Living out our Hope: Longing for the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23-25; 2:2-3)
Welcome to Living Hope! We are continuing our series in 1 Peter. We have invested several weeks in the first chapter as we have been dissecting the implications of our great salvation. We talked about how God expects us to respond to Him in light of this salvation (1 Pet. 1:13-21) and last week, how God expects us to respond to His people (1 Pet. 1:22, 2:1). Today, we are going to look at how God expects us to respond to His Word in 1 Pet. 1:23-25; 2:2-3. The title of the message is “Living out our Hope: Longing for the Word of God.”
Only one point for us today. How does God want you to respond to His Word? What is the attitude God is looking for in regards to His Word? Look at 1 Pet. 2:2. Here it is:
I want to go over four reasons why we must eagerly long for the Word of God. But before I do that, let’s go over Peter’s point in 1 Pet. 2:2. I originally had the word “ardent,” which means “very enthusiastic or passionate.” It literally means “burning.” I wanted to use that adverb with the word the text uses, which is “long,” but decided to use eagerly instead. “Long” is a word which means “to have a strong desire for something, with implication of need. It means to long for, have great affection for, yearn for someone or something.” Other translations say “crave” (NIV, NLT). It is an imperative, meaning a command or a call to decisive action. So it is not an option. David says, “As the deer PANTS for flowing streams, so my soul PANTS for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1). Same idea.
Notice what he did not say. He does not say read the Word, teach the Word, study the Word, memorize the Word or even preach the Word, though they are important and there are other portions of Scripture that tell us to do those things (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 119:11; Acts 17:11; 1 Tim. 4:11, 13; 2 Tim. 2:15; 4:2). Instead, Peter is after the heart. He is after the motivation. He does not want us to have a “have to” attitude, but a “want to” and a “get to” attitude. Because honestly, if you do not desire the Word, you will not read, teach, study, memorize or preach the Word. God expects that of us because everything flows out of that. This is the foundation of it all. We’ll get more into that later, but let’s talk first about the reasons to long for the Word of God. First of all:
a) The Word is living (1 Pet. 1:23a)
Look at 1 Pet. 1:23. He had just been talking about loving the people of God earnestly. One of the points that came from last week was that we have the capacity to love since God saved us when we obeyed the truth and He cleansed us. So here again Peter says the same thing on why you can love earnestly: “since you have been born again.” Peter is back to the Father-child imagery again. Like he said in 1 Pet. 1:3, he says again that God is a Father who gave us new life with a new capacity. He then goes into a small tangent about how God made us alive and he says it was through the “living and abiding Word of God.”
He compares the Word of God to a seed. Where else in Scripture is the Word of God compared to seed? The Parable of the Sower, where Jesus says clearly, the seed is the Word of God (Luke 8:11). Peter may have been thinking of that, but it seems like he is referring more to human reproduction than plants. So just as a human father’s seed is part of creating life, the Word of God also is like a seed that creates life. However, the human father has a child and he/she eventually dies. They are perishable. However, when God the Father has a child, he/she is imperishable. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery adds, “A seed is a product and a producer, a small investment with large potential value, an essential detail, a step in a continuum of reproduction. Though one, it becomes many through death. It is a treasury, an allotment, an investment whose yield depends on its environment…At a physical level, the image of seed is preeminently of the potential for life and generation.”
The seed takes the character of its source. So going back to loving the people of God earnestly, Peter is saying when you were born again, your Heavenly Father’s nature was given to you. You can be holy as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:14-16), and you can love because that’s who God is and His Spirit is in you, enabling you to love. I don’t want to beat the proverbial dead horse here, so I hope that’s clear. Let’s talk about the living Word of God.
Believers, the Bible is living because the Author is living. Martin Luther says, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.” The author of Hebrews says, “the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword..” (Heb. 4:12). We deeply long for the Word of God because the Author deeply longs for us to know Him through His Word. It’s alive! Do you ever feel like in reading a good book you wish the author was sitting next to you so you can ask questions and dialogue with him/her? You can with the world’s greatest best seller! Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). Peter is reminding us that it was the Word that was preached to us (1 Pet. 1:25) and saved us. How can a book do that? Because it’s alive!
We talked about wanting to be whole when we talked about holiness. That’s what everybody wants and God wants that for you. Don’t you want to be a whole person? Don’t you want to be the best employee or student you can be? The best husband or wife or parent? The best sibling or child? The best servant of God here at Living Hope? Don’t you want encouragement in trial? How does God accomplish all that in you? He does it through His living Word. And if you never bother to open it, how is that life going to breathe life into you? Your new life began with the Word of God and it continues with the Word of God. This is why we preach the Word of God here at Living Hope. I can preach until I am blue in my face, but I know it is not he who plants or he who waters, but God who gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6-7). He gives the increase because He is alive and His Word is alive.
You may sit through service and sometimes wonder, “Has the preacher been reading my journal? It feels like he’s speaking right at me!” Well, I can tell you how you are feeling that: the Word of God is living. I can’t tell you how many times the Word of God has gone HD and 3-D on me. The other day I was working on a message and suddenly this wave of doubt and despair hit me. I started thinking, “What’s the point of this? Does anyone really care? Why am I doing this?” Then I was upset because I was lacking motivation. Guess what I was studying? 1 Pet. 1:18. God has ransomed me from futility! Jesus is worthy of my best this week! God stopped me right away from that and I was repenting and rejoicing in the kind way He grabbed my heart. He refueled me and got me going again. The Word of God is living!
Even last week, I left church really amazed again with a confirmation God is speaking here. The message was on loving the people of God. We had a servant team meeting and for this meeting, Pastor Chieng and a couple of the deacon board joined us to discuss some things. A lot of our struggle, as you know, comes because of generation gaps, cultural gaps, language gaps and gaps even in how we do ministry. As I was sitting there, I realized the application of that Sunday’s message for me was right there. How perfect is God’s timing! The gaps between us are filled by loving them earnestly. Do I love TM earnestly? Or do I just try to survive with them? Because that message was preached, I found myself with a new capacity to love. The Word of God is living! Eagerly long for the Word because it alone can give you life.
Also, because Scripture is living, use Scripture as much as you can in your witnessing. If you are sharing verses, make them read them (hopefully you are not using King Jameth Versioneth). And ask them what that verse means to them. Then take a verse like John 3:16 and have them insert their name where it says, “world” and “whosoever.” Your words might help, but God’s Word is what convicts and brings life because it’s living! Eagerly long for the Word because of it. Secondly,
b) The Word is lasting (1 Pet. 1:23b-25)
Look again at 1 Pet. 1:23-25: “The living and abiding Word of God.” Peter is showing you how living and abiding the Word is in his own heart, as he quotes Is. 40:6 and 8. He says “all flesh” meaning all humans and animals have a similarity to grass. All three are here today and gone tomorrow. Sometimes among the grass, some colorful flowers spring up in its beauty. Peter may have been thinking about Jesus talking about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (Matt. 6:25-34) in His “Don’t be anxious” passage. At any rate, whether you have ordinary grass or uniquely beautiful flowers, they all “wither,” which means it literally dries out or become parched. Even the most beautiful flower “falls” or perishes.
John Macarthur says, “Think of the best of flesh, the best of man’s life, the best of human kind…beauty. The most beautiful of human beings, the healthiest, the strongest, the most honored, the most articulate, the wisest, the most profound, the most gifted, think of the flower of man, art, music, education, culture, architecture, the genus of man, the greatness of man. And that’s the flower. But it dies like the common man. In the grave, prince and pauper lie side by side. Everything of the flesh dies. Generations come and go and like the leaves of each successive year, they die and decay. If some men…if some men may be momentarily conspicuous, standing out among the multitudes, if some men may be momentarily distinguished by rank or riches or learning or status or great deeds or triumphs or successes, all these glories of man are no more abiding than the grass. And though some men’s lives be a rare flower, delicate and gorgeous, shining in brightness among the common grass, nevertheless it has no permanence, it has no longer lease on life, it droops, it withers, it fades, it dies. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And the dust of Caesar is no more regal than the dust of a beggar.”
Everything is perishable. The Word of God he says in 1 Pet. 1:23 is imperishable. This is the third time in this chapter he has used this word (1 Pet. 1:4 and 18 the others). We have an imperishable (not subject to decay) inheritance. We have a redemption bought with the imperishable blood of Christ and we are born again through the imperishable Word of God. The Word of God endures.
The Bible has withstood the attack of man for 3,500 years. Emperor Diocletian tried to eradicate it and in 303 A.D. he proclaimed an edict requiring Christians to destroy their Bibles but within 25 years, the next emperor ordered 50 copies be made and distributed at government expense! Atheists also have failed to stamp it out. Voltaire, the French atheist (1778) boasted that within 100 hundred years of his lifetime, Christianity would be swept from earth but only 50 years after his death, his own printing press and house were being used by the Geneva Bible Society to produce Bibles! God does have a sense of humor! As recently as 1899, atheist Robert Ingersoll said: “In twenty five years the Bible will be a forgotten book.” And now Ingersoll is forgotten and the Word of God is still here! The Word of God lasts forever. It is here to stay!
Did you know that the United Bible Societies report that their network of organizations distributed 633 million portions of Scripture throughout the world in the year 2000. In 2001, Gideons International placed and distributed more than 56 million complete copies of God’s Word worldwide. That averages more than one million copies every week—107 copies a minute! With a total circulation well into the tens of billions, the Bible is definitely preeminent in its circulation. It is everlasting! Eagerly long for this Word that is lasting!
The other day I was home with Abbie and I noticed her whispering something. It was probably to her toes, which she has affectionately named as “kolo.” As I listened carefully, I heard her whispering, “Eat it!” over and over again. I thought this was really odd initially, until it hit me. Usually before she sleeps we go over a Bible story. She has her own little kid’s Bible. Once I had taught her what happened to Adam and Eve. And in my attempt to make the Bible come alive, I had told her that the snake said to Eve in a creepy, shady, whispering voice, “Eat it!” Most of the time I think she is not listening, but then I realized she was in fact soaking it all up! Hopefully she learns not to listen to the Enemy!
We have no control over our children’s salvation. At some point, they must choose to follow Christ or not. But one thing we can do. We can give them the living and abiding Word of God. I am like grass. We are all like grass. We will wither and die, but God’s Word will remain. And if my child is wandering from the Lord when he/she is older and don’t want to listen to me, what I want most of all is for God’s Word to keep talking to him/her! It is alive and lasting. God’s Word will endure forever because the Author endures forever. It is lasting. Eagerly long for it. Thirdly,
c) The Word is nourishing (1 Pet. 2:2)
We get to Peter’s point in 1 Pet. 2:2. Believer’s need God’s Word like a newborn baby needs milk. Think about a newborn, which we will have really shortly! John Macarthur writes, “That sole and desperate hunger for milk is the newborn’s first expressed longing designed by God to correspond to their greatest need, and it illustrates how strongly believers ought to desire the Word. It is singular and relentless because life depends on it.” They long for milk! I mean they let the entire neighborhood know how much they long for it! You can try to feed a newborn a cracker or even a bag of potato chips, but it will not do him any good. He/she wants milk! Listen, a hungry infant is a healthy infant and a hungry Christian is a healthy Christian.
Peter is not saying they are baby Christians. In other places, God’s Word says stop drinking milk and start eating meat (Heb. 5:12-14). In other words, it’s time to grow up, but here he is saying, you never want to grow up from desiring God’s Word like an infant desiring milk. Milk of God’s Word, one commentator notes, is “…the very substance of life, comprising that which all Christians need to progress in their spiritual lives.” Notice why we should long for it according to Peter: “that by it you may grow up to salvation.” Milk does a body good. Babies long for milk that will help them grow physically and believers should long for God’s Word to help them grow spiritually. Grasp for the Word like babies do their bottle!
Notice what kind of milk it is: pure. Pure means “unadulterated or uncontaminated and often referred to farm products such as grain, wine, vegetable oil, or in this instance milk. Believers are to crave what is unmixed and pure, that provides real sustenance.” It is not fake milk. It is not 2% or 1% or that nasty soy milk. Merchants in those days would add water to their milk to make a profit. It was deceitful milk. By the way, make sure you don’t drink watered down milk from so-called televangelists and preachers who are not preaching from the Word of God. That is not going to nourish you. Don’t settle either just for devotional books or sermons or Christian blogs or websites. Nothing is pure as the Word. It alone nourishes you. It is not going to deceive you.
See that right from the text in 1 Pet. 2:2. Why long for the Word? Because by it you may grow up to salvation. That is the purpose. Not just information, or even formation, but transformation. “Grow” here is in the present tense, indicating not an accomplished feat, but continually growing. Peter Davids says, “Likewise on the natural level birth is not the end of a process, with life being a static gift, but the beginning of a process of life culminating in full maturity, a concept also familiar in Paul (e.g., Rom. 5:9; 13:11; 1 Cor. 1:18).”
Unlike physical growth which is limited by age, spiritual growth goes on forever. As a parent checks their child’s diet and growth continually, God checks ours to see if we are being nourished by the Word of God. Eagerly long for this Word because that alone nourishes you. If you are not being nourished by it, you are not growing. It is impossible to be nourished in your soul apart from the Word of God.
Notice that Peter’s point about longing for the Word of God is mixed in with relating with the people of God in 1 Pet. 1:22-2:3. Is there a connection? Absolutely! I mentioned this briefly last week. The vertical relationship between you and God is mixed with the horizontal relationship between you and people. If the Word of God is not nourishing you, it will show in your relationships. I can tell if you are growing in the Word when I see how you are relating to people. So if God’s Word is not nourishing you, you will be chewing on relational sin (1 Pet. 2:1). You will chew it until it eats you alive. Are you being nourished by the Word of God? Sometimes it is social sin that dulls our appetite. As the saying goes, the Bible will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible.
Eagerly long for the Word of God because it alone nourishes us. I love some of your desire to be in Sunday School to make sure you are being nourished by the Word. It means a lot to me! I pray you always have that appetite for God’s Word. But make sure you are not eating once or twice a week. My great desire is that when we open God’s Word up week after week you will leave her not full, but hungry for more of it yourselves. Most of you are serving in some capacity. It will be impossible to serve God here at Living Hope if you are trying to “serve food” so to speak without eating yourselves.
Have you ever been on an airplane and heard the fight attendant say, “For those of you traveling with small children, in the event of an oxygen failure, first place the mask on your own face and then place the mask on your child’s face”? I think that is wise advice on another level as well. You need to make sure you are taking in God’s Word for yourself. Otherwise you are suffocating yourself and eventually you will be running on empty to help others survive. Eagerly long for the Word of God believers. It nourishes you. Lastly,
d) The Word is satisfying (1 Pet. 2:3)
Notice Peter going at the heart motivation again in 1 Pet. 1:3: if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. He is appealing to their conversion. He’s saying, “I don’t have to prove to you that He is good. You have experienced His goodness and grace when He saved you. So don’t you want to taste some more?” He is not preaching this, but demonstrating the power of God’s Word in his own life as he quotes Ps. 34:8 which says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”
The Word will personally satisfy you. Jeremiah says, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart…” (Jer. 15:16). The Psalmist says, “How I love your law” (Ps. 119:97). He says it over and over again in that Psalm. Why does the Word satisfy us? This is because you are created with a God-sized hole in your heart. Only God can truly fill it.
Pastor Stephen Cole says, “The image of milk and of tasting the Lord’s kindness brings up the fact that the Word is not just to fill your head with knowledge. It is to fill your life with delight as you get to know the Divine author and enjoy Him in all His perfections. Taste points both to personal experience and enjoyment. I can’t taste for you, nor you for me. We can only taste for ourselves. To taste something, we’ve got to experience it up close. You can see and hear and smell at a distance, but you can only taste something by touching it to your tongue. You can only taste God’s Word by drawing near to God and personally appropriating the riches of knowing Him. Once you like the taste of something, you don’t just eat it to live; you live to eat it. You want it as often as you can get it. God’s Word is that way for all who have tasted His kindness.”
What whets your appetite? It does not matter how great a dinner my wife cooks if I decide to stop by McDonalds before coming home and eat a couple of big macs. I will not be interested. There is no surprise if you have no hunger for the Word if you are full of the world’s junk food. If you remember when we went to Feed My Starving Children, we learned about how poor people in Haiti, because of the rising food costs, take mud, add some vegetable shortening and salt for sustenance. It is sad and unfortunate, but do you know what is worse? Christians who fill themselves with the mud pies of internet surfing and mindless entertainment and have no time or appetite for the pure milk of God’s Word.
The Word satisfies. It satisfies because it meets us where we are. We don’t only read it, it reads us. It is not about understanding it, but it understanding us. We long to be understood, to be encouraged, to be comforted and blessed. Since the Word of God is living, lasting and nourishing, it is also satisfying because only God knows how to meet us where we are and change us.
Now you may be thinking here, how do I get to the place where I eagerly long for the Word of God? How can God command me to eagerly long when I don’t have it? Who says you cannot have it? That’s the first problem. John Piper calls it “spiritual fatalism.”
He writes, “A great threat to salvation and to our growth toward salvation (v. 2) is what I would call spiritual fatalism—the belief or feeling that you are stuck with the way you are—“this is all I will ever experience of God—the level of spiritual intensity that I now have is all I can have; others may have strong desires after God and may have deep experiences of personal pleasure in God, but I will never have those because … well, just because … I am not like that. That’s not me.
Spiritual fatalism is tragic in the church. It leaves people stuck. It takes away hopes and dreams of change and growth. It squashes the excitement of living—which is 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 is meant to grow and change. That would be tragic to convince her of a kind of physical fatalism—that her growth is stopped right there at 13. So it is with the spirit. Only spiritual fatalism is much worse. Because greater things are at stake, and because we never do get to a point where we’ve arrived at the final stature like we do in our physical bodies.
So thousands of people live year after year without much passion for God or zeal for his name or joy in his presence or hope in his promises or constancy in his fellowship and feel—well, that’s just the way I am. And they just settle in—like an adolescent who stops growing and lives with pimples till he’s 80.”
Listen, God commands you to desire and creates the desire for the command. But if you are convinced by the devil’s lie that you cannot, you will not. So turn from the lie of spiritual fatalism. Secondly, remember how you were saved. Faith came by hearing the Word of God. If you have been born again, God has put His Spirit within you to desire what you cannot desire on your own. Remember when you got saved. God created life in you! Why can’t He breathe life in you again? Remember when the Word did come alive for you. Was it not some amazing times? Living Hope, you cannot live out your hope without this. It is urgent!
Thirdly, change your lifestyle. Perhaps because of the lie of spiritual fatalism or the lie that you will fail if you start or the lie that you will not get anything out of it or the lie that you have too much to do, you replace the pure milk with cheap substitutes that have left you so hungry. What changes can you make in your lifestyle? I’m convicted that I feed on too much entertainment that fills up my mind with useless junk. God longs to speak to us beloved. Don’t you want to hear what He has to say? I guess this is why three times in the Bible God says, “Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Let’s pray for a eager longing for the Word of God.
Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English Dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hurt, Bruce. “1 Pet. 2:1-6 Commentary” http://preceptaustin.org/1peter_verse_by_verse_21-12.htm#2:2 accessed 22 April 2010.
Ryken, L., Wilhoit, J., Longman, T., Duriez, C., Penney, D., & Reid, D. G. (2000). Dictionary of Biblical Imagery(electronic ed.) (770). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Taken from http://midcitychristian.blogspot.com/2009/10/bible-is-alive-it-speaks-to-me.html accessed 23 April 2010.
Hurt, Bruce, Ibid.
Macarthur, John. “Supernatural Love Part 2” http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/60-15 accessed 23 April 2010.
Hurt, Bruce, Ibid.
MacDonald, J. (2002). God wrote a book (14). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.
MacArthur, J. (98).
Schreiner, T. R. (99).
MacArthur, J. (99).
Davids, P. H. (83).
Cole, Stephen. “Getting into the Word” http://www.fcfonline.org/content/1/sermons/080292m.pdf accessed 23 April 2010.
Piper, J. (2007; 2007). Sermons from John Piper (1990-1999). Desiring God; Minneapolis, MN.