Michael Youssef - Identity Transformation - Part 4
Satan's number one assault on Christians is to keep them away from the Word of God. Because Satan knows better than most Christians, Satan knows that the Word of God is powerful and he does not want us to live in power. He wants us to live a defeated life. He wants us to live a discouraged life. He wants us to live a frustrated life.
In recent years, we have become more aware of the adage, "We are what we eat". We become more concerned with nutrition more than ever before. We are more aware of the danger of junk food and things that are not good for us. Health stores doing a roaring business. Diet pills, a multi-million dollar business. Diet books, a best-seller. The whole diet industry has become one of the largest industries in America. And the Apostle Peter knows the importance of nutrition from the spiritual point of view and he knows the importance of that injunction that Jesus gave him, "Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep". And here, he gives us the secret, the absolute secret to a consistent spiritual diet that will not only bless your life, but will bless you for all of eternity.
I want you to turn with me please to 1 Peter chapter 1, beginning at verse 22, and we're gonna go to chapter 2, verse 3. In the last message, we saw that in thankfulness to God for his seven-fold blessings, we are to be what? (Alert). Secondly, in thankfulness for God's seven-fold blessing, we are to be holy. And thirdly, in thankfulness we are to revere the Lord. Today, I wanna give you number four, five, and six. And if you look at verse 22 of 1 Peter 1, in thankfulness we are to grow in love. Number five, verses 23-25, in thankfulness we are to grow in the Word of God. And then the last one is chapter 2, verses 1 to 3, that in thankfulness we are to grow up. Let's look at them in detail. In thankfulness we are to grow in love.
Verse 22, "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you may have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, and from the heart". This is the fourth evidence that we are beginning to have our identity transformed from whatever it is, whether it's family name, whether it is a business, whether it is a title, whether it is a profession, and whether it is a net worth, whatever it may be, to being identified solely as the Lord's possession. I want you to listen very carefully please. Ask yourself the question, "How would anyone in the world know that I am a blood-bought child of the living God"? In a dog-eat-dog world, being holy is manifested in the believers truly and genuinely loving one another. I know young students probably ask the question, "How can I still be cool and be holy"? Adults ask the same thing, "How can I be holy without being looked upon and labeled as a square or a wet blanket"?
Hear me right, please. The devil has managed to convince us that being liked and being approved by the popular culture is more important than our convictions. The devil has managed to scare us into accommodating to the secular culture. The devil uses fear to keep believers from growing into maturity. The devil uses this fear to keep us from being truly effective for Christ. But there's only one thing that will make non-Christians literally sit back and take notice, and that is the level and the intensity of our love for one another. It's the way we care for one another. A genuine love, Peter said, is the evidence. But what are these characteristics of our love for one another? He says three things. He said, first of all, it's gotta be sincere. Well, what's that mean, for love to be sincere?
Let me illustrate it this way or explain it this way. When people outside of the Christian faith who show the trappings of love, and you see it in the movies and the media, they show the trappings of love, they do that because they expect something in return. Not so with us. We love for love's sake. We love because we were loved first. People outside the Christian faith, they also love, yes, but they love so that they may be loved back. But not with us. In fact Jesus, in Luke chapter 6, verse 32, he said, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even the Pagans do that". Peter said our love must be sincere. Secondly, he said our love must be deep. I don't have to tell you that we live in such a superficial way. The social media have made everything so superficial. Everything is shallow, and if you don't like somebody, just delete them from your Facebook or your Twitter.
And Peter said that our love should not be like that. Our love is to be rich, to be deep, and to be bountiful. Our love must be sincere, but also it must be deep. And thirdly, he said our love should be from the heart. What does that mean? Listen carefully, please. Loving from the heart makes an effort to understand the other person. Loving from the heart gives the other person the benefit of the doubt and not sit in judgment over your brothers and sisters. Loving from the heart makes allowance for failure, makes allowance for misunderstanding. Loving from the heart means that we keep on forgiving and never close our hearts to forgiving each other. Loving from the heart means that when a person repent and you say you forgive them, you don't hold that as a club over their head. You don't use the past failure as a club to beat them with it.
And so, in thankfulness, we grow in love. Secondly, in thankfulness we grow in the Word. The reason the very first message was about Peter's own life in relationship to Jesus, and thank God we have such rich biography of Peter, so we understand his Epistle much better. And it is not by accident that Peter links love with feeding, spiritual food. He links love with feeding upon the Word of God. Do you know why? Do you remember the last encounter with Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee? And Jesus said to him, "Peter, do you love me"? He said, "Yes". What'd Jesus say? "Feed my sheep. Peter, do you love me"? "Yes, Lord". "Feed my sheep". Third time, "Peter, do you love me"? "Lord, you know everything". "Feed my sheep".
A pastor who does not feed his sheep on the Word of God is not a loving pastor. Loving and feeding are inextricably linked. How does Peter feed the sheep? By feeding them upon the Word of God, non pop psychology, not motivational speech, not a pat on the back. He feed them upon the indispensable food of the Word of God. The Word of God is indispensable food to the soul. I've lived long enough to know that Satan's number one assault on Christians is to keep them away from the Word of God. Why? Because Satan knows better than most Christians, Satan knows that the Word of God is powerful, and he does not want us to live in power. He wants us to live a defeated life. He wants us to live a discouraged life. He wants us to live a frustrated life. It is difficult to comprehend the power in the Word of God in such a culture. But Peter reveals to us in 1 Peter chapter 1:23 that it was God's Word spoken to our dead spirits and brought us to life. It is God's Word that was spoken to our souls and saved us from hell. It is God's Word spoken to us that made us to be the children of the living God.
Now we need to daily feed upon that Word of God that brought us to life, not leave it alone, so that we may live and walk in the supernatural power. Many believers happily admit that they born again supernaturally. They're happy to admit that, but then they go the rest of their Christian life in their own steam, with their own wisdom, with their own ideas, with their own thoughts. They come to God in a supernatural way, but then they live the rest of their life in the natural.
Titus 3:5, Paul said, "God saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy". Please hear me right. Salvation is not like a delectable piece of dessert inside a glass window, that we looking at it, we can't wait to get our hands on it. No, no, no, no, no, salvation is not like that at all. Because of our sin nature, we did not want salvation. Because of our sin nature, we were too blind to see it. Because of our sin nature, we were too dead to crave it. But the power of the Word of God drew us. The power of the Word of God wooed us. The power of the grace of God and the Word of God allured us. The power of the Word of God reeled us in, amen.
If we truly comprehend the power of the Word of God, we would inhale it every day. We'd inhale it. I'm gonna say more about this in a minute, but suffice it to say that Peter quotes from the book of Isaiah, chapter 40, verses 6, 7, and 8, and I'm gonna tell you why he quoting from Isaiah. He said, "All men are like grass. All their glory is like flowers of the field. That grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of God stands forever". Beloved, listen to me, all people, rich and poor, all people, black, white, yellow, green, brown, all people, great and small, they're born to live for a little while and then fade away. But the Word of God, what? Stands forever. People impressed by the rich and powerful, people are in awe of the famous people, but soon they're gonna be forgotten.
Ah, but the Word of God, what? Stands forever. I'll never forget, in the early '80s when I was constantly traveling, I was at JFK airport at PanAm lounge waiting to get on the plane. And people lining up to get on the plane, and I looked at the line of the people going in, and then I took a double look, then I really went close and I looked again, and I saw a man standing there with his briefcase. A few years earlier, people paid thousands, and thousands, and thousands of dollars to get their pictures taken with him. And he's a solitary man boarding the plane. No secret service, no nothing. He didn't have to wait to die. He's, even in this life, he is nothing, after he was, in his own eyes and the eyes of culture, everything. Grass grows for a little while. It fades. But the Word of God, what? Stands forever.
I know and you know that today the Word of God is ridiculed by many. Today, the Word of God is maligned by many. Today, the Word of God may be ignored by a lot of people. Today, the Word of God might be abused and misused, even by those who are in the pulpits. But to those of us who know God, know that his Word is all-powerful, for God himself placed his power in his Word. Let me ask you a question. Please, please, please answer it to yourself. Do not skirt the question. Do you have a daily Bible feeding plan? Do you have a daily Bible feeding plan? There are a lot of them out there. Do you daily grow in the Word of God, feeding upon it. Do you feed your soul, your heart, and your mind upon the powerful Word of God? Do you experience daily power from the Word of God? D.L. Moody said it best. He said, "The Word of God is gonna keep you from sinning, but sin is gonna keep you from the Word of God".
In thankfulness we grow in love. In thankfulness for the seven-fold blessing we grow in the Word of God. Thirdly, or sixth, in thankfulness we grow up. I heard it and you heard it. Oh, grow up. Sadly, my generation has this motto that we only young once, but we can be immature indefinitely. Some time ago, back in Sydney, Australia, a friend gave me this piece of advice that I've never forgotten and tried to remember on a daily basis. He said, "If you want your kids to grow up with their feet firmly on the ground, place the Word of God on their shoulders". Beloved, the reason some people never grow up spiritually, never grow up in the faith, is because they are spiritually malnourished. They can be Christians for 5, 10, 20 years, and they remain immature, why? Because they never have learned to be nourished by studying, meditating, literally devouring the Word of God.
Hear me right on this one. Every single health practitioner who's worth the name will tell you that if you get serious about your physical health, they're gonna say to you to give up some things, and then you add some things in your life. They tell you to give up smoking, alcohol, to give up eating food that is not good for your body. You take these out of your life, and in their place, you put on good, healthy food, exercise regularly. And Peter is saying exactly what the health practitioners would say to us about the body, he's telling us about the spirit. Watch it with me, watch it. He says for a healthy spiritual life, you must do the same thing. Look at the things you need to put out. Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, all envy.
You notice he did not say keep trying to get rid of these things, and in time you're gonna get rid of them. No, no, no, no, he doesn't say that. He actually, it's in the imperative mood for those of you grammar scholars. He said get rid of them. Take them off and throw them away. Ruthlessly remove them from your life, why? Because they are extremely hurtful to your spiritual health. They are the enemies of your spiritual maturity. Look at them again. Go through them one by one. What is malice? Malice is the joy or delight you have, whether secretly or not, if somebody you don't like is suffering. You may not be the person doing the hurting to that person, but you rejoice in the fact that they are hurting because you don't like them.
You see, that's malice. Well, what's deceit? Deceit is when you tell half-truth for self-serving purposes. What's hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is when you are one thing in public and another thing in private. That's hypocrisy. It comes from the actors in the medieval time when they used to wear a mask and be somebody else, instead of being consistent. Envy, my goodness. Our culture, if there is a cancer that is infecting our culture, it's that envy. What do you think of this? Well, 99%, or 90%, or whatever, 1%, or 10%, and all these demonstrations, and all these people saying we got to tax everybody at 90% level. That's envy, because envy means you want what doesn't belong to you, instead of wanting to work hard and achieve what you need to achieve. And wanting what belongs to somebody else, it's envy. And just as tobacco, alcohol, drugs, bad food is harmful to you physically; malice, deceit, hypocrisy, and envy are harming you spiritually. This malice, deceit, hypocrisy, and envy is like a poisonous pill for relationships.
And Peter is saying that these things are inspired by Satan. Do you know why? Do you know why? Because he loves to divide the believers. He really does. He's the author of division. He loves to get believers busy fighting with each other. See, that way they're not busy reaching the lost. He loves to hinder the believers from spiritually growing up. And like children, they're always fighting among themselves. Meanwhile, the opposite is true. When you are craving the pure milk of the Word of God, when you are growing, and maturing, and being nurtured by the Word of God, when you love one another, when you resolve your differences and your disagreements biblically, when you give and receive forgiveness all the time, that milk of the Word of God is being consumed by those believers. And milk here, by the way, is not opposite to solid food as Paul talks about elsewhere, but here, the use of the word "pure milk," referring to its purity, is referring to its nutrients. It's the ability to build you up, and there is no additives, no preservatives, and no watered down milk, no impurities of any kind. It's the pure milk of the Word of God.
And beloved, I don't have to tell you, sadly there are so many people who are watering the Word of God. They're adding water to it. It's not even clean water. It's not even pure water. They're just adding water, so much so that their congregations don't know the difference anymore. The result of this is that we today have so many spiritually malnourished professing Christians. I like the story about the American Indian, Native American, who was invited by a white American, come from the reservation and go to an American church with him. And he went along and the preacher, to cover up for his lack of preparation, he started hollering, and screaming, and yelling.
And this American friend said to the Indian, he said, "Wow, didn't our preacher really preach a storm today"? And this Indian man who loves the Lord, knows the Lord, studies the Word of God thought for a minute and he said, "High wind, big thunder, but no rain". Peter, for whom Jesus entreated to feed his sheep, is saying to us that if you wanna become spiritually mature, if you wanna become spiritually strong believer, feed upon the pure Word of God. Do you find the reading, and the meditating, and studying the Word of God to be a drudgery? Does the Bible feel like a 10-ton weight? Because most likely, it is because you have not put away malice, deceit, hypocrisy, slander, envy, and they're making the Word of God to you to be a drudgery. Whatever it is that is holding you from feeding upon the Word of God, I entreat you to come to the great Physician and he will remove it from you.