Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Living Hope in the Living Stone

1 Peter 2:2-10 First time parents can read all the books—take all the classes—assure themselves they are prepared for whatever comes--but until they bring their baby home they really don’t understand that their newborn has a single-minded desire to be fed and nourished- a desire that immediately becomes the top priority in their home. 
That’s the picture that God uses to tell us how it ought to be for us when it comes to having our spiritual needs met and our souls fed by his Word.  The Bible says:
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
            Like a baby with its single-minded desire to be fed, it ought to be our highest priority to have our life of faith nourished.  We ought to have a spiritual hunger.  And just as there is one perfect food for newborns (its mother’s milk) --so there is one perfect food for the child of God who desires to grow in their faith—and that is the Word of God. 
God has caused us to be born again through his living Word and that same Word is the tool the Holy Spirit uses to help us to grow up in our faith. 
Babies yearn to be close to their mothers and have their tummies full—and so we Christians yearn to have our souls filled with the food God provides and be close to him as we hear his voice and receive the real presence of our Savior in Holy Communion.
GOD wants to feed us with the pure spiritual milk of his Word that we need to grow up in our salvation-- because God’s plan for our lives extends far beyond just saving us—but he nourishes us spiritually so that we can serve him and others as his priests.  The Bible says that:
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
            When the faithful women went to Jesus’ tomb on the first day of the week, their concern was how they would roll away the massive gravestone across the entrance.  But that cold, impenetrable sign of death could not contain the living stone inside! 
God raised Jesus from the dead and rolled away the stone so that all could see that death was no longer the last word about mankind—but God had chosen Jesus, the living stone, to be the foundation of a living temple.
As baptized, believing Christians we have a share in Christ’s resurrection-- and like the living stone Jesus Christ (the foundation upon which the church is built)-- we too are living stones that God is constructing into a spiritual house where his people are fed-- and from which--his saving name is proclaimed for the salvation of others. 
You will note that the Bible says that we are stones—not bricks.  Christians are not all the same—we have different qualities and characteristics—we don’t all look the same--but we all fit together—each of us has a particular, unique, important spot in the church that only we can fill—a place where only we fit. 
And not only are we a part of the spiritual house that God is building—but we are the priests in that temple--servants of God who can come into his presence by faith in Jesus --and serve him in this world in the power of the Holy Spirit by offering up spiritual sacrifices that serve God and our neighbor. 
And so what are these spiritual sacrifices that we offer up to God as his priests?  The Bible speaks of a number of them.
There is the sacrifice of a broken and contrite spirit that recognizes our sinfulness and unworthiness and offers it up to God for healing.  There is the sacrifice of praise that acknowledges and stands in awe of what God has done for us in Christ.  There is the sacrifice of thanksgiving that responds with gratitude for God’s good gifts.  There is the sacrifice of good works and tithes and offerings that helps others.  And finally there is the sacrifice that encompasses all of them—the sacrifice of our lives
The bible tells us in we are to offer up our bodies as living sacrifices—that this sacrifice of our whole being is our true, spiritual worship and the Bible promises us that when we live our lives as God’s priest, we will never be disappointed here on earth-- or thereafter in eternity!  The Bible says:
For it stands in Scripture:  “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.  So the honor is for you who believe,”
            To fully understand the picture that Peter is using we need to recognize that in the ancient world, a cornerstone was not just a foundation stone upon which the building rested but the stone that set the direction for every other stone that followed.  If the lines of the building was to be true—it had to follow the line of the cornerstone.
So it is with the cornerstone that God has chosen to build his church upon—his Son Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ life and example and words set the direction for our lives.
Jesus’ words of Law remove all rationalizations and excuses and moral compromises from our lives.  We know exactly what God’s expectations are for us—how he would have us live—the things we ought to value—and the truth about our great need for his salvation.
Jesus’ words of Gospel assure us that his forgiveness earned at the cross is our salvation-that he is the way and the truth and the life—that because he lives we also will live—that the devil’s accusations against us will not stand in God’s sight. 
Our Christian lives—built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ—directed by his words—lived after his example—WILL stand the test of time and eternity—will NEVER disappoint us as we are about the work of being priests—and we will NOT put us to shame when Christ comes again.  But for those that do not believe, the Bible says:
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”  They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
            The Living Stone that is the cornerstone of our lives and the foundation of the Church—the living stone that was rejected by so many of his own people and is still rejected by much of the world today—will be the destruction of those who do not render to him the obedience of faith and life.
            The Bible says that Jesus will be for them a “rock of offense” and the word that is used there—skandalon—refers to a deadfall trap—a rock placed upon a trigger with bait—that when tripped, falls upon the prey—killing it. 
The biblical picture is this:  the same stone that we build our lives upon—the same stone that is the direction for our lives—will serve as the judgment for those whose lives are NOT built upon him and NOT guided by him. 
So it has been ordained from the beginning.  God has prepared for mankind “one and only one” way of salvation—and that is his Son Jesus Christ who is the way and the truth and the life—apart from whom no one will come to the Father. 
That’s what the Bible is talking about when it says that those who disobey the Word are destined to stumble and fall under God’s judgment.  God is not saying that he has destined certain individuals to fall under his judgment-- but that all who turn their backs on his salvation are destined for judgment and eternal punishment in hell. 
Until that day, there is a day of grace—a God-given opportunity for everyone to come to faith and build their lives on the living stone and find guidance in his Word. 
As God’s priests, we have a part to play in helping others come to that place.  The Bible says that we are:
… a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
            The message that goes out from the people of the church to the people of the world is this:  at one time we were just like you – we too were lost in the darkness of unbelief—we too were under the wrath of God on account of sins—we too were alienated from our heavenly Father and orphans in this world. 
But God bestowed his mercy upon us in Christ- and shone the light of his Spirit into our hearts- and made us a part of his people--and he wants to do the same for you. 
            This is the saving mission of God:  to incorporate people from every tribe and language into a chosen race—to take those who serve false gods and make them his priests—to rescue those that are caught up in the godless culture of our day and make them citizens of a holy nation—and to take those who are alienated from him and adopt them into his family.  That is the saving mission of God.
And we Christians - who he feeds with his word- and builds into his church- and calls to be his priests- are a vital part of that saving mission—each of us offering up spiritual sacrifices that bear witness to him in our daily lives-- and proclaiming the wonders and goodness and mercy of the God who has saved us and made us his own-- so that others might hear and believe. 

To this end may God grant us his grace and help to live as his priests for the sake of his saving mission!  Amen. 

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