohydrates in our meals and replace them with protein. In those diets, "carbs" are bad. In Peter's diet there is a list of what we are not to eat.
Now we can spend a great deal of time discussing each one of these items and why Peter urges us to rid ourselves of them, but I think we all know why. It is obvious that each item is opposite of the nature of Christ and would lead us into a life that would prevent the Fruit of the Spirit from growing in us.
There was a Christian comedian several years ago who said that he thought the Bible was a book of don'ts. But after he got saved he said found all the do's. His philosophy was if we focused on the do's we wouldn't have time to do the don'ts. Rather than focusing on what we are not to do, let's focus on what we are to do.
We are to have a diet of unadulterated spiritual milk. Peter uses two terms to describe the spiritual food we are to feast on. One is unadulterated. This word means to dilute, lessen, taint, pollute, or weaken. We have pasteurized milk, homogenized milk, skim milk, whole milk, 2-percent milk, and who know how many other kinds. In country terms, Peter is talking about milk straight from the udder. Nothing has been added to it, nothing has been taken away, and it has not been altered.
The second word Peter uses is milk. Milk is associated with a baby's diet. My son recently turned one year old, and his doctor moved him to whole milk. He explained that he was now moving into a stage where we needed to grow bones and teeth. Milk also helps with vitamins and immunities. Our spiritual diet should build strength and fight immunities.
So what is the milk that Peter says we should be drinking? Scripture. Just a few verses back in 1:25 we read, "But the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word that was preached as the gospel to you." Peter urges us to drink from the pure and nutritious Word of God, the Bible.
There is an epidemic in churches across America: Most people who regularly attend church are Biblically illiterate. In his book, The Habits of Highly Effective Churches, George Barna, argues that growing and effective churches have an intentional, systematic Biblical education process. He states that his research indicates that less than 10 percent of all born-again Christians have a Biblical worldview that shapes their thinking (Regal Books 1999, pg. 131). That means that more than 90 percent of Christians don't have enough Scriptural knowledge to build a Biblical worldview. Some may argue that they have the knowledge but they are not using it. I would argue that in Scripture part of what it means to be a Christian is to live in accordance with them. I don't think it is an application problem. I think it is a knowledge problem.
Have you seen the TV commercials and shows with pictures of malnourished children from third-world countries? Their skeletons are visible beneath their skin, their bellies are bloated, and their eyes are glassy from a lack of strength and energy. Unfortunately that is the spiritual picture of most churches in America. We are spiritually malnourished and not feasting on the rich, pure milk of God's Word. How much time do you spend in Bible reading, verses watching TV? Are you a part of a Bible study group, or are you too busy to give your time to it? How many this morning brought a Bible, or will read it some time this week outside of church?
Peter wants to build the strong skeleton that will support our spiritual bodies. To do that, we have to quit eating the junk foods - foods that are full of empty calories and have no nutritional value - and begin eating the pure, rich, milk of God's Word.
II. The desire of a holy people (vv. 4-5)
The diet of a holy people is important to spiritual success, but so also is the design of a holy people. Peter moves from the internal issue of what we eat, to the external nature of how we are built. As with food, there is something to reject and something to embrace.
Peter says that we come to a living stone, one rejected by men and accepted by God. He tells us that when we come to that stone, we become living stones as well, stones which are used to build a spiritual house for a holy priesthood. What a great passage.
First all of Peter describes Jesus as a living stone. You remember that it was Peter who made the great confessions that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus told Peter, "upon this rock I will build my church." So Christ is the living stone.
But Jesus was also rejected by men. When Jesus was on the earth, the religious leaders of the day opposed him continually, and eventually convinced others to join them in crucifying Jesus. Jesus experienced a great deal of rejection and opposition during his ministry on earth.
Finally, God used the death of Jesus on the cross as the cornerstone of what would be the church. The one thing that unifies all believers everywhere into one body is that we believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, God's only Son.
But Peter goes on to say we are living stones. How is possible for Christ to be the living stone and for us to be declared living stones? Because, when we accept Christ, He comes to live within us. That also means that we identify with His life. Paul writes in Philippians 3:10, "My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death."
Oftentimes we go straight to the power. We want to know the power of His resurrection. And that is great, and we can know that, but look at the path that leads to that power. Do we want to know the fellowship of His sufferings, or be conformed to His death? Jesus, though rejected by men, was focused on doing God's will. The path for us is the same. To find the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we must be willing to endure the rejection of the world, be focused on the will of God, and die to an old nature.
When I was a teenager, someone gave me a Petra tape. On it was a song called "God pleaser." The message of the song was very simple: Do you want to be a man pleaser or a God pleaser? It was clear that you could not do both.
To be a great spiritual house, and have spiritual success, we have to decide who we are building our lives for. If we want to please the world, then we will build for money, position, prestige, comfort, and ease. We will build in selfish ways. But if we build for God, then we must start with His cornerstone, Jesus. Everything in the building lines up with that one living stone. And as we follow God's leading we will begin to see a spiritual success build in our lives.
That does not mean it will always be easy. We, too, will face our share of rejection and opposition from the world. Will we conduct our business in fair and just ways. Will we remain faithful to our spouse and children? Will we give up some of the so-called "luxuries" of life, so serve Christ and His kingdom? There are some hard decisions down this road, but to be a God pleaser is to build life God's way.
III. The destination of a holy people (vv. 6-7)
Peter has pointed us to success by looking inward at our diet, by looking outward the life we are building and now he points us forward, by stressing the finish line of our faith. Like earlier there is a word of rejection and acceptance here.
Peter tell us that those who put their faith in Jesus as their cornerstone will not be rejected and put to shame. In fact he says that God will honor us. This honor or rejection will take place in the final judgment in the future. But Peter is telling us what we decide now will determine honor or shame. So how does one know if they will be honored by God or rejected in shame by Him?
In the FAITH evangelism strategy, there is the key question, "In your personal opinion, what you understand that it takes for a person to get to heaven?" Time and time again I am shocked by the number of people who begin to talk about something they have done. Most people have the idea that God has a big scale in heaven. When you arrive, He will take all the good stuff you have ever done and put it on one side of the scale, and all the bad stuff on the other side. Then if there is more good than bad, you get to go into heaven. That is not at all what the Bible teaches.
The ultimate decision on God's acceptance or rejection of a person is tied to their acceptance or rejection of Jesus. It is not our works that will save us, but our relationship with God's Son. Those who know Jesus as their Savior and Lord will be welcomed into heaven.
But what about this honor from God Peter mentions? Oftentimes I am invited to attend a banquet or a dinner in honor of a person. Usually at some point in the program several people talk about the character and achievements of the individual. In this way they are honoring them. James 2:17 tells us "faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself." Now this work has nothing to do with salvation, it has to do with the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Think of it this way: preparation leads to production. When we build our lives around the cornerstone, Jesus Christ, we will desire the diet and design of God. Once Jesus becomes the central focus of our life, we will loose our taste for junk food and desire the rich, pure milk of God's Word. When we grow in our relationship with Jesus, we will care less about what the world thinks and more about what pleases God. When the cornerstone is laid, it points to the destination of the building. If the cornerstone is self, then a selfish life will be produced. If the cornerstone is Jesus, then the life of Christ will begin to be grafted into our life. If we prepare ourselves through diet and desire, we can expect the power of the Holy Sprit to produce spiritual success in our lives.
For spiritual success to be our destination we must pay attention to our diet, and desire. What is your spiritual destination right now? Are you on a path to rejection and shame, or acceptance and honor? You can change your destination. You can move from rejection to acceptance if you will accept Jesus. Will you make Him your cornerstone? What about your diet? Are you filling your spiritual life full of junk food or are you feasting on the rich, pure milk of God's Word? What about your desires? Are you a man pleaser or a God pleaser? Spiritual success is tied to a secure destination, a strong diet, and a sincere desire to please God. How successful is your spiritual life?