Transformed to Love (1 Pet 1:23-25)
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Transformed to Love
Living Radically Different
Genuine Christians have been born again in order to love others
1 Peter 1:23-25
A husband was in big trouble when he forgot his wedding anniversary. With flames coming out of her eyes, his wife said, “Tomorrow there had better be something in our driveway that goes from zero to 200 in two seconds flat!” The next morning, the wife looked outside and saw a small package about a foot square in the driveway. She brought it inside, opened it, and found a brand new bathroom scale. Funeral services for her husband were set three days later. Some say it gets easier to love once you get older.
Like the older couple who were sitting at home enjoying a quiet evening together, and the wife told her husband she wanted some ice cream, so he decided to get up and get it for her. As he was going she said, “Now wait a minute. I would also like some ice cream with some whipping cream on top,” and he said, “OK.” He started to head toward the kitchen and she said, “Wait a minute, don’t forget this–I want you to write it down”. He said, “I don’t need to write it down”. She said, “OK, but just don’t forget, I want some ice cream with whipping cream, and also I would like some nuts on top.” He said, “OK, I’ll go get that for you.” She says, “You had better write that down or you’re going to forget it.” He says, “I don’t need to write it down; I won’t forget it.” Then he went and disappeared into the kitchen and came back 15 minutes later with a plate of eggs. She said, “I told you to write this down. See, you forgot the bacon.”
How is your love life beyond your marriage and immediate family? Think for a moment–this Sunday as you evaluate your own heart, allow me to challenge you with two crucial questions . . .
#1 Are you more in love with Christ than you’ve ever been, or are you less in love than you’ve been before?
#2 Do you find yourself more loving to your brothers and sisters in Christ that you don’t know all that well, or less loving?
As a Christian, you are loved by God in such a massive way that no one but a Christian can even taste the depths of His love. And God wants love to be so much a part of your life that when you’re cut, you bleed love–when you stink, you smell love–when you’re hurt, you ooze love–and when you talk, you speak love.
Open your Bibles to 1 Peter 1:22, and take your outline, as Peter commands us to love each other with an intensity rarely seen today. Peter is speaking to Christians on the run, pushed out of Rome, and now living in a difficult and hostile frontier location. Hemet would be a breeze compared to where they live. So Peter reminds them of what God did for them in salvation in verses 1-12, then commands them to hope in His coming in verse13, be made holy in verse 15, and live in healthy fear of God’s discipline in verse 17. Which leads us to his final command in verse 22. “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.”
Look at this verse phrase-by-phrase. With the phrase, “since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls,” Peter told us last week that Christians actually learn to love at the moment of their conversion. Then Peter told us one of the goals of our conversion was that we were to love one another in the Church family for a sincere love of the brethren.
Finally Peter says, fervently love one another from the heart, which is a command to engage your will to sacrifice for others with an intense care that must come from the indwelling Holy Spirit. Now why should you love other Christians with this kind of intensity? Right now do you even care? You might be thinking, this doesn’t relate to me. If you never had a child, don’t have a parent or spouse, never developed a friend, don’t have to deal with a rival, or even meet a stranger, then this isn’t speaking to you.
If you never want to experience what God really designed for His local church family, understand your relationship with the lost, or be able to meet strangers and have them see Christ, then this passage is not for you either. But if today the cry of your heart is to know the love of God, or to show the love of God, then this passage is your desperate need.
Peter is about to tell us why we love each other with intensity in verses 23-25 . . . because it’s consistent with our new life in Christ . . . because you’ve been given a new nature that loves . . . because God showed you in His Word and changed you with His Gospel . . . because you have God the Holy Spirit living in you, who loves. Why should we love each other with a great intensity?
#1 God gave you a totally new life
Verse 23 “For you have been born again.” You have been made totally new–you look mainly the same, smell the same, have many of the same mannerisms, even talk with the same kind of accent, but you are not the same as you were before Christ saved you. Why? You have been born again. Anyone who is genuinely born again into God’s family will love their fellow siblings. This is what God says in 1 John 5:1-2, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.”
If you are born of God, you will love the children born of God. And when Peter says in verse 23 “for you have been born again“, he specifically chose to use a type of verb emphasizing that the new birth occurs in the past, with ongoing results in the present. In other words, you were born again at the point of your salvation, but you still remain a new person now. You were given a new heart saturated with God’s love at salvation, and you continue to have a new heart which continues to demonstrate God’s love through you.
But don’t miss the drama of this term–when Peter says you and I were born again, he is reminding his readers and us that we were dead in our transgressions and sins. How many of you have seen some sort of zombie movie? Not my taste at all, but I know what a zombie is–a living dead person. And friends, that is what you were before you were born again–a zombie–a living dead person.
At salvation, you died with Christ as He took all our punishment for our sins against Himself. But the good news is, you also rose from the dead with Christ and now are alive in Christ, with a new nature–sharing the nature of God, the indwelling Holy Spirit. You are alive to God in Christ, no longer a zombie. Being born again is not turning over a new leaf, it is receiving a new life. The new birth entails a complete, radical and decisive transformation. It is the caterpillar into a butterfly. Those who are born again go from godless to lawless, selfish to manifesting genuine repentance, trust and love.
Hear what God says in His Word, church-goer. Making a decision at camp, going to a Bible study, attending churches occasionally for years, growing up in a Christian family, praying a prayer to receive Jesus, feeling guilty over your sin, believing good doctrine about God and salvation does not save you. Jesus said to the most godly, most righteous, most religious man of His day, Nicodemus, in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” You have to be born again to be right with God, made alive and go to heaven.
And this new birth is monergistic–meaning it is solely the work of God the Holy Spirit. Sinners do not cooperate in their spiritual births any more than infants cooperate in their natural births. You were dead–have you checked out anything dead lately? A lot of dead rabbits on the roads in our region, occasionally a dead possum, or a dead pigeon, a dead cat or other vermin. Have you noticed they don’t respond, react or choose? They’re dead!
Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” You don’t control the wind, you don’t choose where the wind blows, and you don’t control to whom God gives new life. Cry out to God to give you this new life–for when you have it, you won’t play church, you won’t become complacent or marginal, you will love God and love His children–and it will stick. You may have some valleys, you will stumble along the way–but your new born again life will remain because . . .
First Your new life is permanent
Verse 23, “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable.” Kids, did you ever get a toy you really wanted, but it didn’t last? I remember getting this really cool battery-operated hovercraft, and was shocked to learn it only ran for 5 minutes, after 8 hours of charging. It was so cool to watch, but very soon that 5 minutes was down to 30 seconds. It didn’t last–it was a big disappointment.
Your salvation is not like that. God did not save you temporarily–He saved you permanently. Being born again is not a momentary, earthly event–it occurs at a point in time, but lasts forever. Again verse 23, “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable.” Seed represents the source of life–all plants and animals start with some sort of seed. But nothing in the material world has the capacity to produce spiritual life or eternal life. Therefore God did not use perishable, earthly or temporary seed to give you new birth, since everything resulting in life that comes from natural seed, eventually gets rotten and dies.
You already know what verse 23 means. Just let some milk sit in your fridge a month after its expiration date. Milk is perishable, it will go bad. It will not last forever. Remember the ad for diamonds–“Diamonds are [what?] forever!” Diamonds last longer than milk, but they are not forever, because everything on this planet is perishable, it’s all gonna burn.
The Greek word for “perishable” and “imperishable” comes from a word group that means to die, be mortal, be destroyed or ruined. Peter’s readers had lost pretty much everything in their forced move from Rome to the Black Sea. They have been reminded about what is important and what is not. Isn’t it true, it usually requires a dramatic or painful event for us to remember what is truly eternal and important as a believer?
But take it a step further . . . unless Christ returns and we are raptured, every single one of us in this room is going to die. Own it. The statistics are scandalous–there is a 100% guarantee. You are going to die. (And it gets worse.) Now don’t be shocked–life will go on without you, people will forget you, the ripples of your life will fade from the pond of life, and things will be so smooth, it’ll be as if you had never existed. And remember, if you’re only born of this world, then this life is your only heaven. But if you are born of God, then this life is your only hell.
Our status as born again believers is not only permanent, it is indestructible. Peter uses the strongest single word of contrast when he says, “not of seed which is perishable but imperishable.” All sinners born again of God’s Spirit will gain eternal life and live forever. That is because all genuine believers have been born again with imperishable, eternal seed. The seed is God’s very divine nature, which was given to us through the living and abiding Word of God. Peter tells us next that . . .
Second Your new life is guaranteed in divine writing
I once got a guarantee in writing that my transmission was never going to break down, and if it did, it would be fixed for free. The company kept that promise, but the rest of my car, the parts that were not the transmission, didn’t keep their promise. But when God keeps His promise, it is fully guaranteed in writing, and the document is signed with His blood. And that document is sitting on your lap this morning–your Bible–the written Word of God.
Verse 23, “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” Eternal life does not come through clever preaching. Salvation is not given if you win your argument with the lost. Becoming born again does not come through convincing apologetics. Eternal salvation comes from God using the Word of God to penetrate a dead heart and awaken us to our desperate need for Christ and His work on the cross on our behalf.
Peter refers to the written word of God here, logos, which is living–living points to the power of the Word of God, as Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Those of you who are lost this morning only hear the Word of God taught, and possibly understand what it means in your mind. But those who are born again hear the Word, and as they listen, the bible affects their heart, convicts their actions, sorts through their thoughts, screens their motives–like a scalpel is to the body, the Word of God is to our spirit.
Plus, verse 23 says the written Word of God is enduring, (ESV says abiding) it can stand against anything thrown at it (and it has), and it will last forever. It is permanent, just as Jesus our Lord said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” Being genuinely born again is guaranteed by the living and enduring written Word of God. It is God’s powerful and permanent promise, signed in the blood of Jesus Christ.
No matter what is happening with Peter’s readers, or what is happening right now to you, you are secure. God has guaranteed eternal life with His never wrong Word. That is why you can love others intensely. Not only do you have all the resources from God within you once you are born again, but you also have God’s guarantee and guidance through His Word to show you how to love others. Not only did . . .
#1 God gave you a totally new life
#2 God answered your desperate need through the gospel 24-25a
There is a dramatic change of terms in this text you can’t see in the English. The first reference to the term “Word” in verse 23 is from the root word logos, referring to the written Word of God. But the second two references to “word” in verses 24 and 25 are from the root word rama, describing the spoken word of God, and is here a direct reference to the message of the Gospel, the spoken word of God describing the good news.
Peter moves from the written Word in verse 23, to talking about the message of the Gospel found in the Word of God in verses 24 and 25. And the Gospel, or good news, is this–God Himself took care of the problem separating Himself from us – our sin. God became a man, then took our place on the cross to suffer the punishment we deserve for all our sins, then rose from the dead to now provide salvation for His own. When He awakens our dead hearts, He gives us faith to depend upon Him and repentance to turn from our sin to follow Him. The Gospel says, God did the work, and when He awakens you, you will exchange all that you are for all that He is, and you will be saved now and forever, when it is genuine!
The spoken word is what rescued us from our current frail life. Who spoke that message to you? Who shared the gospel with you? Who modeled it, who sowed, who reaped? Get those people firmly fixed in your mind. God alone was the One who saved you, but have you ever thanked His faithful instruments? For those precious people were used of God to rescue us from . . .
First Your current life is temporary and frail
Verse 24, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off.” I love all the green grass on the hills right now, don’t you? Sadly, very shortly, it will all turn brown–it will wither. One of the scenes I love the most in our area is the result
of a big season of rain. For along the 15 freeway, there will be areas filled with bright orange flowers–their glory is enough to take your breath away. But within four weeks, they will have faded and shortly after fallen off.
Peter says, all flesh–meaning every person–is like that. All natural human existence is like the grass on the hills–green today, brown and gone the next. And notice, all its glory, referring to becoming famous, getting your picture on the cover, being really good looking, dressing in Armani, growing extremely smart, or developing awesome athletic ability, turning pro, winning American Idol, getting fabulously wealthy, or becoming exceptionally strong like some of us are burdened with (with our bulging biceps and six-pack abs). The most glory that any person can achieve is like the orange flowers that appear for three weeks, then disappear.
Peter quotes Isaiah 40:6-8 to add extra authority and punch to the truth that you are frail and temporary. Peter’s audience was feeling vulnerable and frail, and Peter confirms that status with proof from God’s Word . . . you are temporary, you are frail and you are vulnerable. In this life you are grass, and even when you do something glorious, it too will fade in a short time.
Hardly anyone remembers the television stars or rock stars or movie stars from the 70’s–they were so hot in their day–famous, rich, celebrated, funny, clever (dy-no-mite) and outspoken. They were easy to love . . . but now, who cares, they’re old, what they said then now sounds dumb! You want them to go away. But that is not the fate of those who are born again.
Second But your new life through the Gospel is eternal
Verse 25 “But the word of the Lord endures forever.” The spoken message of the Gospel that comes from Christ is eternal. Again the word for “word” is spoken word, specific statements, the message of salvation, the Gospel. And it is that Gospel seed which produces forever fruit, everlasting heaven, and eternal life. Only the message of the Gospel can save and that is through Christ alone, by faith alone, through grace alone. It is the Word of the Lord, there is no higher authority and no one else who can transform you from the inside out. Remember that you are frail, temporary and sinful. But you must be perfect to go to heaven and perfect to enter God’s presence. And you have a problem, if you have lied once, you’re a liar. If you have stolen once, you are a thief. If you have lusted once you are an adulterer, and if you have been angry once, you are a murderer.
You are not perfect but condemned–along with every other human being. We do not stand a chance of escaping hell, unless God rescues us from His judgment. And that is what He did through His perfect Son, Jesus Christ–God became a man, lived a perfect life then suffered and died on the cross. There He took all of God’s punishment for your sin, and if you turn to Him in faith and repentance, exchanging all that you are for all that He is, He will have taken your sin upon Himself and given you His perfect righteousness, justifying you, allowing you now to be forgiven, cleansed and ready for heaven now and forever. It is only this word from the Lord which endures forever. And all those who embrace this message will endure forever too.
So why do we love the brethren? Ready for a scary thought? Because we are going to live with our brothers and sisters forever. Consider the Christian you struggle with the most–you are going to live with that individual in loving perfection forever. You might as well figure out how to love them now, because you are not going to be able to avoid them eternally. And friends, if Jesus Christ chose them to be His child, you know our Lord does not make mistakes. And if you really fully embrace your sinfulness, remembering how sinful you were and how sinful you still are, then how can you not love someone else Jesus died for?
But it is not merely when the Gospel message is heard in the ear that people are saved, but when God makes it sprout in their heart, then people are truly born again. So Peter concludes with . . .
#3 God proclaimed the only Gospel to you
Verse 25 “But the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word which was preached to you.” Peter’s readers heard the Gospel message proclaimed to them–they heard Old Testament Scriptures, the early New Testament Scriptures, apostolic proclamation through everyday believers and gifted evangelists, and by a work of God in their heart. They believed that message, so that spoken word, that Gospel message was the truth which quickened new life within them, making them God’s true children.
This book and the message it contains is eternal. This book and its truths are worthy of all your affection, effort, commitment and passion. Your job, your school, your sports, your video games, your football season, your physique, even many of your relationships are not worthy of the time and attention you give them. But the Gospel message is. The Word of God is.
Again, the word for “word” here is the spoken word, and when Peter says in verse 25, “This is the message which was preached to you,” the word “preached” is the Greek word euangelismthen–where we get our English word “evangelism”. It is from the same root word that means good news or the Gospel. Peter says to his struggling readers, this is the spoken Gospel message which was shared with you in an evangelistic manner. This was the seed which the Spirit planted in your heart so that you would be eternally saved and imperishable forever.
Let me share with you a little secret. There are many so-called Christians and so-called churches that I disagree with. Some of them mishandle the Word of God, and I disagree with them vehemently. I am massively burdened about the Church today, including many in our region. I have no problem addressing their errors from this pulpit, and will continue to do so. But if I believe, as best I can, that they are genuinely saved, though I disagree with how they handle God’s Word, and many times am angered by it, I will not attack the person I think I am going to spend eternity with. I will correct their teaching, and I will expose their error from the Word of God, but I won’t nuke a brother for whom Jesus died like he was a heretic. There are more and more I want to choke, slap, or even spank, not because I am better, but because I believe they are harming people by compromising God’s Word, but I still want to try to love them.
I think that is a little of what Peter has in mind here. If we have been born again by embracing the true Gospel message, then we are to love each other, even when we disagree. If we are going to spend eternity together saturated in perfect love forever, then some of that, no matter how imperfect, must leak out in how we deal with each other. Who is it that you struggle with in this family? Ask the Lord to not only help you learn to love them, but show your love to them. Would you agree . . .
One It is the Word of God that God uses to change lives
Some of you are still more prone to toss out an answer based on your wisdom, your ideas, your experience, or your thinking, instead of trusting the Word of God to be the tool the Spirit uses to change lives. Know the Word and share the Word.
Two God has met all your greatest needs, look to Him first
What is your trial this morning–what is weighing you down? Have you gone to Christ in prayer over it, at length and in depth? Have you gone to the Word of God, searching for God’s direction over it? Or are you talking it over with frail and temporary people? Or are you working it out in your own head, or worse, worrying about it? Go to the source, go to the Lord, to the One who gave you life and then gave you re-birth. Don’t just seek the things God gives, go to the Giver, look to Him first.
Three Only by remembering the Gospel will you love properly
You are so sinful, that if sin were blue, you’d be a Smurf. You were a spiritual zombie–even though you walked around as if you were alive, you were completely dead, helpless, hopeless and non-responsive. You were so bad, that it actually took the sacrificial work of your Creator to make things right. Jesus Christ did that by dying on the cross for your sins, taking all of God’s punishment for your sins, rising from the dead, and making salvation possible for His chosen ones.
And when He calls you, you will respond with a heart of faith and repentance that remembers you deserve hell every single day, but God gives you grace, mercy and love. And when you remember the Gospel, when you embrace it every single day, you will depend upon the Lord to love through you. You will love the way God designed. To know His love, turn to Christ, then depend on His Spirit.