(This is part 2 in a 3 part series, “Disciplines for Delight”)
Text: 1 Peter 2:1-3
God wants to help us cultivate a longing for His Word, which purifies our hearts and unifies us as His Church. We grow in our knowledge and affection for Christ by being in the Bible, and by the Bible being in us. To grow as members of His Body, we must be a people of His Book. And God wants to help us grow in that longing. To that end, Peter lays out two encouragements in these verses:
Reject harmful heart attitudes (1 Peter 2:1)
At first glance, this encouragement may seem disconnected from cultivating a longing for God’s word. But it’s not. We have to put off what is harmful before we will desire what is good, to recognize and reject the things that stunt our growth. Verse 1 starts by saying, “So put away” or put off, (literally “to throw off”) the old, sinful nature. Take off the tattered, dirty clothes of your old sinful life. Put on the new life in Christ.
It’s like spiritual surgery. The harmful tumor needs to be removed so that the body can function in a healthy way. And then Peter lists out some of those harmful spiritual attitudes that need to be removed:
–Malice – which is any evil intent or motive or action toward another. Most often, malice is an unspoken desire that something bad would happen to another.
–Deceit – being dishonest, telling what is not true or withholding what is true for personal gain.
–Hypocrisy – holding others to a standard you don’t keep yourself. Hiding your inward struggles by layering on outward good works.
–Envy – wanting what others have instead of being grateful for what you’ve been given.
–Slander – to speak of another in ways that are uncharitable, untrue and unhelpful with the intent of damaging their reputation and building up your own.
We must take all of these and put them away. Cut them off. They do not belong in the Christian heart. They are self-centered and self-destructive. Jesus not only purifies our hearts, but he also gives us the ongoing power to resist anything worldly, anything impure that would try to sneak back in – to put it off, and keep it off. So, to grow in what is good, we must first reject what is not good, like the unhealthy motives and attitudes of our hearts.
Receive pure nourishment (1 Peter 2:2-3)
The same way a newborn baby longs for its mother’s milk, the Christian should long for God’s Word. And this picture fits perfectly to show us the role of God’s written word in our lives. For instance:
- God gave that mother the ability to produce exactly what her baby needs to grow and develop. It also provides enzymes that protects the baby from infection. So the pure milk from the mother nourishes and protects. The Bible is nourishment and protection for our souls. Everything we need for spiritual growth and maturity is found in God’s Word.
- Consider the baby, how it is completely dependent on the mother. We are completely dependent on God and His word for our spiritual growth and nourishment. Nothing else will strengthen us and nourish us and grow us like reading and meditating on God’s Word. We are dependent on the Holy Spirit to help us understand and apply Scripture to our lives.
That phrase “long for” (v. 2) means a singular passion, a top priority, a focused pursuit. It is an insatiable, panting and thirsting for God’s Word. It is a delighting in God’s Word.
But how can we see that grow? The short answer is this: it must be cultivated. A longing and a desire for God’s word must be grown over time. So how do we do that? How do we cultivate this deep longing and desire for God’s Word? Here are some ways:
1. Rehearse the gospel. We need Jesus, not just for salvation, but every single day, to know how to live and how to grow in Him. The gospel reminds us of this need. The gospel creates a hunger in us for God’s Word, to know Him more, to depend on Him more, to find joy in Jesus. Rehearse the gospel, preach the gospel to yourself, and you will find that your hunger for the Bible and your dependence on the Bible will grow.
2. Pray for God’s help. The Bible is written by the Holy Spirit, and we need the Holy Spirit’s help to understand and apply what we read in the Bible. So pray and ask for God’s help.
3. Read the Bible. This one may seem obvious, but we should never assume it. What you starve will die. What you feed will grow. Your longing for God’s word will grow as you feed it. We cultivate that desire by actually reading God’s word.
4. Reject spiritual junk food. We can fill up our spiritual stomachs with junk food, with competing philosophies, with spiritualism and self-esteem, with endless entertainment. As a result, our minds become numb and our spiritual palates are dulled. Don’t fill up on spiritual junk food. Eat of the pure, healthy nutrients of God’s word, and that’s what you’ll grow to desire.
5. Pray through the Bible. Sometimes we don’t long for God’s word because when we read the Bible, we can often come away feeling like I didn’t really understand what I read, or I didn’t really get anything out of it. One thing that will help to cultivate that longing is to take your time and actually pray through verses of the Bible. Read a phrase or a verse, stop and pray what comes to mind from that verse.
6. Talk about the Bible with others. Our hearts will cultivate a longing for the Bible when we take time with other Christians and talk about the Bible – what it says, what it means, how we are applying it to our lives, and rejoicing together in its truth. This not only helps us to understand the Bible better, but it encourages us to hear how God’s Word is affecting others. That increases our faith, and it unifies us as believers.