Putting off involves fostering a new affection

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:1–3 ESV)

Because our souls have been transformed and our hearts regenerated, we should experience a growing love for those in the community of faith.  This is now further manifested by a “putting away” of old attitudes & behaviors like malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy (jealousy) & slander (unkind speech).  It is interesting that Peter lists these instead of sins like murder, stealing or adultery.  These are relationally intensive sins that destroy community.  When we deceive or conceal the truth we are protecting ourselves or desiring to paint someone else in a bad light.  We think we are better than others, have our own standards, believe that we are superior to others and yet we don’t live up to that which we profess to believe.  We envy someone else’s family, relationships, power, possessions or place in life.  These are destructive things for our own souls and for the community of faith that need to be put off.  This involves intentionality, accountability and reminding that we have been cleansed from such things as these.  As we further understand & experience our adopted nature, we experience a growing supernatural power to put off these things.

Peter encourages not just a putting off, but to crave (instead of other things which produces the attitudes & actions previously listed) pure spiritual milk.  This is how we put off – we foster a new desire, a new want, a new appetite, a new affection.  Peter’s reference to milk does not necessarily indicate that they are immature, but rather that they are to long for, yearn for & lust after God’s word which is the primary way that we come to know God more deeply.  This is so we can grow up into our salvation – we nurture a craving for God.  This craving & longing for God’s word will be present in those who are truly His (ie tasted that the Lord is good [Psalm 34:8]; it started at salvation & continues throughout our lives.

Craving only comes when we have tasted something and find it desirable.  The same is true with God.  If you have never personally tasted the goodness of God then this craving will be impossible to develop.  If you have been satisfied to sit on the periphery and participate in spiritual things on the surface only, then this will be a foreign concept.  You cannot put off envy, jealousy & other relational sins on your own – they must be replaced with something else.  We must crave pure & spiritual milk which changes our behavior.  We must aggressively root out those things (even morally neutral or good things) which produce competing affections for Jesus in our heart.  He is to be uttermost in our affections, when He is not then the fruit of our idolatry presents itself.  The way to kill this fruit is to right our worship which takes intentionality on our part.  Often times we say we are working hard at it, but what we really want is freedom from sin’s entanglements – we don’t really want Jesus alone.

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Faithfulness’s Fuel

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:13–21 ESV)

This section starts with “therefore” which causes us to first reflect on Peter’s previous train of thought which was because God has saved you & is ensuring an inheritance that is spectacular – let us set our hope FULLY on the grace of Jesus Christ!  We are to do this by dwelling on, mulling over & meditating upon true & transcendent things – things which we easily forget.  We have to get outside of ourselves and our worlds and the difficulties that we face and think on ultimate realities.  Realities like this world is transient and is coming to an end, a perfect and never ending kingdom is coming in which we will dwell as sons of God.  God’s undeserved approval has been showered upon us, not because of what we have done or can do, but solely upon His sovereign goodness & grace.

Peter calls us not to be conformed to the “passions of our former ignorance.”  Passions are our inner drives and desires, deep down things, not merely behavioral things.  Peter’s exhortation to his readers is to be like Dad.  Our holiness & sanctification is tied to our identity as His children.  If you read this as a list of what you must do and how you must behave without marrying it to your identity in Jesus Christ then you have departed from the gospel of grace and have embraced a works based righteousness theological system.  The entire book of Galatians is a treatise on how they had departed from the gospel and embraced works based righteousness.  Paul deploys strong words in his epistle to the Galatians like bewitched (3:1), emasculate (5:12) and accursed (1:8) to communicate the danger of departing from grace and embracing works based righteousness.  Gospel oriented sanctification, or grace driven effort, is rooted in what God has done for us and our identity as His children.  It seeks to root out idols of the heart by identifying the false beliefs that drive our external behaviors.  It is root focuses, not fruit focused.  Works based righteousness places the responsibility for change primarily upon our shoulders – it is up to us to manage our sin.  It is primarily focused on our behavior and never asks the deeper question of what is driving our sinful behavior.  It is fruit focused, not root focused.

Our God is our Father and Judge.  We will be called to account for how we stewarded our lives in this world which should strike sobriety in our souls.  We should have a reverent fear and awe of God as we live our lives.  God is still a consuming fire Who is too glorious for man to see; He’s not our buddy, He’s the Almighty Creator who breathes galaxies into place.  Because of our identity as His children, we should walk in ways that are in keeping with our identity – this is not by focusing upon external behavior modification.  The external things that we do that are sinful should be ferociously attacked on the surface to hold them at bay, but the deeper question of what is driving them needs to be answered.  When their source is identified, God can remove the roots that are causing the sin.  We should walk in holy, reverent awe of God as our time as exiles in this world knowing that a perfect place in the presence of God is our future inheritance (a new Eden).

We are to walk in reverent awe (fear) because we were rescued at great cost – the cost was the blood of God Himself.  God died for our sins.  What sacrifice?  He tasted death, wrath & separation; the God who was never created and is perfectly holy was dipped in the disgust of sin, was separated from all goodness and bore His own wrath for me.  I was indeed bought with a price.  We were delivered from a life of meaningless futility where we are constantly chasing after the wind to one of profound significance; He breaks our bondage to generational sins and frees us.

The cross was the plan before time began.  It is not plan “B” because plan “A” did not work out.  Before anything was formed or put into motion, Jesus knew He would die to atone for the sins of His chosen people.  But, this complete revelation was not made known until recently (2000 years ago) for our sake.  Jesus was raised so our hope is firmly planted on the One that death could not hold.  What profound encouragement & glory.  Understanding and embracing that God has bought us with a profound price and that our inheritance is glorious provides fuel for us to walk faithfully.

Joy mingled grief

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3–9 ESV)

Peter is writing to the elect exiles of the dispersion (v1).  We are exiles in a foreign land that long for our true home.  Our hearts cry out with all of creation for the day when all things will be made new; redemption has happened – restoration is sure.  Just as Israel was God’s chosen people, now, Christians are God’s chosen people – His elect inheritance according to His sovereign choosing.

It is because of God’s great mercy that we have been born again (see also Ephesians 2:4-5).  He is the one that has caused this in us.  We now have a living hope, one that will not fail us!  We have been raised from death to life!  This living hope is our inheritance.  What we will one day inherit will not spoil or be spent.  Our inheritance will not be exhausted and it is guarded by the Creator Himself!  This inheritance language conjures up in one’s mind the OT saint’s inheritance of the Promised Land (Num. 32:19; Deut. 2:12; 12:9; 25:19; 26:1; Josh. 11:23; Ps. 105:11) which is really a picture of our return to Eden – the new heaven & new earth.

Our inheritance is secure, nothing can destroy it – quite different than our lives today!  We toil at making life secure, safe & comfortable, only to have things tarnish & break.  Our hope is that one day, all sad things will be made untrue – all things will be made new.  It is God’s power that guards not just our inheritance, but our faith as well.  God is guarding our faith and salvation.  What a relief that it once again does not depend upon me and my faithfulness, but upon God’s.  God will guard us by His sovereign power; He will sustain our faith until the end of time.

We rejoice in God’s mercy towards us.  We rejoice that there is a living hope – our inheritance.  We rejoice, despite the trying difficulties of the trials that we are facing.  These are real & pressing, but when they are COMPARED with the glory that is to come, they become light & momentary (2 Corinthians 4:17).  This is joy mingled with grief.  Real, difficult, toil, but hopeful joy that one day this will all be made new and that He is bringing us in to the true Promised Land.

Our suffering is “necessary.”  Regardless of the flavor of the trials that you face, it has been filtered through the loving, sovereign hands of the Almighty and He deems them “necessary.”  Even though we can’t always see the purpose of our suffering (Job’s reason for his trials were never revealed to Him), we have to trust our good & sovereign Father!  They are necessary to develop our faith, which will not fail us at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Trials & suffering produce an enduring faith in us.  Father, help us to see your glory and set our minds on the things that are to come so that we can see our current sufferings as “light & momentary.”

Be Still & Behold

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah” (Psalms 46:1–11 ESV)

God is the only source of security & strength for our soul when we are hard pressed on every side.  Regardless of whether the world is falling apart due to calamities, natural disasters or man made atrocities, God is the Christian’s refuge & strength, a very present help in trouble.  Instead of the tumulus seas and uncertainty of mountains being tossed into the sea, God’s presence is calming.  Despite kingdoms that rise & fall the grace and goodness of God surpasses them all.

In verse 8, the Psalmist invites the singer to behold the works of the LORD.  Recall and know that God will bring an eternal peace to the earth – a peace that squashes all evil, hardship and rebellion.  A peace that will reign forever.  Peace with God & peace with man.  To understand and experience this power and peace you have to do one thing.  You have to be still and know that He is God.  In the midst of hardships and turmoil and relational strife the world clamors for your attention, you have to be still and know that He is God.  You have to be still & behold His majesty.  It is only in stilling one’s soul that the presence of the Almighty will drown out all of the things of this world.  There is coming a day when there will be no fighting, no crying, no hurt, no pain.  God will be exalted, He will rule & reign, He will make all things new.  There is coming a day that He will make everything right so be still, get in the presence of the Almighty and think on these things.  Let them wash over you and fuel your worship.  God, gives us eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to believe!

The Satiated Soul

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.” (Psalms 63:1–11 ESV)

This psalm of David is not just a corporate song, but is intensely personal as well.  David writes this when he is a refugee, on the run for his life either from Saul (1 Samuel 23:14-15, 24:1) or from Absalom (2 Samuel 15:23-28).  It is more likely that it was written during his time fleeing from Absalom because He refers to himself as king in 63:11 and he also uses the same Hebrew word here as in 2 Samuel 16:14.  The Hebrew word (key 5889 }aœyeœph) means “weary,” “exhausted,” or “faint.”  Regardless of the time, he is hard pressed on every side, oppressed, tired and constantly looking over his shoulder.  Simple pleasures and luxuries are nowhere to be found.  David sees that the presence of God supersedes all earthly comforts & concerns.  So much so that he uses language that displays a desperation for God’s presence more than his deliverance.  He needs God as much as he needs food or water.  The question is, why don’t we desire God this way?  Is it because we are so distracted and have never really tasted His goodness?  Is it because life is so good that we don’t really see a need for Him?

David finds profound confidence in His times of trouble, a confidence that every soul longs for.  When life is difficult, it has the ability to push aside the periphery things that distract and cause us to have laser focus on ultimate things.  David sees that being in the presence of God, in His sanctuary, is a gift that He eagerly longs to partake in.  He knows that the steadfast love of God and being in His presence is better than life itself.  David recalls corporate worship as they are called to behold the power and glory of the LORD.  As we behold God’s glory, we become more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18), Moses asked to see God’s glory (Exodus 33:18) and he shone with the glory of the LORD because he had been in God’s presence (Exodus 34:34).  There is something about being in the presence of the LORD when He reveals His glory to us that changes us; it marks us, it enables us to say (with David) that His “steadfast love is better than life.”  We should do everything that we can to get in His presence.  It is only through beholding the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are transformed over time into more accurate image bearers.  As we see Him more clearly, the Spirit sanctifies us more completely (Gen. 1:26–27; 2 Cor. 4:4; 5:17; also 1 John 3:2)

We have to ask, “do we have an insatiable hunger and thirst for God?”  Why not?  Is it because we’ve not partaken of Him in a way that has touched our souls deeply?  Is it because our faith has been largely intellectual?  Is it because we have rarely or ever seen His glory?  Lord, give us eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to believe.  Show us your glory, fill us with your Spirit, give us believing hearts!  We don’t have the power to do this on our own – we are utterly dependent upon you!

Only an abiding relationship with God provides complete soul satisfaction.  David likens his satiated soul to that of being full after a fine meal (verse 5).  David remembers God and meditates upon His goodness not just in the sanctuary, but everywhere in His life.  What a gift, Lord please give us this gift of seeing you more clearly and desiring you more fully.  Satisfaction & safety are found in the presence of God as David proclaims “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” (Psalms 63:8 ESV).  God’s purposes always prevail, He wins.  We can trust in that!