His Word Endures Forever
[1Pe 2:1-3 NASB] 1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
Over seventy years ago now, C.S. Lewis wrote a book entitled 'The Abolition of Man.' Although it's a small book by word count it's rather large in its depth. In the book, Lewis makes a case for man's need of an objective moral standard, an absolute morality. This is a morality that is not based on mere opinions, personal ideals, or even our most basic instincts.
While establishing his case, Lewis writes that "To obey instinct is like telling us to obey people. People say different things; so do instincts. Our instincts are at war."
Early in the book, he defines instinct as an "unreflective or spontaneous impulse widely felt by the members of a given species." And immediately after giving this definition he asks what I believe to be a question for the ages. A question the world needs to be asked but also a question the church needs to ask Herself regularly. The question is "In what way does instinct... help us to find real value?" We might ask the question another way: in what way do our instincts, opinions or personal ideals determine whether something is right or wrong?
Of course, the answer to this question is that they don't! In fact, they can't! Value must come from outside ourselves. It must be objective. Otherwise, it's just your opinion versus mine. Only through objective value could we determine whether or not our instincts are pure, our opinions are in need of redemption, or whether all of it needs to be laid upon the altar. This is why, in my opinion, that Lewis is prophetic as he declares that apart from absolute values the only guaranteed outcome will be the abolition of man.
We're facing this very problem in America today! Everyone wants to do what is right in their own eyes. But the scripture rightly warns us that "because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold." It doesn't take a neutral party to recognize love in our country has grown cold. But it will take a revelation to understand lawlessness is at its root. Genuine love is (and always will be) connected to our adherence to God's law!
In our text, Peter shares with us what should be a foundational truth for every Christian.
"'ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, 25 BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.' And this is the word which was preached to you."
When it comes to right and wrong, good and evil, an absolute morality, God's word is our "go to." It's our go-to even when the culture says otherwise! It's our go-to even when a particular sin comes home to roost in our own families. It's our go-to even if the law of the land says otherwise, yes even the majority opinion of a supreme court.
In the intro Peter's letter, he addresses his readers (those scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia) he addresses them as "aliens." The term can be translated pilgrim or sojourner or even foreigner. And although we understand these terms in their geographical sense, we need to understand them in their moral sense as well.
What I mean is that we are pilgrims of a foreign land, but we're also pilgrims living counter to the culture. We're a people that interpret whatever the world offers (via instinct or even majority opinion) through God's word. And we adhere to that higher law.
Now the problem that we all face in being this kind of foreigner is that it doesn't always sit well with the natives.
For example, whether you recognize it or not, you and I have been censored as Christians. Of course, we maintain our right to freedom of speech, but if we dare to call sin-sin, it results in people labeling us. Bigots or judgmental, homophobic, unloving or worst of all "not nice." (scarlet letter) What is the outcome? We remain silent. It's not censorship by fiat. Instead, it's censorship via persecution, censorship out of a fear of reprisal.
(The most covert approach in this censorship is to label someone a hypocrite. The fallacy of tu quoque. Give example.)
So we're foreigners among disapproving natives. Add to that that we are not just called to be foreigners patiently waiting for Jesus to return (minding our own business if you will) instead we are to be pilgrims recruiting other pilgrims along the way.
As you know, we've been called to go into all the world and preach the gospel. But remember the whole commission; make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey all that Christ commanded. We are geographical and moral pilgrims on a mission calling others to join us.
This is never going to sit well with the natives! But no matter what, God's word is our standard. If not, we must remember what Lewis warns; the abolition of man.
So today (knowing in principle that only God's word endures forever) I want to share with you a couple of observations from Peters letter. 1. How we embrace God's word as our standard and then 2. How we take it out into the world. (This has two parts which we'll get to.)
1. How we embrace God's word: We must prepare our minds for action. (We embrace it by learning it.) [1Pe 1:13 NASB] "Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober [in spirit,] fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
If you were to change careers and do something entirely new what would be the first thing you would do? You'd learn how to do that new thing. You'd prepare your mind for that new action. The same step is needed for the Christian concerning morality.
Our instincts have ruled us for a long time; planted in us from a very young age. This is undoubtedly why Peter tells us in vs. 18 that we've been redeemed from "your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers." This isn't just salvation from something; it's salvation to something. He has given us His word and called us to live it out. From sin and death to the Spirit and life. John 14:15 Jesus Himself says, "if you love Me, you will keep my commandments."
The "Word" in scripture refers to several things. The Word is, of course, Jesus Himself (John 1:1). The word is also the Gospel we proclaim, the "imperishable seed" we read about in 1 Peter 1:23. But the word is also God's written instruction, His commands. (Luke 11:28 - "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.")
[1Pe 2:1-2 NASB] "Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,"
[2Ti 3:16-17 NASB] 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
We must prepare our minds for action. This is an ongoing submission of our instincts, opinions, and ideas to the word of God.
2. How do we take it to the world? Act on that new learning. (Living the Gospel) (Taking it out into the world) [1Pe 1:14-16 NASB] 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts (1 Cor. 6:11) [which were yours] in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behavior; 16 because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."
[Rom 12:1-2 NASB] 1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Now just a brief disclaimer here. We are not working our way into God's favor. All of this is done:
A. In view of mercy. One thing that requires a bit more nuance in our conversations today (as I see it) is articulating the difference between working FOR God's favor (which we cannot do) and working FROM God's favor (which we are clearly called and willing to do).
B. Obedience means nonconformity to our "former lusts." We've read it twice "do not be conformed..." to the world or its lusts.
C. Be holy (set apart)... Confess when you fail but don't give up!
So we prepare our minds for action, and then we act on that new learning. One key aspect of this is:
3. Proclaim the Gospel (and all that goes with it)
Peter is quoting a passage from Isaiah 40 here. The whole passage has to do with the proclamation of the Gospel. If we truly believe that the grass withers and the flower falls (flesh) and that God's word, including the Gospel, endures forever, then we understand what's at stake. Either death has the final word, or we are born of seed that is imperishable.
[Isa 40:3-10 NASB] 3 A voice is calling, "Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. 4 "Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley; 5 Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see [it] together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." 6 A voice says, "Call out." Then (I) answered, "What shall I call out?" All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever. 9 Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; Lift [it] up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, "Here is your God!" 10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, With His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him And His recompense before Him.
When it comes to determining right and wrong, we are inundated with opinions, well-meaning ideas, and even our own basic instincts. But as Christians we're a people who's morality, who's standard of what is right and wrong is determined by God alone! We know that standard because of His enduring word! We are not seeking the abolition of man. May it never be! Instead, we are seeking the salvation of man. Remember church; we are pilgrims (both geographical and moral) who are calling out to a lost world "Come and be pilgrims with us!"