May
25

Living Stones and Holy People

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Click here to download the mp3 file.Text: 1 Peter 2:1-10

 

It’s a great  joy today to be a part of this worship service to give thanks and say ‘thank you’ to all of you who give so generously of your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness in the church and outside of these walls. I’m very honored and humbled to work with you in Jesus’ name. So… thank you, each of you, for your gift of love to the Kingdom.

I think I’m safe this morning by saying that the gift of ourselves we make to our Lord isn’t an easy gift to give. It makes every day of life a balancing act:  because we are seeking to live holy lives, we try not to be part of the pagan culture around us – even though we have to live IN that culture!

The scripture we’re studying today is all about this kind of balancing act – and it teaches that it’s possible to live a faithful life in a culture that isn’t saved. The key to it all, is learning who you are – knowing your identity, and growing in it. That’s what being born again is all about: knowing that you’re in Jesus’ family, and growing to be like Him; being living stones, formed together into one body.

What does it mean to be a “living stone?” It means that you are part of something bigger than yourself.  To quote a hymn of my childhood, “I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together.”

The churches Peter was discipling were filled with inexperienced Christians, believers struggling with the attractions of the old life while growing into the new. They were committed to this new life, and it was not an easy battle.  So, to hear that they were part of such a secure spiritual home was especially comforting. This comfort helped them change into a living example of God’s presence in the world they lived in.

Being formed together into a close-knit community of believers through the spiritual power of Jesus, the “living stone,” made all of the difference. The same is just as true for us. All Christians are “living stones” — building blocks in God’s great construction project as God builds up a “spiritual house,” the true community of faith, the church.

Let’s learn about what it means to be living stones in a spiritual house.

Living Stones are the Foundation of God’s Kingdom

In the Old Testament, God designated Jerusalem as the cornerstone of His people, founding His promises in the city itself. But, as had happened so many times before, the people chose to disobey Him and stay stuck in apathy and indulgence.

But, God’s faithfulness remained, and He took a new direction in seeking the salvation of His children:

“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.

I will be their God, and they will be my people.

No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’

because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD.

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:33-34, NIV84)

When Peter speaks of “cornerstones” and “stumbling blocks,” he’s using images to contrast the believers who claim Christ with those who reject him. Instead of rejecting the “living stone” who is Christ, new Christians are invited to share in being part of the construction of a new “spiritual house” (v.5). This “house” is, of course, the church itself, the God-designed community of faith which is bonded together through the cement of its commitment to Christ.

Each believer is a living stone because each he or she knows God intimately – in the heart.

Jesus is the Cornerstone of God’s Kingdom

So this is what the Sovereign LORD says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,

a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;

the one who trusts will never be dismayed.”

(Isaiah 28:16, NIV84)

 

I want to take a moment and talk about the idea of being a royal priesthood before going on.  We live in a nation where we don’t (officially) have royalty; so, basing our identity upon that of a king or queen can seem strange.  We’re also very much oriented to being independent individuals.  To understand what it means to be one of the building blocks of the Kingdom of God, we have to see ourselves – our identity – from that perspective.

In the ancient world, people didn’t think first of themselves and then the group they belonged to (for example, their church or workplace).  They saw themselves first through the eyes of others; who they were was determined by how they were related to others.

To say that Jesus is the cornerstone of the Kingdom is to say that Jesus is the one who determines our identity. Because we are His, our goals and focus are the same as his; because we belong to Jesus, our first identity is that of Christian. If we practice a Christianity that is based on our ethnicity, geography, or secular traditions, we’ll be forever sidetracked from following our true purpose.

When Peter says that Christians are a ‘royal priesthood,’ he’s saying that we are all equal in God’s sight – and we all have the same access to Him. Becoming Christian means that we’ve become children of the God of the universe and there is no separation with the heavenly Father.

God’s Kingdom is built with Living Stones and Holy People

“All these people … admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.

People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.

Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.

Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

(Hebrews 11:13-16, NIV84)

 

The best way to sum this up is this: the Gospel that created the church is the gospel that should be modeled by the church.  If we’ve been changed, it should show! God has made us a holy people – that means he has claimed us as His, not that we’re better than others – and we  bring Him glory through lives of devotion to His purposes.

One of the biggest challenges that any of us face on a day-to-day basis is being too busy.  Our world is chock-full of noise, hurry, and crowds.  Some weeks, it seems as though you can’t even grocery shop at night to get some peace!  With these things filling our time, senses, and spirits, it can be hard to impossible to find the time and focus that we need to devote to spiritual development.

Just like the churches of Asia Minor, our challenges of community and commitment will be at the forefront of our lives in the Church. Peter’s advice about the need for spiritual nourishment is advice that should be heeded. Other than prayer and learning the scriptures, we need Christian fellowship to come to maturity in the faith; through those Christian relationships we are blessed with guidance and correction, fellowship and support. These are some of the primary ways that we receive and keep our identity as God’s people, a nation that He has created and welcomed. We’re helping one another, and the world in which we serve, look to the better place that God has prepared for us – and invite them to join us, in the name of the one who saved us: Jesus Christ.

Sources Consulted:

“The Bislett Effect,” Homiletics, May 2005

“Rock Bottom Living,” Homiletics, May 1996

The NIV KeyWord Study Bible (AMG, 1996)

McKnight, Scot. 1 Peter Zondervan, 1996