Living Stones

We continue in our study of 1 Peter as we launch into chapter 2:1-10

Sermon Audio

Sermon Manuscript

We took last week off for a night-of-worship and trunk-or-treating … I’m sure many of you are in a candy induced hangover tonight, so let me remind you of were we’ve been in our study of 1 Peter.

  • We learned that this is a 2000-year-old letter, written by Peter, an apostle, who is spent a lot of time with Jesus, more than anyone.
  • Christian persecution. (Nero)
  • Elect Exiles. (chosen by God, living as foreigners)
  • This world is not our home; we’re just passing through. We’re resident aliens.
  • Ok to be Homesick. Our home is in heaven.
  • Jesus paid for that home at an insurmountable cost.
  • So God could call us his children, and now as his children, we are called to be obedient to our father.

Even though the culture is persecuting Christians, Peter doesn’t call out the culture.  He doesn’t tell believers to take a stand or to take up arms and fight … he simply calls the church to be holy.  (reminder & invitation)

Because he knows the gospel isn’t going to flourish when we demand non-Christians start acting like Christians; It will flourish when Christians start acting like Christians.

When we have so much joy and hope, in the midst of our struggles, that people say “I want some of what you got.”

(1 Peter 2:1 NLT)

1 So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech.

 There’s that word “so” again … in other words, based on what I just wrote to you, about, knowing this world isn’t your home, and how as Christians we should live holy lives …

Get rid of evil behavior … well what is that?  He’s going to give us a list.  Deceit.  Hypocrisy.  Jealousy.  Unkind speech. This isn’t an exhausting list.  Peter and Paul in their letters often give lists to express a point. It’s like when Paul gives the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, etc.) … it’s not an exhaustive list.  This list doesn’t compile all evil behavior.

Remember that Peter is writing this letter to a people who are suffering and being persecuted; As an encouragement to help them persevere.  Unity helps us persevere.  This list is unity killers.  Jealousy.  Gossip.

Have ever noticed, when a group faces trials, it can usually go 1 of 2 ways.  The group can either unify and come together, around their struggles.  Or, they can be divided and tore apart.

Think of sports teams.  I watched one of those 30-for-30 on ESPN, and it was about the Orlando Magic when they had Shaq and Penny Hardaway.  Things were going along fine when they were winning, but as they started to lose some games, they began to slander each other, they became jealous of each others contracts.

And so as Peter continues to encourage the church to be holy.  He’s reminding them to put away the things that hurt unity.  Don’t be deceitful.  Don’t be jealous.  Stop talking bad about one-another.  Don’t bite your friends.  Don’t be a hypocrite.

Ask any non-Christian what they think of Christians, and you’ll likely hear that we’re either judgmental or hypocritical.  Or both.

That’s not really the reputation we’re after.  Those aren’t the character traits that has others saying “hey, I want to be a part of that.”

But if I’m honest, a hypocrite is what stare’s back at me every morning while I brush my teeth. Because the judgmental attitude of a few, causes a lot of us to go underground.

Studies show that 78% of all Christians have a been fridge in the garage (I totally made that up).

In all seriousness, what can happen is, we start to compartmentalize our lives.

At my prior church … a lady who was checking out the church, went to the pastor to complain that one of the elders (I have no idea which one, I think his last name was Culbertson) on his Facebook page said he liked the TV show Modern Family.  So she wasn’t sure she could be a member of the church, and was convinced that I’d end up in the extra hot part of hell.

And maybe Modern Family isn’t an appropriate show, I don’t know … but feeling like we’re constantly being judged by our own, it develops a culture of hypocrites.

When we compartmentalize our lives into a church life and a regular life (work/home) … we’re not living holy lives.  We’ve simply gotten good at hiding things.  And what starts as hiding things that don’t really matter, can turn into hiding truly disastrous behaviors like affairs and addictions.

The church is full of people hiding their feelings and not being transparent, because of a fear of being judged … instead of being a community who admits their brokenness, and is open in sharing all aspects of their lives.

And when we live dual lives, that’s not being holy, that’s being a hypocrite, and Peter calls this evil.

My friend Jeff Taylor, who many of you might know, used to be the DJ at Way-FM, now works for a station in Dallas, he posted this on FB this week …

If WikiLeaks could hack my thoughts and share them with the world, I’d get kicked out of my house, asked to leave my church, taken off the air on Christian radio, and left friendless to find my way. Thankfully, Jesus has taken full and final responsibility for all of my sin – even the stuff I’m not aware of. My brokenness is very real, but so is His radical grace for messed up guys like me. He loves me and there’s nothing I can do to stop it…

I pray daily, that Refuge is a place, you can be you.  I can be me.  That whomever you are at work, is who you are here.  Whomever you are at home, is who you are here.  And who we are here, is who we are to the world.

  • Samson Society (men open/honest)
    • A group of men learning to be real and raw before God and each other. Setting ourselves free from the captive strongholds. 
    • Addiction, affair, job loss, anger issues, etc.

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

Look at those verbs.  Like newborn babies, crave spiritual milk.  Grow into a full experience.  Cry out for nourishment.  Taste the goodness of God.

Crave // long for, yearn for, desire, want, wish for, hunger for, thirst for, pine for, hanker after, covet, lust after, ache for, set one’s heart on, dream of, be bent on, have a jones for, itch for, be dying for …

Almost sounds like an addict doesn’t it?  It’s all you can think about.  That’s how babies think of milk.

I don’t like babies (practicing my honesty).  Neither does my wife.  We love our kids.  But babies are little needy parasites.

Because if you’ve ever spent time around a baby, you know all they do is è Cry-Eat-Poop-Repeat.

They have small stomachs, and so they are constantly hungry.  They are constantly craving nourishment.  They’re milk addicts.

And so Peter is telling us; You be this way … Cry out for nourishment.  Eat on God’s Word.  Poop it out and share it with others.  Repeat.

We’ve got small brains, some of us smaller than others …

and so we need constant nourishment.  And that doesn’t come from feasting on junk-food …

I felt so bad for all you teachers this week on Tuesday.  Karen says November 1st should be a federal holiday.

A little candy isn’t a bad thing, but when your kids chase their morning Twix bar with a handful of Smarty’s … that’s not good.

We need good spiritual nourishment, and when our bodies get used to this diet, we’ll cry out like a baby, who will stop at nothing, until that craving is satisfied.

That’s why I teach the way I do, going through books of the Bible.  I want you to get a taste, in hopes you’ll crave more.  I hope you’re reading this letter each week, because the more you eat, the more you’ll desire the sustenance these words bring, and feel like you are starving when you’re not eating.

Peter isn’t just talking to “Baby Christians”, this applies to new and mature believers alike.

Even Jesus Christ fed on God’s word.  Every time he got into trouble, we see him using God’s word that was inscribed deep into his heart.  When he was tempted, he used God’s word.  When he was on the cross, he used God’s word.

If we’re going to model the culture of Jesus, we should do the same.  That’s what will get us through the dark days.  That’s what will help us live holy lives.  That’s what will help us remember that this world is not our home.

4 You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor.  

5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.

At first glance, it seems that Peter has a fascination with rocks?  Kind of makes sense right?  Since that’s his name.

Remember the story … Jesus asking disciples, who do people say that I am … some say JB, some say Elijah … then bold and brash Peter (Simon) pipes up and says … You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.

And Jesus replies and says …

Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 

There’s been a lot of confusion in church history over this statement.  Wait.  Is Peter the rock?  Is Peter who the church will be built upon?

Peter answered that question in verse 4

You are coming to …  Christ … who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple.  Jesus is the living cornerstone of the church.  He’s the foundational rock.   And we are BEING BUILT into his spiritual house.

Remember that in the OT, God literally dwelt in the temple, but through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus … God’s spirit was no longer restrained to a temple building, but now resides in us, his church, his living stones that he is building into a new kind of temple.

Have you ever played this game?  (Jenga)

Every wooden block has blocks above it, and below it.  Each block is dependent upon the other.

Imagine you’re this block right here.  You’ve got blocks above you, that depend on you.  If you shake, the blocks above you shake.  If you’re removed, the blocks above you are affected because now the entire structure is weaker.

And below you, there are many blocks you’re depending on.  If they shake, you shake.  If I pull too many out, you might come crashing down.

Peter calls us living stones (plural), being built (present tense) together into God’s house.  We’re dependent upon others, and others dependent upon us.

That means, as God’s people, we should be so built into other peoples lives, that if we were gone, there would be a gaping hole were we once were.

This concept convicted Karen and I a few years back.  We had gone to a church for several years, but didn’t feel connected.  Stayed on the fringes.  So we started church shopping.  Horrible word.  Completely unbiblical.  But we spent 6-months checking out other churches.

I remember complaining, because after being gone several months, it seemed no one even noticed.  It hurt our feelings.  Two people noticed, or at least reached out (one is Lorraine Gutheim who is here tonight).

In fact, it’s why Karen and I are especially sensitive to this.  So if you miss two weeks, and it feels like we’re harassing you because we’re checking on you.  We’re not psychopath stalkers … we just want you to know that you’re missed.

During this “sabbatical” … we did some deep soul searching.  Why were we church shopping?

At the time we were in our mid-30’s and felt like the forgotten demographic.  There wasn’t any small groups or classes to help connect those in our demographic.  There wasn’t a lot being done to connect our kids with one-another.  Our church wasn’t doing short-term mission trips, something I was passionate about.  The youth group was experiencing struggles, etc.

But if those things weren’t there … and we were missing them … that probably meant others were missing those same things.

Karen and I both, at the exact same time, felt an overwhelming conviction that … oh, duh … that means someone needs to step up and do something.

And so instead of shopping for the perfect church (which does not exist btw) … to fit our list of needs … we got deeply rooted in our church and allowed God to use us as block in his construction project.

So we got involved.  Maybe a little over the top.

  • Small Group in our home
  • Start teaching Sunday School (felt way underqualified), focus on deep study.
  • Leading mission trips
  • Karen (children/youth) … connecting women

The more we got involved in the lives of others, the more others got involved in our lives.  We became dependent upon one another.

We went through some difficult stuff around the adoption of our daughter, which I may talk about later this month, since it’s national adoption month … but those we had begun building relationships with, circled around us.  I’m not sure how we would have survived without them.

We become interconnected, to a point where, when we eventually left to plant Refuge, this time more than two people noticed we were gone.

81% of Americans say you can live a thriving Christian life, without being a part of a church.  I didn’t make that statistic up, but that kind of view of God is completely made up.

It’s an on-going problem in our individualistic culture.  We don’t think we need deep-relationships.  We like to be an island to ourselves.

But Peter is saying, God’s spirit comes down and dwells within us, collectively, as we are being built together.

C.S. Lewis was part of a famous circle of friends called the Inklings, which included J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, and also the author Charles Williams, who died unexpectedly.

The Four Loves (Friendship Chapter)

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough, to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.

Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald (having him “to myself” now that Charles is away) I have less of Ronald…

In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to heaven itself, where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God.

For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another. The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.”

 What Lewis points out, is that it takes a group to know an individual.  Only the group brings out the whole person.

In my family, I know Karen very well.  We’ve been married almost 20-years.  But I see a different part of her, as she interacts with each of our kid’s unique personalities that only they can bring out.

And if that’s true of a human being, how much more true is that of God?

You can’t know God fully by yourself.  You can only know a little piece of God.

And that little piece that you see, is a part that YOU are holding back from other people, who need what you have.

Additional Jenga Analogies:

  • Short Tower
  • Cracks at the bottom (bitterness, jealousy)
  • Bottom pieces carry a lot of weight, sometimes need to move to the top. Others pick up their load.

But what if, in this game (Jenga) … there were a special foundation to it.  A solid foundation that held all these blocks together.  A foundation that each piece was totally and completely anchored to.

Peter’s already told us that in verse 4, calling Jesus our living cornerstone … and he expounds this now …

6 As the Scriptures say,

    “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem,

      chosen for great honor,

    and anyone who trusts in him

      will never be disgraced.”

7 Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him.

But for those who reject him,

    “The stone that the builders rejected

      has now become the cornerstone.”

8 And,

    “He is the stone that makes people stumble,

      the rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.

In the old days, the cornerstone of a building was the foundation, but not just that … it was the stone in which all the other stones lined up to.  It had angles to it.

If the cornerstone was off, then all the other stones were off.  If the cornerstone was in line, all the other stones were in line.  If the corner stone was strong, the building was strong.  If the corner stone was shaky, the building was shaky.

Everybody is building on some kind of cornerstone.  It’s the foundation of your life.  Your identity.  It’s the thing on which everything else rests.  When the chips are down, it’s what you look to for validation.

I’m a good parent.  I’m a moral person.  I’ve made it financially.  I’ve got lots of friends.  I’m attractive.  People like me.  I’ve got a boyfriend.  I get a lot of likes on Instagram.  It’s what we build our identities on.

But what happens when those cornerstones shake?

We’ve all seen those professional athletes who’s lives fall apart after they get injured.  Or the business person, who’s business fails, and commits suicide.  The lady who continues to try to hold on to her youthful looks.

Peter is telling us that if we build our lives on top of any other cornerstone, except that of Jesus Christ, we’re going to stumble and fall …

Let’s go back to verse 6 (ESV Translation)

 “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,

a cornerstone chosen and PRECIOUS,

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

It’s not enough for us to just believe in a cornerstone, He has to become precious to us.

If a doctor came to you and said you’re going to die in a week, unless you take this medicine.  You’d say well give me the medicine. 

Oh wait, it’s VERY expensive.  To get it you’re going to have to sell your car and walk everywhere.  To cover the cost, you’ll need to downsize houses to a trailer.  You’ll probably never get a vacation ever again, and you’ll need to do all you shopping at Walmart.  So you might not want to buy it. 

And you would say … what good is my car, if I’m dead.  I can’t go on vacation if I’m dead. 

That medicine is so precious to you, that everything else that used to seem valuable, has now become expendable.

That’s what it means to say that Jesus is precious.  That he’s so important to you, so beautiful to you, that everything else becomes expendable.

I’ll close this week (as the band comes up) on this incredible promise Peter gives us in verses 9-10:

9 You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.  As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

    10 “Once you had no identity as a people;

      now you are God’s people.

    Once you received no mercy;

      now you have received God’s mercy.” 

What an amazing promise.  Once we had no identity as a people.  We were lost; But now we’re found.  Once we were condemned; But now we’re God’s chosen people.

In other words … We’re God’s elect exiles, because Jesus was the ultimate elect exile.  Religion rejected him.  His family rejected him.  His friends rejected him. There’s nothing worse than being rejected by people you love.  It rips out your out.

Why did he do that?  Why did he suffer that sort of humiliating rejection?

Because WE were precious to him. 

Even his own life was expendable.  And when we see just how precious we were to him, then he becomes precious to us.

He lived the life I should have lived, he died the death I should have died, and now if I’m anchored to him as my cornerstone … I’m absolutely accepted, because he is absolutely accepted.

That’s what it means to be a Christian.

  • We have a cornerstone that is honored by God, and that makes us honored by God.
  • We have a cornerstone that is alive, and that makes living stones.
  • We have a cornerstone that is perfect in every way, shape and form, and that makes us perfect and holy.

Christ alone is that cornerstone.  He’s building us together as His Church, and so let’s build our hope on nothing less than him.

Written by Brian Culbertson

Sinner turned Saint because of Jesus.

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