1 Peter 1:22-2:10    A Life of Purpose
Four Habits of Highly Effective Christians

What is it with lifestyle gurus? They promise significance, success, wealth, fame, efficiency, wholeness, balance, integration and promotion, peace of mind, long life and endless fulfilment. And millions believe they can deliver it.


Christians are not immune from the temptation. After all, many of us get stressed wondering how on earth we can juggle time for the family, friends and the church, achieve goals, cope with demands at work, answer the emails, please the boss, get meaningful exercise, detox the body, get enough sleep, and create a firm abdomen.


So there is a brisk trade in self-help seminars, weekend courses and books like Antony Robins, “Awaken the Giant Within”; John Gray’s “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”; Ken Blanchard’s “One minute Manager”; Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Travelled”; and most influential of all, Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. It is probably the most successful management book ever, with sales of over 1.5 million a year.


It is used as essential training by over 16,000 organisations and spawning a multi-million £ business. It is such a highly influential book that even a former president of the United States has endorsed it. Covey claims that effective people are those who do not lose sight of the bigger things in life, who manage their diaries to ensure however busy and demanding the day is, the important things are never neglected.

They are people who develop habits which enable them to achieve everything they want effectively and smoothly. They are people who routinely monitor their success, with a view to constant improvement. They are focussed individuals who get to the end of life and look back with happiness at all they have done. And they just make me sick with envy, in a Christian sought of way.

Seriously, although Covey talks a lot about the importance of character and having a value system, he leaves it open to the reader to import what ever goals or values they like. So, at the end of the day, although attractive, his route to self-perfection is deeply flawed. It relies, like all the other secular alternatives, on a self-motivated and self-centred definition of success. I’d like to suggest this evening that if you truly want to be an effective person, save your pennies and read the book in the seat rack in front of you. Last month we began a new series of studies based on Peter’s first letter.


We entitled it, “standing strong.” We discovered that this short letter was written to a church scattered across the Roman Empire. Under pressure, living in a hostile, anti Christian world. Increasingly persecuted, hunted down like animals for sport by the deranged emperor Nero.


Now as a staff team we have had some healthy discussion around the people Peter was writing to. I take the view (like most commentators) that Peter’s letter was written to Christians – Jewish and Gentile. To suggest this he was writing to Jewish Christians has grave implications for how we view the nature of the church – in the first century, through history and today. This is nowhere more critical than when we come to interpret passages such as the verses before us tonight. In my reading of scripture, Peter is defining the church of Jesus Christ, the Bride of Christ. If he was not, if he is referring to only some Christians and not others, then we are in serious trouble, for we are in danger of setting one part of Scripture against another.


As I show in my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers, Israel was never identified on the basis of race, never racially pure, never equated with the physical descendents of Jacob. Just the reverse - Israel was a community of believers drawn from many nations and the Church is no different – indeed they are one and the same.

In my reading of scripture a church that is defined on racial grounds is sub-Christian. Of course there is a place for fellowship groups and evangelistic outreach that focus on a particular language or racial group, but in the NT the Church is defined spatially, not racially. In history, whenever a church has defined itself on the basis of race, or given preference to one racial group over another, it has become racist.


If I moved to Bolivia of course I would want to have fellowship with the English speaking people but join an English speaking church made up of English expats? That is the NT model of how you do Church. Historically that model has undermined the gospel. It has hindered the authentic work of the kingdom. The Bride of Christ in the NT is an international family of believers spatially identified in local communities.


In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, we are all one in Christ. That is what Christ Church is because that is what the New Testament says the Church is to be. 


What ever your situation this evening, wherever you have come from in the world, whatever your race, whatever burden you are carrying right now, whatever pressure you feel under, whatever opposition you are facing, whatever pain you are suffering, remember this book is for you because it was written about you.


By contrast most self help books are precisely that. About self-help, and in the face of adversity they are pretty shallow and ultimately bankrupt. In the verses before us today 1:21-2:10 Peter takes us deeper into God’s plan for the church and how God would have us live in community. God’s plan is very different - we were created to live in community.


We were designed to live in community - to know and be known, to love and be loved, to serve and be served, to celebrate and be celebrated. Peter uses four vivid pictures to describe our relationship to one another in the Church. With each he gives us an authentic Habit of Highly Effective Christians.


1. We Are Children in God’s Family (1 Peter 2:1-3)
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,  now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:1-3)

What is the ‘therefore’ therefore? Because in context we have been commanded, as we saw last week,

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)


Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we are born again into a worldwide family.  At the core of this family is the most important habit Covey and all the other self-help gurus entirely miss. This is the hallmark of an authentic church.  Peter uses two words for love: philadelphia, = “brotherly love,” and agape, which is divine sacrificial love. Its the key to surviving rejection at home, hostility in society and opposition at work.

1.1 A Sacrificial Love

In community we share and experience God’s unconditional sacrificial love for one another. It is the evidence that we truly have been born of God (1 John 4:7-21).

1.2 A Sincere Love

Not only is this love a sacrificial love, it is also a sincere love. This is love “with a pure heart.” Our motive is not to get but to give. The self-help manuals teach you how to manipulate others to get what you want. If our love is sincere and from a pure heart, we can never “use people” for our own advantage.

1.3 A Deep Love

The word ‘deeply’ is an athletic word. It means “striving with all of one’s energy.” Do you strive with all your energy to love? With some people you need to. When tempted not to, remember God forgives us, so we forgive others. God is kind to us, so we are kind to others. God’s love in outrageously indiscriminate, its wildly infectious, its passionate for the lost.  What about your love? Rick Warren says, “Love should be your top priority, primary objective and greatest ambition. Love is not a good part of your life, it’s the most important part.”

The Bible says “Let love be your greatest aim.” (1 Corinthians 14:1 Living Bible). He goes on to say “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” This is therefore the first and most important habit to develop if you want to be a highly effective Christian. How do we develop this habit?

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2)

A healthy Christian will have an appetite for God’s Word just like a hungry newborn baby! We should want the pure Word, unadulterated, because this alone can help us grow. If you have children you will know why it is hard to get them to eat healthy meals. Sometimes children have no appetite because they have been eating junk food. Peter warned his readers to “lay aside” junk food that hinders healthy growth. Peter lists the 5 habits of highly destructive people.

“Malice” means meditating on destructive thoughts for another. “Deceit” is craftiness, using devious words and actions to get what we want. If we are guilty of malice and deceit, we will try to hide it; and this results in “hypocrisy”. Pretending to be what you are not. Often malice and deceit are due to “envy” - wanting what others have got, and one result of envy is “slander”, conversation that tears the other person down.

If you want to avoid these habits of highly destructive people feed daily on the pure word of God daily. I commend to you the One Year Bible.  The first and most important habit of highly effective Christians therefore is to love as Christ loves us - sacrificially, sincerely, deeply from the heart. We are children in God’s family so lets love deeply feeding on God’s word daily.


2. We Are Stones in God’s House (1 Peter 2:4-8)

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by human beings but chosen by God and precious to him—  you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For in Scripture it says: See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.” (1 Peter 2:4-8)

The bible describes the church not only as a family but also as a building. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone of the church (Eph. 2:20), binding the building together. Whether we agree with each other or not, we belong to each other as living stones in God’s building. The first time Jesus described the church he compared it to a building. “I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). We are ‘living stones’ in His building. Each time someone trusts Christ, another stone is quarried out of the pit of sin and cemented by grace into His building. It may appear at times that the church on earth looks like a demolition site, but its not. Its actually a construction site. It is not perfect because it is not finished. God is supervising the construction of his Church and nothing will thwart his plans. 

What a privilege to help build his church in which God dwells by his spirit. How important therefore that we cooperate with him and one another in its construction. This is not ‘my’ church. Its not ‘your’ church but his church. Peter wrote this letter to believers living in five different provinces, yet he said that they all belonged to one “spiritual house.” Do you see the folly of suggesting Peter is only talking to Jewish Christians?

There is a unity of God’s people that transcends all races and denominations. That’s why we aspire to be the international community church of Virginia Water and beyond. We come from many different denominations and with our roots in the Anglican church, we are a family and a building under construction.

If we follow God’s blueprints given in the Bible and lay aside our human traditions we can continue to work together without discord and build His church for His glory.

That is why I am excited that we have a mission statement - “to know Jesus and make Jesus known" - w
hy we have a new 2020 vision and a five year plan we will launch at our anniversary on the 1st November. We are confident we know his plans for our local church. But we will only accomplish his purposes as we work together to fulfil it. The second habit we therefore need to form is one of service. We are in the construction business not the destruction business.

There is no place at CC for tearing down other Christians. We are here to build one another up in love. So before you open your mouth to complain or criticise ask yourself “what am I prepared to do to help put it right, show by example, lead by serving.  We need to remind ourselves that as living stones we are each “under construction”.

Our role is to help one another find our place in the Body of Christ. To discover our spiritual gifts and natural talents and use them to build up and extend Christ’s church in Virginia Water. We are children in God’s family so lets love deeply.
We are stones in God’s house so lets build up one another constructively.


3. We Are Priests in God’s Temple (1 Peter 2:5, 9)
“like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5)

We are a “holy priesthood” and a “royal priesthood.” In the Old Testament God’s people had a priesthood; but today in the New Testament God’s people are a priesthood. We each have direct access to the presence of God through Jesus (Heb. 10:19-25). We do not need a human mediator or priest to do so. Instead we are mediators for those still outside the church. We bring them to God in prayer. We bring God to them in word and deed. In the Old Testament priests served in the Temple. Most of the time we will serve as priests outside this building.

I spend quite a bit of my time in Café Blu (now Wine Circle) meeting people, counselling people, praying for people there. In public you are on display. I think carefully therefore about what I say because people are listening. Peter specifically mentions the privilege of offering “spiritual sacrifices.”
We don’t bring animal sacrifices as did the Old Testament worshipers; but we do have our own sacrifices to present to God. We give our bodies to Him as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-2). The money we gave to Umthombo last night and the food here for Yeldall, for example, is also a spiritual sacrifice. The third habit we need to develop is doing everything in Jesus name. Asking “what would Jesus say?” what would Jesus do?” and then doing it as a spiritual sacrifice.

We are children in God’s family so lets love deeply.
We are stones in God’s house so lets build constructively.
We are priests in God’s temple so lets serve sacrificially.

 4. We Are Citizens in God’s Nation (1 Peter 2:9-10)

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)

In Hosea 1:9, 2:1, 22 God says to rebellious Israel “you are not my people”. In Romans 9:24-26 and Ephesians 2:19 the Apostle Paul applies Hosea’s words to Jews and Gentiles before they trusted in Christ.
“even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?  As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one, and, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God. ” (Romans 9:24-26)

All the promises made to Abraham are being fulfilled in the Church. That is the consistent message of the NT. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)


 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.” (Ephesians 2:19)


So here too, Peter does the same. Just as God’s people in the Old Testament were called his ‘chosen people’ so are we in the New Testament.  Indeed Peter insists “you are the people of God”. So in direct continuity with our Old Testament brothers and sisters, God’s people today are His chosen and holy nation. The Old Testament is our genealogy, our family history.

“Let no foreigners who have bound themselves to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” (Isaiah 56:3)


“And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The Sovereign LORD declares— he who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:6-8)


“But whoever takes refuge in me will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain.” (Isaiah 57:13)


So, of our OT brothers and sisters, Hebrews writes, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.  God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40)


Together, Jews and Gentiles in Jesus, we are a holy nation. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Because citizenship has always been based on faith not race.

The 4th habit linked to our citizenship of heaven is in verse 9.

“that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)  

The verb means “to tell out”, or “to advertise.” Notice the word Peter uses for the way we advertise Jesus. “Praise”.
We equate praise with church services. Peter equates it with evangelism. When you love someone deeply it shows. Our enthusiasm to share the love of Jesus will be in proportion to our own gratefulness for the love he has shown us. The fourth habit we therefore need to develop is in becoming infectious with our praise of God, calling others out of darkness into his marvellous light. Four beautiful pictures of the Church.

Four habits then of highly effective Christians.

We are children in God’s family so lets love deeply.

We are stones in God’s House so lets build constructively.
We are priests in God’s Temple so lets serve sacrificially.
We are citizens in God’s Nation so lets become infectious through praise.

This is what community is all about. This is why the good news of Jesus is so infectious when its lived out in community. To love and be loved. To know and be known.  To serve and be served. To celebrate and be celebrated. It all comes down to the one word: Love.

Let me leave you with a challenge from Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life”

“Why is now the best time to express love? Because you don’t know how long you will have the opportunity. Circumstances change. People die. Children grow up. You have no guarantee of tomorrow. If you want to express love, you had better do it now. Knowing that one day you will stand before God, here are some questions you need to consider: How will you explain those times when projects or things were more important to you than people? Who do you need to start spending more time with? What do you need to cut out from your schedule to make that possible? What sacrifices do you need to make? The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.”


Lets pray.


I am most grateful to Warren Wersbie’s “Be Hopeful” (Scripture Press) for the outline and some of the content and also to Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life” (Zondervan) for some of the ideas and questions found in this sermon.