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Spiritual Sacrifices May 15, 2014

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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1 Peter 2:2-10

Fifth Sunday of Easter

May 18, 2014

 

Focus: God is building us up as a spiritual house.

Function: That the hearers offer themselves as spiritual sacrifices.

Structure: This is the promise of the gospel…here is how we may live out that promise.

 

Spiritual Sacrifices

 

The ride into Jerusalem was an interesting one.  On the one hand it was hot, the back of the donkey rough, and the road a little bumpy.  But on the other hand, there was so much joy in the air.  Excitement filled the crowd, the people roared and applauded at the sight of Him riding into town.

But part of what made the journey difficult was knowing what would happen next.  After arriving, Jesus wept.  He looked up at the city and He wept.  He knew the people there didn’t believe.  He knew that these men and women would follow in the steps of their ancestors, that they would beat and kill God’s prophet.

And just a mere four days later, it was happening.  They had arrested Jesus.  And during the course of His trial, which was rigged from the beginning, they beat Him to the bone.  Qui-pish! (whipping sound), Qui-pish! 39 times.  Struck on the back.  Battered and bruised, dirty and bloody.  They slapped Him, they put on a crown of thorns and mocked Him.  They drove nails through His flesh.  They killed Him.

This is how Peter then looks at it in his letter.  “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.”  Zion is Jerusalem, one and the same, the holy city.  God handpicked His own Son for the journey and purpose that only He could fulfill.  Chosen and precious.  God’s own Son.  And through His death on the cross and His burial, God said, “I am laying in Zion a stone.”  This stone, the Christ, then, whoever believes in Him will live.  That’s the promise of the gospel.

We’ve seen it, we know it.  As Peter said, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Without a doubt, the leaders of God’s people, the Pharisees, the scribes, the teachers of the law, they were supposed to be building the church, building up God’s people and strengthening their faith.  It’s fitting to call them “builders” because that’s what they were supposed to be doing, spiritually at least.  To them, however, the Christ was “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”  They didn’t understand Him, and in their prejudice, they couldn’t stand Him.

It’s safe to say that this analogy is something Peter had experienced firsthand.  On the day when Christ asked His disciples what people were saying about Him, Peter made the marvelous confession of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus looked at him and said, “On this rock I will build My church.”

Peter experienced this first hand.  You see, Peter is Greek for “rock.”  The name He is called by is a constant reminder of what Christ is doing, that He is the Son of God, our Savior.  Peter knew it because Peter lived it.

Christ is the cornerstone.  He is the One upon whom God has decided to build His church.  We are not alone, Christ is with us.  We’re not loners, trying to do church apart from Him, because it’s not possible.  It is through Him, and Him alone, that we’re saved.

But Peter decided in his writing to continue the analogy.  Why stop at Christ being the cornerstone?  What building do you know of that only has a cornerstone?  Christ said, “on this rock, I will build My church.”  Jesus is the foundation, He’s the thing that holds the building up and keeps us together.  We are the church.

Peter calls us “living stones [that] are being built up as a spiritual house.”  God’s house was once a physical building, the temple in the Old Testament.  But now, in and through Christ, God’s dwelling on earth is with His people.  Paul calls our bodies temples of the Holy Spirit.  Christ says that wherever two or more are gathered in His name, there He will be in the midst of them.

We are living stones.  We are the church.  Stone by stone, together, we are God’s people.  And so Peter says:

“But you 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.

 

Have you ever thought of yourself that way before?  Have you ever stopped and considered that you’re been chosen for a role in God’s creation?  That He made you for a specific purpose, and He has called you to do the things you’re doing in your life?

Have you ever thought that you were a royal priesthood?  That God has called you to be His priest, the messenger of His love to the people around you?  Have you ever stopped to think about being a holy nation?  Not holy as in perfect, but holy as in set apart.  God has set you apart to be His church, His child, His messenger.  He has set you apart to proclaim His excellencies.  To tell the world how He brought you out of darkness and back into the light.

Christ’s sacrifice, His willingness to go to the cross and die for you is God’s mercy.  Mercy is when we don’t get what we deserve.  Through our sin, we deserve nothing but death.  And we have all sinned, many times.  We have all doubted that God makes us His people.  We’ve all doubted that He has specifically called us and put us in relationships with our family, friends and coworkers.  We have all struggled to share the gospel, to call others out of the darkness and into the light.  But God chose to punish His Son instead of us.  Because of Christ’s sacrifice, your deserved punishment is gone.  You don’t have to fear going to hell.  That’s mercy.

We are living stones.  We are the church.  And as such, Peter is calling on us to be the church.  He asks us to offer ourselves as spiritual sacrifices.  What does that mean?  It’s not saying you’re the burnt offering or the blood sacrifice of the Old Testament.  That part’s been taken care of by the cornerstone that is Christ.

Peter asks us to be Christ-like in all that we do.  To show His love, to share His love with everyone we know.  He’s asking us to go out of our way to feed the starving child, to put a roof over the head of the homeless.  He’s asking us to go out of our way to comfort the widow, to console the brokenhearted.  He’s asking us to go out of our way to eat with sinners, and to build friendships with the lost.

That’s sacrifice.  It’s casting aside yourself, the me-first attitude of our country, to care for someone else.  Even if it takes you to point of the death, like Stephen in Jerusalem, you give of yourself for others.  And while it’s not yet likely that you’ll die for your faith in America, you’ve all experienced sacrifice before.  You’ve raised children, cared for dying parents, helped sick spouses or siblings back to health.  You’ve taken the time to listen to the neighbor next door vent their problems.  You’ve given money to support and help people you don’t even know, when you easily could have kept it for yourself.  That’s sacrifice.  That’s the church.  That’s what Christ has done for you.  And that’s how Peter is calling for us to live each and every day of our lives.

 

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