In the previous blog, we began considering Peter’s warning to believers about our appetites for true spiritual nourishment – namely the pure milk of the Word.
There are many new behaviors to embrace that we may grow into Christian maturity. But before we can add virtuous habits, we must first remove various sinful vices.
The first vice we must remove is malice, which we considered in the previous blog. After malice, he mentions deceit.
Both the ESV and the NIV translate this word as “deceit,” while the NASB and KJV use the word “guile.” “Deceit” or “guile” hides the unworthy motive it seeks to promote. It refers to cunning and treachery.
When you make someone think something is false when it’s true or true when it’s false, you are practicing deceit. Peter warns believers to put deceit away from you.
Then he mentions hypocrisy. Hypocrisy pretends to be righteous when it’s not. It’s been said, “Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.”
With its origin in Greek theater, a hypocrite is a two-faced individual; someone who changes masks depending on the audience and the message he desires to convey.
Peter says, put hypocrisy away.
Then there is envy. Envy creates sorrow that others have what we have not. “Envy” is the infection produced by the wound of comparison; it resents the good that comes to others and slowly destroys the one who harbors it.
Finally, the word “slander” or the phrase “evil-speakings” (KJV) means to hurt another to promote or advance one’s self. Evil speech is the literal meaning behind this word, related the evil of the tongue.
These are selfish sins which God hates; each of us must deal with these vices in ourselves… and put them away.
Peter is writing to believers in Christ about the lifelong process of laying aside lesser things that we may desire better things.
The word of God and the deeds of the flesh work against each other. The more we desire one the less we’ll be influenced by the other and the less we’ll desire the other, as a general rule.
What Peter is saying is—the process never ends until we’re in glory. That is, there will never be a time in this life on earth that we won’t need to lay aside the deeds of the flesh in order to foster a hunger for the things of God.
Peter’s words are addressed to all Christians at every level of maturity. Even though Peter says in verse 2 “Like newborn infants…” he’s not talking about new Christians who are “infants” in Christ… though it can certainly apply to new believers; he’s talking about the attitude that ought to characterize every Christian at every age.
It’s the attitude of desire for the Word of God… an appetite that masters the believers’ choices and priorities in life.
For example, is there ever a time in the Christian walk when we shouldn’t lay aside the deeds of the flesh? Does God ever say, “Well, you’ve been so faithful for so long, I guess it’s okay for you to sin away your last few years on earth.” No! Heaven forbid! Why forfeit the race when you’re so close to the finish line?
Likewise, is there ever a time when God doesn’t expect Christians to earnestly desire the pure milk of the word? Certainly not. These words are for all Christians.
One of the most gripping examples of the importance of daily time in God’s Word came from a friend of mine in the pastorate.
He told me of a Bible teacher who had a powerful influence on him in his early Christian life. This man had memorized several books of the Bible, taught Sunday school classes, and led city-wide Bible studies for men and women for decades.
However my friend also remembered hearing this great Bible teacher brag in public that he had memorized so much of the Bible that he no longer needed to read it every day. And perhaps without this man’s awareness, he began to slowly and subtly drift from the shoreline of absolute truth, even though so many verses were stored in his head.
Eventually, this man walked away from his wife of 45 years and shipwrecked his ministry and ruined his reputation.
There is no substitute for daily communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep short accounts with God. We must pursue Christ with all of our heart as if our spiritual life depends on it… because it does.
In my own observation of these truths, I have to admit, these words seem especially relevant to Christians who have a testimony that has lasted for decades.
If you’ve been faithful to your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for many years, don’t think the enemy of your soul doesn’t know it.
What a timely warning for mature Christians this is! Having run the good race for the glory of God for so long, wouldn’t the enemy love to make you stumble on the last leg of the race?
We’ll consider how to avoid this and other pitfalls in our next installment.
Until then, stand firm,