By Skip Heitzig | First Published: April 27, 2015
Pastor and author Skip Heitzig whets our appetite for the spiritual nutrition that can be found in God's Word, in this the fourth part of a yearlong series on the books of First and Second Peter.
We’ve all seen it. The ad has been running for years. Celebrities donning milk mustaches are presented along with the simple question: Got Milk? According to USA Today it was voted one of the 10 best ad campaigns in history! It brought star power to a simple idea that most people already believed: milk is good for you. Originally created to bolster a faltering dairy industry, the advertisement successfully got more people to drink of the product. But because cow’s milk can be problematic for some, mother’s milk remains the best food there is for a newborn.
Peter was driving at a similar point when he encouraged believers to “desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). Just as proper nutrition is required for physical growth, proper spiritual nutrition is required for spiritual growth.
Peter began this letter by establishing the power of our salvation in Jesus. Then he counseled his readers to punch holes in the darkness and plug into God’s holiness. Now he continues that thought with the next step to a solid faith: to crave spiritual nutrition. There’s just no other way to grow.
I recently saw a cartoon of a squirrel lying on a psychiatrist’s couch, saying, “When I learned that ‘you are what you eat,’ it was then I realized I was nuts.” So, what are you eating? Do you start the week with an appetizer of God’s Word in a Sunday sermon, and then go to junk food for the rest of the week? Do other interests, distractions, or even responsibilities douse your hunger? Peter gave us three ways to enhance our appetite for the “pure milk” of God’s Word and to grow in our walk with Him: be mindful, be careful and be faithful.
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Peter encouraged us to desire God’s Word “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:3). That first little phrase—“if indeed”— is crucial; his entire thought here is built on it. The if would be better translated since: “Since indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” Peter’s point: since you’ve tasted God’s goodness, since you know that God is gracious, then push aside the junk food, and make room for the real food. To say that you’ve tasted God’s goodness means you’ve experienced it for yourself; you didn’t read it in a book or hear it in a sermon. And didn’t you want more after your first taste? Didn’t salvation taste better than sin? Didn’t forgiveness taste better than fantasy? Didn’t the hope of Heaven taste better than all earthly pleasures combined?
Think back to that first taste of spiritual refreshment, that moment when you said yes to Jesus on a personal level. Remember how that felt? For me, it was like a burden being removed. After hearing Billy Graham preach the Gospel of God’s grace, I said a simple but heartfelt prayer. I couldn’t describe it; I didn’t see a vision, I didn’t hear a voice, but I felt so free—my guilt had been lifted away. I went from ramen noodles to steak and lobster, and there was no going back; I’ve been careful not to forget the taste of God’s grace and mercy.
The second step in cultivating your spiritual appetite is to be careful. Peter warned us about spiritual junk food—poison, really—when he told us to lay “aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking” (1 Peter 2:1). These are the things that will ruin your appetite for spiritual life. Some people develop a malevolent taste for them, especially if it’s what they were used to consuming before they came to Christ, but Peter told us to push them aside.
These horizontal tendencies will take away your appetite for vertical truth. And we must go vertical, both to taste God’s goodness and to continue in developing an appetite for Him. It sounds extreme, but what doesn’t give you spiritual nourishment can become poison. It might kill slowly, but it kills.
When we forget God’s goodness to us in the past, we’re likely to develop a bad attitude in the present (malice), or to manipulate to get our way in the future (deceit). That can lead to pretending to be something we’re not (hypocrisy); to resent others’ blessings (envy); or to gossip, talk someone down, or judge motives (evil speaking). Spiritual junk food breeds bitterness!
There are two options: Your bitterness will kill your appetite for His sweetness—or, His sweetness will dispel your bitterness. You can’t have both. So, be mindful of what you’ve tasted, and be careful to avoid junk food.
Our awareness and caution should then lead us to be faithful to feed on the real stuff—the truth of God. “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). The highest rate of growth in human life is in the infant stage. Babies change weekly. When a baby is hungry, she is faithful to let you and everyone else know exactly what she wants: milk—and it’s an absolute necessity.
When Peter used this metaphor, he wasn’t calling his audience a bunch of immature babies. Nor did he mean that we should avoid deep, doctrinal, meaty truths of the Word. Rather, we simply must crave God’s truth just like a baby craves milk. That verb—desire, crave—is a word that implies a vigorous, intense, passionate yearning for something. How hungry are you?
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). He said nothing about casually snacking after righteousness. Some people can go for weeks without even cracking open their Bibles.
What is your craving like? Do you want to grow? Then don’t mix God’s truth with anything else—not the Bible plus human philosophy, nor the Bible plus humanistic psychology, nor the Bible plus someone’s theological bent. Just the “pure milk of the word”—no additives, no contaminants, no 2 percent, no skim.
Here’s the deal: your spiritual growth is directly proportional to your desire—your craving for God’s Word. You and I have access to the same information, inspiration, and instruction. We have the same Bible. And yet we are where we are in our spiritual growth because of our desire— or lack of it. With that in mind, a more basic ending question is not “Got Milk?” but “Want Milk?” D ©2015 SKIP HEITZIG
SKIP HEITZIG IS PASTOR OF CALVARY ALBUQUERQUE (NEW MEXICO). SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS ARE TAKEN FROM THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW KING JAMES VERSION.