Things To Give Up, Things To Yearn For

May 2, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
First Peter 2:1-10

Like A New Born Baby

1. Today's passage has "Like a new born baby, yearn for the pure milk of the spirit, so that by drinking this you will grow and come to be saved," (verse two). Here it has the line "like a new born baby" because earlier in the text it had the line "was born anew." The scripture says, "You are not from a rotting seed, but from a seed that does not rot, that is, you were born anew through the living and unchanging word of God," (1:23).

2. A person can be born anew. That is to say, you can have a second birth. The first birth is the one in the normal sense. We celebrate saying, "Happy birthday!" It is that birth. It is the birth all people in this world have in common. [We all] certainly have gone through that birth. And so here we are in this world. Some people experience only this birth and live one life and finish out their lifetimes. But according to the scriptures, a person can also have another birth. A second birth. That one is the birth that comes by faith. By faith [you can] start [your] life all over again.

3. Just like [I] was born as a child of my parents in this world in [my] first birth, "as a child of God I" am born in [my] second birth. Just like I was born into a family into this world in [my] first birth, I am born "into the family of God" in [my] second birth. Jesus has taught us "The Lord's Prayer." We prayed it together today in this service. "The Lord's Prayer" actually has to do with the new birth. After all, we began to live as a child of God while praying "O father, who is in heaven." We began to live as the family of God praying "Our father, who is in heaven." In this way then we live another life, which we begin through the second birth. That is the faith life we practice.

4. So, to enter into the faith, like an infant being born into a family, is to be born anew into a new relationship, that is, into the family of God. As a result of that then, we will be expected to live as the family of God as brothers and sisters who love each other. Thus, the text in chapter one and verse twenty-two says as follows. "Because you have accepted the truth, cleansed your souls, and have come to embrace brotherly love without falsehood, love one another deeply and with pure hearts!" It has been written that way because they were born again and because they were born into a family in which they could declare "brotherly love."

5. Well then, no doubt about it, the text does say there, "because [you] have come to embrace brotherly love without falsehood." But, since they are still infants at the time of just being born, their "brotherly love" will start from an infant level, as you'd expect as they begin. Therefore, depending on the situation, even though it says, "because [you] have come to embrace brotherly love without falsehood," you may also be thinking, "I wonder if it was really like that in practice?" Looking at myself, I can't help but wonder, "I doubt they were like that." Things are just not like that. However, the point of the message is just this, when you're an infant, you had better grow. For that reason then, while saying, "because [you] have come to embrace brotherly love without falsehood," it is not [so much] an [achieved] goal, but [more so] an exhortation that is being given, "Love one another deeply with a pure heart!"

6. It is important that we grow. Even as a church we are to grow. We are to grow as a family. We are to grow in our relationships with each other. It's that way even as brothers in this world. We don't first become brothers by being brotherly. The fact that we are brothers comes first. Neither do we become the family of God because we were being like the family of God loving each other. The fact that we were born again comes first. The fact we are made into a family comes first. Granted that [family members] have hated each other, [but] they are family. However, that type of situation is definitely not God's plan or will. What God ultimately desires to bring to pass is a world where love is perfected. That is the world of salvation, the kingdom of God. We are heading into the world of perfect salvation. As we point ourselves towards the perfection of salvation, we are made into the children of God. Therefore, growing is important.

7. So, there are two things always necessary in order for us to grow and develop. Peter clearly writes about them. One, "we are to give things up." The scripture says it as follows. "Therefore, give up all ill will, lies, hypocrisy, jealousy, insult or slander." First it is from the negative side, but the important thing is to give up anything that hinders brotherly love. Since it says "give up," you must give them up with deliberate intention to. There are probably times we do harbor ill will for some reason or other. That is just one of those things in a certain sense we can't control. But there is a big difference between harboring that ill will with religious zeal and trying to give it up. You either really really want to insult. Or you end up saying it against your better judgment. Things may go like that. But, whether or not you keep on saying insults for a long time is a whole other story. After we recognize anything that hinders brotherly love as not being the will of God, we repent and relinquish it. When our eyes open up to it finally, then every time, we will repent of it and let it go.

8. And the other thing. On the positive [side] it is that to "yearn for the milk of the spirit." In order to grow we must take in nourishment. "The milk of the spirit" is a phrase that can also be translated as "the milk of the word [of God]." We are to yearn for the word of God. Without this, growth is absolutely impossible. Just as a child just born will end up dying if it does not drink milk, whether or not we seek the word of God is a matter of life and death.

9. In order to seek the Word, we must go to the Lord continuously. "You have tasted that the Lord is most gracious. Come to the Lord!," (verses three and four). What does it mean specifically to go to the Lord? Actually this word of exhortation comes from Psalm chapter thirty-four and verse nine. The words of that psalm have been used long ago as a formula for the Lord's Supper. In other words, Peter was probably thinking of the worship service where Christians were assembled, hearing the word of God and holding communion. As the text stated earlier, first off more than anywhere else, it was in the worship service on the Lord's Day when everyone was assembled together around the Lord's table when they would repent and give up ill will, lies, hypocrisy, jealousy, and insults and they would seek the word of God, which is the milk of the spirit. That's the kind of place [the service] was.

Offer Up Spiritual Sacrifices!

10. Thus, [people are] the church as [they] assemble around the Lord's Table on the Lord's Day. [People are] the church as [they] give up the bad things and assemble before the Lord seeking the milk of the spirit. Furthermore then, Peter begins to speak with another image about that church. It is "the temple" which was in Jerusalem. Peter declares, "Come to this Lord! The Lord was forsaken by people, but he is to God the chosen, precious, living stone. Let you yourselves be used as living stones and be built into a spiritual house! And as holy priests, offer up through Jesus Christ spiritual sacrifices to be enjoyed by God!," (verses four and five).

11. When it says "the house of God" in the Bible, it [means] the temple. Therefore, "the spiritual house" referred to here in this passage is the temple. Of course, since it is "a spiritual house," it is not the building. Even in Peter's day, [it meant] a community of believers who were offering up worship as they assembled each week in various places. And after two thousand years it is us as we assemble here in this place. [The fact] is God has been seeing this as "the spiritual temple."

12. The "chief stone," the cornerstone for building that temple, is Christ. Christ was forsaken by people and crucified on the cross, but God declared that he raised that same Christ from the dead and made him "the chief cornerstone" for the building of the new temple. By piling the other quarried stones one by one, which depend on this "cornerstone," the temple is built. That's the image, and those cut stones are us. That's what it means when it says, "Let you yourselves be used as living stones and be built into a spiritual house!"

13. In this spiritual temple, priests have to be in it to serve. Just as there used to be priests in the temple at Jerusalem, there are priests in the spiritual temple as well. They are us. It is as the scripture says, "And as holy priests." Also, the priests are there in order to offer up "sacrifices." What is being offered up in the spiritual temple are not animal sacrifices like those that used to be offered up in the temple at Jerusalem. The text declares, "Offer up spiritual sacrifices to be enjoyed by God!," (verse five). What might this mean, [these] "spiritual sacrifices to be enjoyed by God?" It is [these] bodies of ours. It is just as Paul declared when he said, "For this reason then, o brothers, [I] exhort you by the mercy of God. Offer up your own bodies as holy living sacrifices to be enjoyed by God! This very act is the worship service that you ought to be doing," (Romans 12:1). In a word, right here we are building up the temple as "quarried stones" which are alive, and at the same time as holy priests, we offer ourselves as spiritual sacrifices to be enjoyed by God.

14. All of this is given to us as a blessing from God. Think about it with me. The Bible says, "spiritual sacrifices to be enjoyed by God." When we offer ourselves up, it is saying that God accepts those sacrifices for his enjoyment. Isn't that, essentially, an impossibility? Much rather, if we were told, "God doesn't need the likes of you. You, who have turned your backs on God, be destroyed!," we'd just have to accept our lot. But, it is not that way, but rather, when we see how that we can be accepted for God's good pleasure, then at one layer of things it will be because of Christ. It comes through the forgiveness of sin that is given to us through Christ. Therefore, it does not just say "offer up spiritual sacrifices!," but says "offer [them] up through Jesus Christ!" -- Because everything is a blessing that has been given by the agency of Christ.

15. This is going on and taking place in the church. We assemble before the Lord. We relinquish anything we should give up, and we yearn for the milk of the word of God. In this way then, when we assemble before the Lord, the spiritual temple shows up in a form visible to the eye. We offer ourselves as sacrifices to be enjoyed by God. Assembling on Sunday is not a meeting with a hymnal and a lecture. We assemble before the living Christ, we are assembling for the purpose of worshipping God by offering ourselves up to him. Thus, each week whenever we let go of the things we should give up, and whenever we yearn for the things we should yearn for, we will surely grow as believers, and the church will truly have to show forth its radiance as the temple of God.

16. And so, that is not just for us. We are put into this world which still has not accepted the gospel. While in that [world], Peter declares the kind of existence and presence the church is to be, to have, to use. "However, you are a chosen people, priests inherited from a line of kings, a holy nation, a people who have become God's," (verse nine). All of these are statements that stand for Israel in the Old Testament. The reason Israel was the chosen people was not so they [could] brag against the other nations. That was not why, but rather it was so they [could] be used as "the light of the nations," (Isaiah 49:6). Similarly, our being in this [world] is for the benefit of the world. It is just as the scripture says, "It is so that you will spread the message abroad, [the message] of the mighty works of the one who has called you out of the darkness into the amazing light," (verse nine). God sends us into this passing world, he is using us as we have offered up ourselves for the benefit of society.