Drinking the Bible
1 Peter 2: 1-3
October 25, 2014 | Brian Bill
If you and I are not reading the Bible on a regular basis, we will never know its truth and we won’t grow in truth. According to a Barna survey, 82% think that the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves” is directly from the Bible; 63% cannot name the four Gospels and over half do not know the book of Jonah is in the Bible.
Another poll discovered that 12 percent of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. According to a survey of high school seniors, over 50 percent believe Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife.
That reminds me of the new minister who was asked to teach a boys’ Sunday School class because the regular teacher was on vacation. He decided to see what they knew, so he asked them who knocked down the walls of Jericho. All the boys denied having done it, and the preacher was saddened that they didn’t know the right answer. He decided to bring it up at the church business meeting: “Not one of them knows who knocked down the walls of Jericho,” he lamented. The members were silent until finally one seasoned saint spoke up. “Preacher, this appears to be bothering you a lot. But I’ve known all those boys since they were born and they’re good boys. If they said they don’t know who did it, I believe them. Let’s just take some money out of the repair fund, fix the walls, and let it go at that.”
Ed Stetzer wrote a blog post years ago called, “Biblical Illiteracy.” Here’s part of what he said…
Both inside and outside the church, there is a problem. Non-Christians don’t have even the general idea of the Bible they once did. Christians are not seeing the life change that real Bible engagement brings. The result is a nation in spiritual free fall…
There is no excuse. It’s not as if we don’t have access. The average American—Christian or not—owns at least three Bibles. Even those who don’t have one in their home can download it free to their smartphone…The Word of God is more available than ever. People have died to bring us what has led to modern translations of Scripture, yet we are dying from lack of knowledge.
We have a biblical literacy deficit in part because we have a spiritual maturity deficit.
Simply put, we have a biblical literacy deficit in part because we have a spiritual maturity deficit. Plenty of research shows the correlation between spiritual maturity and reading the Bible. If you want spiritually mature Christians, get them reading the Bible…Reading and studying the Bible are still the activities that have the most impact on growth in this area of spiritual maturity. As basic as that is, there are still numerous churchgoers who aren’t reading the Bible regularly. You simply won’t grow if you don’t know God and spend time in His Word.
To this point, two years ago LifeWay Research surveyed more than 2,900 Protestant churchgoers and found that while 90 percent “desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do,” only 19 percent actually read the Bible every day.
Listen. There is no way to please and honor Jesus if you’re not drinking from the Bible on a daily basis. Here’s a summary statement for our sermon today: We won’t grow unless we get into the Word.
Our preaching passage is found in 1 Peter 2:1-3: “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”
Let’s begin by looking at verse 2: “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” The word “desire” is a command from a root word, which means, “to burn” or “to crave” and is expressed in eager action. It’s translated as “greatly desiring” in 2 Timothy 1:4. You and I must make a deliberate decision to deeply desire the Word of God. We must be intentional because it won’t happen automatically. We need to know the Word of the Lord if we want to grow in the Lord of the Word.
I should point out that the phrase “newborn babes” doesn’t necessarily mean that Peter’s readers are brand new in their faith. In this context, milk does not refer to basic and elementary teaching as it does in Hebrews 5:12-13 where milk is contrasted with meat or solid food. Here Peter is simply saying that all believers are to long for the Word with the same kind of intensity that a baby does for milk.
If we want to grow we must get the Word of God in us. And we must crave it. Just like a newborn craves milk, we must long for the Word of the Lord. A baby has a way of letting everyone know that it’s time to eat, and won’t stop crying until the craving is satisfied. A healthy infant is a hungry infant – it’s been awhile since our girls were that young but I’m told that a baby needs to eat every couple hours.
Like newborns, we’re to go after God’s Word fervently and frequently. A spiritually healthy Christian is a hungry and thirsty Christian who eats and drinks from the Bible often. I love what Job said in Job 23:12: “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”
We see two things about God’s Word.
1. The Word helps us know.
We’re to desire the “pure milk of the Word.” The word “pure” means, “not deceitful, not watered down or adulterated.”
The DesMoines Register ran a story last week about the tainted milk scandal in China several years ago. Here’s a summary of what happened: “Middlemen, who collected milk from farmers, watered down the milk to save costs. To mask that, they also added melamine, a toxic chemical that inflates protein levels. The melamine-tainted milk made its way into infant formula… Eventually, six children died and more than 30,000 became ill because of the contaminated formula.”
Friends, there is a lot of watered down preaching today by upbeat smiling preachers who want to make everyone feel good about themselves. This is toxic teaching, no matter how good it might make you feel. If sin is minimized and the cross is marginalized, God will not be magnified. This kind of preaching is poison. Jeremiah 6:14 says, “They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace.”
The pure spiritual milk of the Word helps us know ourselves by pointing out sin, correcting us and equipping us. In short, it helps us grow. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
2. The Word helps us grow.
“That you may grow thereby…” The word, “grow” means “to add or to increase.” 2 Thessalonians 1:3 says, “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly…” Because spiritual growth is so important we’ve made “grow” one of our four key values (point to banner). It is impossible to grow in your relationship with God without growing in your relationship with God’s Word.
Jesus said in Matthew 4:4: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
There are at least three food metaphors used for the Bible – milk (1 Peter 2:2), meat (Hebrews 5:11-14), and honey (Psalm 19:10).
Increasing Your Appetite
Before you check out because you feel guilty for not craving God’s Word, let’s spend the rest of our time answering the how question.
This passage gives us three ways to cultivate a craving for the Word. We started in verse two and now we’re going to go back to verse one and then we’ll go forward to verse three.
1. Remember your salvation.
1 Peter 2:1 starts with the word “Therefore.” That means we need to go back a few more verses to see what Peter said previously. Remember that there were no chapter divisions in the original manuscripts. Pastor Ed did a great job preaching about this last weekend. Three times in these verses we read of the primacy of the Word.
- We are born again through the living and abiding word of God.
- The word of the Lord stands forever.
- The word was preached to us.
Friend, if you’re feeling dry, travel back and remember your spiritual birthday. The Word that led you to know Christ is the same word that will help you grow in Christ. The Word that saves is the Word that sustains. If you’re not saved yet, that may explain why you’re struggling to understand Scripture as 1 Corinthians 2:14 says: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him.”
2. Remove sin from your life.
Check out the rest of verse 1: “…laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking.” Would you notice that these growth stoppers are relational sins? It’s quite possible that the reason you’re not craving God’s Word is because there’s too much of the world in you. It’s like filling up with so much junk food that you get a stomachache and then you’re no longer hungry for healthy food. Spiritual junk food can take your joy away.
Do you remember hearing about a guy named Morgan Spurlock who ate breakfast, lunch and dinner every day at McDonald’s for 30 days in a row? One article I read said this:
Even though he was taking in about 5,000 calories per day, he felt hungry soon after eating…Within two weeks, his doctors, alarmed by unhealthy blood test results, advised him to quit the experiment. He refused. He felt lousy, but, amazingly, felt much better as soon as he ate more…His registered dietitian told him he was becoming addicted to the junk food.
By the third week, he began to experience heart palpitations, chest pain, and breathlessness. His doctor told him he was trashing his liver, that it was fatty like that of a long-term alcoholic. All three of his doctors begged him to stop the diet and return to a low-fat diet. Before his 30 days were up, Spurlock was a sick man…he gained a total of 24 pounds in 30 days, had high cholesterol, high blood glucose, and high blood pressure. His liver values indicated he had serious liver damage. His fat level had soared. He…was often moody and exhausted.
Friends, it’s quite possible that the reason you’re not growing spiritually is because you’re ingesting too much junk in your life.
Peter then lists five unhealthy vices that include both attitudes and actions that are often demonstrated among Christ-followers. We could call them community-busters. He uses the word “all” three times to indicate that we’re to get rid of “every, or all manner of” these sins. This list is in contrast to the sincere and fervent love we’re to have for the brethren in 1:22.
- Malice. This is a general word that means “evil-spiritedness” with the purposeful desire to harm others with words and deeds. It’s the idea of having it in for someone with a smoldering resentment. The best definition I’ve heard is that malice is “congealed anger wrapped in an unforgiving spirit.” 1 Corinthians 14:20 says that: “In malice be babes.”
- Deceit. The picture here is of “catching with bait” and refers to a deliberate attempt to mislead others. As a fisherman, Peter knew all about deceiving fish. Many years ago a cheating scandal was uncovered at the University of North Carolina that apparently involved thousands of student-athletes and spanned almost two decades. The investigation revealed that these students took bogus classes and received unearned A’s and B’s. That’s the definition of deceit.
- Hypocrisy. This comes from the word meaning to “wear a mask.” It’s the idea of pretending to be someone you’re not. Incidentally, when I hear someone tell me that they don’t go to church because it’s full of hypocrites I often reply, “Why don’t you come and join us and we’ll have one more.”
- Envy. One of the seven deadly sins, envy is not only wanting what someone else has, but hating that person for having what you want. You know you might be struggling with envy if you’re jealous about the success of others or happy at someone else’s misfortune. According to Mark 15:10 the religious leaders were envious of Jesus’ popularity and that’s why they conspired to kill Him.
- Evil speaking. This is also translated as slander and includes all kinds of unkind speech and literally means to “run down” someone, especially behind their back. The sin of backbiting is way too prevalent among believers. This includes gossip and the spreading of rumors.
That’s quite a list, isn’t it? Friend, it’s quite possible that the reason you are stalled out spiritually is because you have some sin in your life that you have not been willing to get rid of. Mark this. Your relational sins will affect your relationship with God. The sins you’re holding on to can sour you spiritually because a bitter spirit will get the better of you. Relational dissonance can keep you from drinking in the Bible. As D.L. Moody once said, “God’s Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from God’s Word.”
The way we think about and talk about other believers can, and will, short-circuit our spiritual growth. We can’t really say that we love God if we’re hatin’ on our brothers and sisters as is stated so clearly in 1 John 4:20-21: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”
Do it now!
The phrase “lay aside” actually comes first in the sentence for emphasis. It’s a picture of someone taking off and discarding soiled clothing. One commentator said it means to “cast it away with indignation.” The tense implies that it’s to be a “once for all” kind of decision with a sense of urgency behind it – “do it now!” The early Christians used to take off their old clothes before they were baptized and then would put on a brand new set when they came up out of the water.
Listen up. This is an obedience issue. We’re called to “lay aside all…” those things that sour us spiritually. We can’t be passive or dismissive or make excuses. James 1:21 puts it this way: “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” Romans 13:12: “Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”
Are you ready to junk the spiritual junk food you’ve been consuming? It’s time to trash the toxic trespasses we’re committing against others.
We’re to get rid of these vices like we throw garbage away. In order to get the Word in, we have to take off the gross and smelly and unhealthy sins that, like junk food, are clogging the arteries of the spirit…and making us moody and exhausted. And then we need to pray that God will keep us pure so we don’t go back to the vices. Here are two precise prayers that David used that would be worth memorizing.
- Psalm 19:13: “Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.”
- Psalm 119:133: “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.”
Do you want to crave God’s Word? First, remember your salvation. Second, remove sin in your life. That leads to the third way to increase your appetite for the Bible – refocus on the goodness of God.
3. Refocus on the graciousness of God.
If you’re still struggling to stay motivated in your Bible reading, check out verse 3: “If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” The word “if” is more accurately translated as “since.” More literally it reads, “Since you have tasted that the Lord is good.” This is a quote from the first part of Psalm 34:8. Peter once again calls us to lock into the grace that was given to us when we were saved. God is a holy God and made a way for us to receive forgiveness and eternal life through faith in His Son.
We need to get it in our heads that obeying God is better than sinning. The sweetness of sin at the beginning will lead to sourness in the end. God’s grace is much better than the garbage that we accumulate in our lives.
Some of us have such a faulty view of God that we’re almost afraid to read Scripture because we think God is just out to get us. Here’s some good news. God wants to meet with you more than you want to meet with Him. He loves you more than you know. He is good and gracious…have you tasted Him lately? Taste a little of the Lord and you’ll want a lot more of Him. If you’re struggling to read Scripture, refocus on God’s graciousness. When we taste His goodness, we’ll eventually want to gulp God’s Word.
I came across a site that explained how to increase your appetite (I normally don’t need any help with that).
- Change your eating habits. Breakfast is important. Likewise, we need to start our day off by drinking and eating the Bible.
- Eat small, frequent meals. It’s important to ingest the Word throughout the day.
- Eat healthy snacks. Listen to worship music during the day.
It is impossible to grow in your relationship with God without growing in your relationship with God’s Word. We won’t grow unless we get into God’s Word.
Putting into Practice
Here are some practical ways to put this sermon into practice.
1. Read the Word.
We have to start here even though it sounds so simple. Jesus assumes that believers will know the Bible and be reading it regularly. Matthew 21:16: “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”
Here are some practical practices to help you read the Word on a regular basis.
- Schedule a daily Quiet Time with God. You must plan this in order for it to happen. It might be in the morning or at night or in the middle of the day.
- Download the YouVersion app on your phone or tablet.
- Use a Bible Reading Plan. You can download one from our website. One study I read said that of over 2 billion Christians in the world, less than 30% will ever read through the entire Bible. In just 15 minutes or so a day, you can read through the complete Bible in a year.
- Start small. The more you read, the more you’ll want to read. I often recommend reading just one chapter from the Gospel of John every day. When you taste the Lord’s goodness you’ll eventually want to have the full meal deal.
Let’s not be like those Jesus referred to in Mark 12:24: “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?”
2. Feed from the Word.
First, we must read the Bible. Second, we must feed from the Bible. This is where plugging into a group of fellowship comes into play. We believe that growth happens best in groups. Here are three ways to help you feed.
- Memorize verses.
- Meditate on the Word of God.
- Bring your Bible to church and follow along during the sermons.
A good way to study the Bible is to follow this process – Observation, Interpretation and Application. Or ask yourself these questions – What do I see? What does it say? What can I seize?
3. Need the Word.
We read the Word and we feed from the Word but we won’t do either until we know that we need the Word. Ask God to give you a hunger for the Bible. Here’s an idea. Slowly read a stanza of Psalm 119 every day so that you become saturated with this psalm. Ask God to give you a longing for His word just like you have for food or drink. Every time you feel physically hungry or thirsty remind yourself that you need the food and drink found in the Bible. I like what David said in Psalm 42:1-2: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”
4. Heed the Word.
When applying Scripture it’s helpful to keep the acrostic S.P.E.C.S. in mind by asking these five questions:
Is there a Sin to confess?
Is there a Promise to claim?
Is there an Example to follow?
Is there a Command to obey?
Is there a Stumbling block to avoid?
Don’t delay to obey. Don’t put off whatever the Lord is prompting you to do. Psalm 119:60: “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.” I’ve heard it said that delayed obedience is really disobedience.
Listen to these words of Jesus in John 8:37: “I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word.” Do you have room for the Word? Are you reading, feeding, needing, and heeding?
Here are two dangerous statements that I sometimes hear people make:
“I know what the Bible says, but…” James 1:22: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
- “I know it’s wrong but God will forgive me so I’ll just do it anyway.” Romans 6:1-2: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
And so, crave God’s Word like an infant longs for milk because the Bible will help you to know and to grow. If you’re struggling in this regard first, remember your salvation. Secondly, remove the spiritual junk food from your life. And thirdly, refocus on the graciousness of God.
If you don’t have a desire for God’s Word it may be because you haven’t yet tasted the Lord. Go back to verse 3: “If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” The word “taste” is a forceful metaphor meaning, “to come to know by experience.” Steven Cole says, “taste points both to personal experience and enjoyment. I can’t taste for you, nor you for me. To taste something, we’ve got to experience it up close…once you like the taste of something, you don’t just eat it to live; you live to eat it.”
Peter is quoting from Psalm 34:8. This verse ends with “blessed is the man who trusts in Him.” If you’re not yet saved, it’s time to trust in Him right now and know Him by personal experience. Have you taken refuge in God through a relationship with Jesus Christ?
Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done
In earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.