Pure Milk

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“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” – 1 Peter 2:1-3

“The pure milk of the word.”  Sounds like God is prescribing a healthier diet for His kids.  No more indulging in the unhealthy junk food of ill will, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and evil speaking about others, which includes gossiping.  Instead, only the pure word of God.

Have you ever given any real thought to what “food” we’re feasting on?  Are we feasting on envy, gossip, and deceit?  I’m not just talking about what we read or watch on TV or in movies either.  How about what we talk about with others?

All of us know in our heads that God does not approve of gossip, and we even say we don’t do it.  Maybe we listen to other people gossip, but we don’t pass it on…to anyone unreliable.  We don’t say things to be mean to others; we just say them because we feel someone else really should know…The list of reasons can go on into infinity.  But is it acceptable to God?  Is that the kind of food God wants us to partake of?

Besides repeating gossip, listening to it does nothing to help us grow spiritually.  Both only serve to strengthen ill will, deceit, hypocrisy, and envy.  And that’s what this text in 1 Peter is all about.  What will make us grow?  Will desiring that evil befall another draw me into a closer relationship with Jesus?  Will dishonest statements or misrepresentations of the truth help me to know the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life better?  Does focusing on the hypocrisies of others or even indulging my own make me a more genuine follower of Jesus Christ?  Will coveting another make me more content in all the situations God places me?  And can malicious words, spoken about someone else either by me or in my presence, help me to be more deeply rooted in the Savior?  Is this the kind of food that will root me and ground me in the love of God?

The only food we can safely eat is the word of God.  Feasting on the word of God will take away bitterness, hard feelings, ill will, covetousness, hypocrisy, selfishness, and all gossip and backbiting.

It also helps us discern between truth and error in what we hear in church or read in a book.  In the Bible, God gives us a lot of instruction about knowing the truth, knowing whether what you hear is of God or not.  He tells us to test the spirit behind each person who comes to us in the name of the Lord (1 John 4:1).  He says to examine all things and hold fast to the good (1 Thess. 5:21).  And those are just two examples, but clearly, God wants us to check things out against His word, instead of just buying into everything that comes from the mouth of a fellow human being just because he or she claims Christianity.  The Bereans were commended by Paul for not accepting his preaching without first testing it against the Bible (Acts 17:11).  So we are to know the difference between truth and error, and be willing to counter error with truth (James 5:19-20, Is. 58:1, Jer. 1:7, Ez. 2:3-5, and Ps. 40:10, to name a few).

When we feast on the pure milk of God’s word, we will be able to recognize and avoid hypocrisy, half-truths, and whole lies.  Just as an expert in recognizing counterfeit money studies the true to recognize the counterfeit, we who feast on the true will recognize the error when it comes.  The more we feast on the word of God, the less desire we will have for feasting on the sins, short-comings, and failings of others.  We will grow in Christ-like love, patience, and forgiveness towards others.  And we will clearly know the difference between speaking the truth as God desires and merely spreading gossip as Satan desires.

So the idea is this: get into the word of God.  Make that your food.  Leave behind the junk food and feast on the words of life and truth so you can grow up strong in Christ.

~ What do you think?  Email me at TheNarrowPathway@hotmail.com. ~

True Religion

It’s more than a brand of jeans.  More than a social cause.  It’s a lifestyle.

These days many of us are very familiar with what the Bible says in James 1:27 about the essence of true religion.  It has been the preface to many a sermon, worship talk, or speech to rouse us from our self-absorbed slumber into action for the good of those who are hurting around the globe.

Yet in all the swarm of activity around our social causes, some of us have lost something.  Before I go any further, let me say that social causes are good.  God encourages, even requires us to take care of those who need help.  But there’s something else that’s good.  It is the balancing side to a scale that is growing fearfully unbalanced.

It’s the Mary perspective.

Jesus once visited his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany (Luke 10:38-42).  While Martha was busy doing the good thing of preparing a meal to serve Jesus, Mary was doing the good thing of sitting at His feet, listening to the words of truth.  Both were good things.  But one was commended as better: listening to the words of Jesus.

That practice of taking time to study and learn from Jesus is often neglected in favor of active service projects.  Neither side should be neglected.  Take a closer look at James 1:27:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

That last part often goes unmentioned.  But God puts the two together: service for others and remaining spiritually pure.  It’s the same thing in the great commandment: love for God first, with everything you are, and then a responsibility to love others as you love yourself.  One can never be separated from the other.  This concept is all throughout the Bible:

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice,
 correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” – Isaiah 1:16, 17, ESV.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” – Matthew 25:34-40, NLT.

There it is.  Care for others and love for God, shown in obedience to all His commands.  This is true religion.  It is not an unbalanced thing.  It does not take from one side only and believe that is enough.  It does not cloister itself away in a shack in the mountains, studying the Bible 24/7.  It does not overfill its plate with projects and causes until there’s no time for anything else and burnout sets in.

It balances actively seeking God in His word with serving Him by serving others.  Jesus Himself gave us the example.  He spent time teaching, healing, and preaching, but He also took time out for deep seasons of communion with His Father.  We’re definitely billions of light years from being on the same level as Jesus, so how much more do we need deep seasons of communion with God and time to study His word?

Notice Matthew 7:21-13:

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”

My good works cannot save me.  But they will be important.  Through them, my obedience to God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself will be shown.  Similarly, a pure life, washed clean from sin through His blood and kept unspotted by following His words, shows my love for Him above all others.  Both sides working together show whether or not I have truly done the will of my Father.  Love for God with everything in us first, and then love for others as for ourselves.  This is the essence of true religion.