Read: 1 Peter 1:22-2:3
In this passage, Peter returns to the idea of the new birth. We may need to set aside our religious and/or cultural baggage concerning the idea of being “born again” to really hear what Peter is saying. When Peter talks about “new birth”, he’s saying that becoming a Christian is to be reborn (ie to die and to be recreated) into a whole new life that will last forever. This new life is the resurrection life of Jesus given to us. This is the life we grow into now and will grow further up and into forever in the new creation! To people who were suffering, this gives reason for hope. Peter teaches that this new life grows stronger and deeper through suffering. In all our ups and downs; trials and suffering; in persecution, loss and grief - there is something invincible, eternal, glorious and beautiful that God can and will grow in us. What is it? It’s a loving life.
1) Why It’s Impossible to Live
The first thing we need to see about the kind of loving life Peter is calling us to is that it’s impossible to live. If we think we can do it, we need to take a closer look at the exact kind of love Peter is calling us to:
· It’s “Sincere” - Never hypocritical or pretending; it’s not fake or forced. 100% genuine.
· It’s “Constant” - It’s fervent. It doesn’t take a day off. Never half-hearted.
· It’s “Brotherly” –In the ancient world, brotherly-love was the strongest of all ties and bonds. It never gives up because it can’t.
· It’s “Pure” –It’s not mixed with any selfishness or any bit of what we can get or what we expect in return.
What is love? While we can never fully wrap all the Bible says about love into one neat definition, here is one way we could try: Love is faithfully giving of ourselves to another’s good even at our own expense. If we’ve ever tried to love like this we know it is impossible! That’s why Peter quotes the prophet Isaiah in verse 24, “All flesh is like grass…” In order to be prepared to hear about what God can do, we first have to be confronted with the truth of what we cannot do. Christianity does NOT say – here is love. Do it. It takes an impossible supernatural act. All human attempts to love (our flesh) cannot do it. Christianity says our old unloving self that can’t do it has to die, a new us has to be re-born.
2) How It’s Impossible Not to Live
This kind of love is impossible apart from being born again but that’s not the main point Peter is making. In verse 23, he’s giving the grounds for why a loving life is not only possible – he’s giving the reason why it is impossible for a Christian NOT to live a loving life. He uses the language of human reproduction to make this point. He says, since you have been reconceived by an imperishable seed and not normal human perishable seed, you have a whole new nature and life. It is the very life of the God who is love. It’s impossible for anything to stop this living and enduring seed from growing.
This is why love for one another (ie “other Christians”) is the core mark and test of a genuine Christian faith. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). This should convict even the most mature Christian – love is the goal, the task, the mark. An honest look at our lives reveals so many ways we fail the test. Yet, this should also encourage even the most wavering Christian. It’s impossible not to live a loving life for those who have the very love of God growing within them. Like a newborn baby has a long way to go to become an adult so we all have a long way to go to live a loving life. But if our trust is in the invincible and all powerful word of the gospel – God will grow this life in us.
3) How It’s Possible to Grow Into
In 2:1-3, Peter continues with the metaphor of the new birth. Like a baby growing up into maturity – we need to grow up into our salvation. The mark of a grown up and mature Christian is love but Peter is saying it’s possible to have this loving life yet not be growing up into it. Those who have this new life need to grow up into it. How does this happen?
We grow up into this life, as we drink “the pure milk of the word”. The person who wants to grow into a loving life, needs the constant nourishment of the word. As one commentator said, “For an infant, milk is not a fringe benefit”. That’s the picture here: like a baby needs and craves milk, so a Christian needs constant gospel nourishment to grow.
What’s vital for us to understand about this is that Peter is not saying, “Just read the bible and you’ll grow into a loving person”. It’s only when we taste the central message of the bible that we will grow and keep coming back for more. What is this taste?
1. It’s the taste of how his goodness reveals the bad taste of our unloving life. The perfect, pure, genuine, constant love of Jesus reveals how unloving we are. We know we are tasting of his goodness, when we start to see ourselves in the list of unloving vices in 2:1.
2. It’s the taste of how his goodness meets us in our worst failures to live a loving life. Though we are more unloving and unlovely than we will ever really “taste”, the gospel is this - there is nothing we can do to make him love us more; there is nothing we can do to make him love us less because Jesus faithfully gave himself for us for our good at great expense to Himself.
The taste of his love for us in Christ is what grows a loving life in us. It’s not tasting doctrine to know; it’s not tasting rules to follow; it’s tasting the Lord is good. It’s tasting Him. When we taste His love for us at our worst, we say, “That’s SO good! If God can love me like this! I can love people in ways I never thought possible”
1. What about the sermon impacted you the most or left you with questions?
2. Read over the description of love above from 1 Peter 1:22. Based on what you know about how the Bible defines love, do you think it is an overstatement to say that this kind of love is impossible? Would you define love any differently?
3. How does it challenge or convict you to know that love is the core mark and test of a genuine Christian faith? How does it encourage you to know that it is impossible not to grow into this life if you have placed your trust in Jesus?
4. In the sermon, it was said that Christians often avoid the impossibility of a loving life by measuring our spiritual growth in ways other than love (ie how often we pray or read the bible, the sins we commit or avoid)? What’s wrong with this? Have you found yourself doing this?
5. How do we know we are tasting “the Lord” when we read, hear the Word? Why is the good taste of doctrine or moral teaching not enough to make us loving people?
6. How does tasting his goodness reveal our “badness”? Why is tasting this a good thing? Why does this make the taste of his love for us all the more good? How does this give us the power to love?
7. Where are you finding it most difficult to live a loving life right now? What makes it so hard? How might the taste of God’s love for you enable you to love in ways you never thought possible?