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Big Stone and Little Stones

Date: Aug. 8, 2010

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

1 Peter 2:4-12

Key Verse: 1 Peter 2:4-5

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men 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.

Last week, Bob talked about holiness. He gave us the exhortation to be holy because our heavenly Father is holy.  Holiness is not necessarily something that we really want to be a part of.  We prefer not being too different from others, but as God’s people, we should really desire to not be too different from God.  In other words, we should desire to be like God, who is holy.  To do that, we have to make a decision to leave our lives of sin: to get rid of all malice and deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander, and to the spiritual things of God: the pure spiritual milk.  We should strive to seek God and the delectable and holy food that only he provides.  That’s last week.  This week builds on that thought.  In this passage, we can see that when we seek that nourishment by seeking Christ, we start changing and grow to become something new…something different: a people for God.

The passage literally starts out, “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men 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.” (4-5) That’s a gigantic sentence with a lot in there, but let’s take it piece by piece.  Let’s start with, “As you come to him”.  The first part of verse 4 refers to verses 1 through 3 that we had from last week.  As Christians, we are to desire pure spiritual milk, the pure and purifying word of God.  To get that pure spiritual milk, we have to go to the source of the word of God, that is Jesus.  John 1 begins,“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) Jesus is the Word that John refers to and that Word is God.  If we want to be holy, and we should desire to, then we have to come to Jesus, because only Jesus can give us holiness.  We cannot become holy by our actions and our works, but only as we come to him, who is holy.

To better understand this concept of why we need to come to Jesus to be holy, let’s continue on through verse 4, “the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him”.  So, Jesus is this living Stone, not a dead Rock, and even though men rejected him, God chose him for a very special purpose.  “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 capstone,’ and, ‘A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.” (6-8) Jesus is this stone that has been dedicated to become the cornerstone.  God chose Jesus just for that purpose.  Actually, this stone metaphor provides imagery that is reminiscent of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.  The cornerstone is the part of the foundation that is set first.  This stone would set the orientation of the entire temple building. The entrance of the temple needed to face east toward the rising sun.  If the cornerstone were not set properly, then the entire temple would not be aligned.  Since the cornerstone was also a part of the foundation, it had to be strong so that it could bear the weight of the entire temple. 

In the same way, this living Stone Jesus was set as the cornerstone of the new temple: a temple not made of stone and wood, but made of people.  Jesus is what sets the foundation of the church.  Many churches try to set their foundation on their doctrine: on their beliefs and traditions.  They hold on to certain aspects of their denomination or church with a death grip, not willing to let them go, like baptism rituals, style of dress, type of music, message style, how people are brought in to ministry, how people are sent out of the ministry, that the leader’s word is law, or the one giving the sermon must be in a robe or a suit.  It is not necessarily that these things are bad, but they are not the foundation of the church.  The foundation must always be set as Jesus.  Jesus is not some stone in the wall; he is the cornerstone that is the foundation of the church.  Jesus is what sets policy and doctrine.  Jesus says what is good.  Jesus shows us what is holy. 

There is a danger, a real danger, that we can put too much importance on our traditions and then we are not aligned with God anymore.  Like every church, UBF has some traditions.  All of them are good or have been good, but if we were to focus too much on those traditions, then we lose Jesus.  As an example of what could happen (not what is happening, but could happen), UBF has a strong foundation in one-to-one Bible study and it is a good, personal way to come to Jesus.  However, if someone starts saying that it is by one-to-one Bible study that we are saved, we miss the point.  If the emphasis is on one-to-ones then the emphasis is not on Jesus and we lose the fact that the point is to bring people to Jesus and one-to-one Bible study is a good way to do so, but there are more ways (and all of them good), like worship service, group Bible studies, outreach events, prayer meetings, and even spending time with people, because the goal is to bring people to Jesus, not to bring them to one-to-one Bible study.  Like I said, I’m not saying that that is happening, but it is a danger and I could have replaced one-to-one Bible study with anything, like type of baptism, and still made the point that Jesus should be the foundation of our lives and he orients us toward God so that we can be holy. 

When we have Jesus as our cornerstone, he becomes very precious to us.  As 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.”(6) When Jesus is the foundation our lives, individually and as a church, then the Bible says that we will never be put to shame.  We will never be put to shame, because as our cornerstone, he aligns our lives and hearts with that of God and he bore the full weight of our sins as he hung on the cross.  If you don’t feel that Jesus bearing your sins and giving you direction is something that makes him precious, then there is a real problem.  Jesus is precious to God, it says to in verse 4.  Jesus brought about salvation for everybody. If Jesus is not the cornerstone of your life, but you made him a brick in the wall of your life, then you don’t really believe because Jesus isn’t precious to you. 

If Jesus is one of many things in your life, but not the most precious part of you life, then you do not believe.  “Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,’ and, ‘A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.” (7-8) So, if you believe, the stone is precious because of what Jesus has done, but if you don’t have him as the most precious thing, then you reject him for who he is and you will stumble and fall.  There are many people who have Jesus as a brick.  They love the love and humility that Jesus shows, but disregard the call to live as he did.  Jesus is a good moral teacher to them, but they deny the righteousness and holiness that Jesus has because he is God.  These are the people who seek after the riches of the world, because the Bible says that God will bless them.  When they come to certain verses in the Bible that talk about suffering for Christ, they don’t accept it and stumble to try to explain what was being said.  To those who don’t have Jesus in the light right, he causes them to stumble because they disobey the message.  There are these bumper stickers that say, “Jesus is my Co-pilot.”  A co-pilot is not the one in charge.  He is the backup and not the main driver of life.  But that is wrong.  They seek Jesus for prosperity, but when he doesn’t deliver, they despair because they don’t have Jesus as their foundation as the Bible clearly says.  They put him as a brick in the wall.

On the other hand, to those who do believe, Jesus is very precious and he changes us to become holy. Let’s go back to verses 4 and 5 again, “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men 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.” (4-5) As we come to Jesus, we become like him, living stones, to become a church and priesthood. Look at the walls of this chapel. What are they made of? (Brick) Look at those bricks.  What would happen if one was or a few were missing?  There would be a hole in the wall.  Each brick is important to the structure of the building.  Holes disrupt the structural integrity of the building. However, the church is not a building, the church is the people.  The church is made up of living stones, in other words: people.  That means that each of us is a brick in God’s house, and we shouldn’t think too highly of ourselves.  We are not the cornerstones; we are bricks in the wall.  And likewise, IIT UBF is just a piece of God’s ministry. We are a brick in UBF and UBF is a brick in the wider view of Christianity.  Altogether, we are God’s house with Jesus as our foundation and cornerstone.

Look at the bricks in the chapel again.  Are they all identical?  Do they have the same positions?  Are they aligned on top of each other?  No. The bricks are aligned so that they take care of each other’s weaknesses.  A brick is on top of a joint to make the whole stronger than the individual. Some are on the bottom, some are on top, some to the left, and some to the right.  It is strong and sturdy because of the differences.  In the same way, we are all different and called to serve in different respects, but together we are the church of Christ. Together we can serve God based on our gifts without worry of our weaknesses.  On Friday, we finished Regenesis.  In it, there was a part to help us identify our gifts so that we can find our place as a brick in God’s house.  And this past Friday, we talked about our fears and anxieties so that we can cover each other’s weaknesses to help build each other up.  These discussions were to get us be less like individuals who serve God and to be more like a church built up for Christ.

Not only does God consider us as a spiritual house, but we are also like priests in the service of God.  The physical temple that used to exist was made of stone and built up, but the temple was not the priesthood.  God ordained priests to serve him in the temple.  With the advent of Christ, however, it is his believers that comprise the temple or church.  This means that the living stones that make up the temple can do more than just sit there as a building, but the stones, themselves, can serve God by offering sacrifices, as it says in verse 5.  You might be wondering what these spiritual sacrifices are.  In the days of the temple, the priests would slaughter animals as offerings to God.  However, it wasn’t the offering itself that God wanted.  There is a Psalm that says, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17) The spiritual sacrifice that God wants for us to give is ourselves.  Jesus is the perfect example of giving himself to God as a sacrifice.  He humbled himself and put his will under that of God’s.  It is written of in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8) Although he was God, Jesus sacrificed himself to die on the cross.  He sacrificed himself to please God and to give us salvation.  Jesus’ sacrifice honored God and gave glory to him.  It declared that our God is good and our God saves and our God is just. 

Likewise, our sacrifices should honor and glorify God.  The passage says, “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.”(9) The point of us being holy and belonging to God is so that we can declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.  If we have been saved, then we should tell others about the saving grace of Christ. When we finished Luke’s Gospel, we learned that sharing the gospel is a part of the gospel.  To share what Jesus has done in our own lives, to declare his praises, is to carry out the gospel message. 

If you look in the Bible, many people declare their praises of God by singing because they are so filled with joy.  Mere words are not enough to convey the joy that they have, so they sing.  When Adam first saw Eve, he broke out into a song. When John was born to Zechariah, the father’s tongue was loosed and his first words were a song of praise.  When Mary accepted what the angel had told her, she sang praises to God.  And then there is the Song of Songs: an entire book of the Bible that is a godly husband and wife singing to one another.  All of these songs of praise have God at the center.  They sing because of what God has done, whether provide a love for the lonely or salvation for the sick, and it shouldn’t be so different with us.  God has provided us with so much, whether someone to love, children, a job, and especially our salvation.  We should be examples to the world of the great work that Jesus has done.  We should be so bubbling over with praise for God because he is a generous and loving God who provides for his children. Verse 9 does say that we are a people belonging to God.

And that’s what we are, a people of God.  “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.” (10) Take a look at the various faces that are here.  What binds us together?  In this room there are various people from various backgrounds with different interests. We have lawyers, physicists, bankers, engineers, architects, teachers, nurses, Korean, American, European, Hispanic, tall, short, athletic, quiet and loud.  It’s a strange mix.  We are not a people.  There is nothing that binds us together, except for the blood of Christ.  We are not a people, except for a people of God. Traditions and styles of life do not bind us; sometimes we bicker about that, but what truly unites us is Jesus. He is our cornerstone and the foundation of lives.  We are building this dwelling on the foundation of Jesus and he is the only thing holding us together.  That is something we should praise God about.

The end of the passage is another call for us to act.  “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (11-12) This sounds a lot like what Bob was talking about last week.  We Christians need to be strangers to the world and even if people accuse us of doing wrong, they can see the goodness of our lives.  Bob had some statistics last week that said that individual Christians are not that different from non-Christians.  Christians have a higher divorce rate, and the same life satisfaction rate. Christians don’t give any more than others, and they are very inconsiderate.  Those things sound depressing, but in this passage the call to live holy lives is one for the people as a whole.  And in this respect we can see some positive news.  Christian organizations are the first to arrive at a scene of a disaster and they will stay there long after the media have left. For all the negative press about being a Christian, people cannot deny the fact that Christian organizations are always at the forefront of disaster relief.  This is the holy life of the church.

Now, don’t rest on your laurels.  Christians have also handed other people their share of material showing our hypocrisy, like the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Catholic priest sex abuse, and the money grubbing televangelists.  People are out there watching us, and they will use anything against us.  That is why it is so important to have Jesus as the foundation of our lives.  If Jesus is the living Stone that is the cornerstone of our lives, then we will live such good lives that no one can deny that God is good.  I know that is not easy to do.  There are many things that are not Christ-like within me.  One of the most obvious is my temper.  I’m a bit of a hothead, and when I become frustrated, my blood boils and I become bitter and many times I yell.  That’s my hypocrisy.  But I see through the Bible that our God is a God who is slow to anger and abounding in love.  I’m not; I am quick to anger and stingy with love.  Slowly but surely, though, my cornerstone Jesus is orienting my life to align me with the holy God, making me holy.

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men 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.” (4-5) Look at those verses again.  As we come to him, the living Stone we also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.  We are living stones that are being built into spiritual house, but we have to have Jesus as our foundation.  Jesus himself said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27) If Jesus is not our foundation, then we become nothing but a pile of rocks in the rubble as everything comes crashing down around us.  Then, let’s make sure that Jesus is the foundation of our lives and our church, so that we may endure and not crash.

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