Living out our Hope: Built up for the Work of God Part 1 (1 Peter 2:4)
Pastor and author Warren Wiersbe shares a story about a contractor in Michigan who was building a house. The construction of the first floor went smoothly. But when they started on the second floor, they had nothing but trouble. None of the materials from the lumberyard would fit properly. Then they discovered the reason: they were working with two different sets of blueprints! Once they got rid of the old set, everything went well and they built a lovely house.
Wiersbe concludes, “Too often, Christians hinder the building of the church because they are following the wrong plans. When Solomon built his temple, his workmen followed the plans so carefully that everything fit together on the construction site (1 Kings 6:7). If all of us would follow God’s blueprints given in His Word, we would be able to work together without discord and build His church for His glory.”
How do we make sure we are following God’s blueprints for what He is building in our lives and here at Living Hope? In 1 Pet. 2:4-8, Peter switches metaphors from babies to believers being stones as part of a building. Doesn’t it feel like Peter has been reading Nehemiah in his devotions here? He mentions “stone” in almost every verse and mentions believers being “built up” in 1 Pet. 2:5. If you are longing for the Word of God, you are building on the right foundation. God is growing you or “building” you for His purposes.
This may sound like I am back in Nehemiah, but I want the Lord to build something through us here at Living Hope. Do you know the Lord is more ready to build us than we want to be built? Don’t you want to know that you are called here for a purpose? Don’t you want to know that as you serve here that God is behind that? Every once in a while, it is good to hear from the Lord to remind us why we are here.
Even for me, I know it is easy for us to get lost in serving and lose the bigger picture. I want to follow the Lord’s blueprints, not mine or what the world says what and how to build. To build anything else is to be building on sand. We are going to explore that today. We looked at how we are to respond to God for His great salvation (1 Pet. 1:13-21). We then looked at how to respond to the people of God (1 Pet. 1:22 and 2:1) and last week how to respond to the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:23-25; 2:2-3). Today we will look at how we respond to the work of God from 1 Pet. 2:4-8, though we are going to look at just 1 Pet. 2:4. Today’s message is titled “Living out our Hope: Built up for the Work of God” Part 1
Let’s start with this:
I. If Jesus is our cornerstone, we can build with confidence (1 Pet. 2:4-6)
What is a cornerstone? According to Wikipedia, “the cornerstone (or also called the foundation stone) concept is derived from the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure. Over time a cornerstone became…set in a prominent location on the outside of a building, with an inscription on the stone indicating the construction dates of the building and the names of architect, builder and other significant individuals.” Did you know God has a building project He’s been doing for over 2,000 years? It’s called the church universal and through every generation. For this building, God set the foundation or cornerstone. It is Jesus Christ. If you get that wrong, it does not matter how great or beautiful a building you have, it is coming down eventually.
Jesus himself once said this in Matt. 7:24-27. Jesus finished up the Sermon on the Mount and concluded the teaching with this illustration. I want you to hear it from Eugene Peterson’s the Message: “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. “But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.”
A lot of people come to church to hear how they can use Jesus to improve their life. Jesus is an incidental addition to their life, instead of the foundation of their lives. What usually happens then is some tragedy or trial hits their life and everything falls apart and then you can truly see if Jesus was their foundation or not. Just like building a good house, we have to make sure we have the foundation is solid, since everything rests upon it. Peter knows suffering and persecution has come upon his audience like a tornado. So he wants to encourage them to stay true to the work to which God has entrusted. Notice there are no commands here, just declarations. This is kind of like Peter in 1 Pet. 1:1-12.
He wants them to get their thinking right. And he is reminding them that when they decided to follow Jesus, they were not building on sand. He is their rock. He is their stability in life. Though some windows get broken or things are getting shaky now in suffering, they need to look to the foundation they built their lives on: Jesus Christ. Even if everything all around falls apart, you can build confidently because you have an immovable, strong cornerstone. When things get tough around you, you often feel purposeless. You are not thinking about serving for God. You might even feel abandoned or wonder if God really needs you for anything. Why am I here again? What is my purpose? Why did God save me? Peter is making sure they know their calling and God’s purpose for them in working for Him.
Let’s look at four reasons from 1 Pet. 2:4-6 on why we can work for the Lord, why we can build with confidence with Jesus as our cornerstone. We will look at two of them today. Here is the first reason:
a) We build with His power (1 Pet. 2:4a)
Look at the first phrase in 1 Pet. 2:4a: “as you come to Him.” This is literally, “As you are coming to Him.” It is in the present tense, meaning a habitual, a continual coming to Christ, a “drawing near to Christ in intimate, abiding, personal fellowship. The writer of Hebrews uses this same term a number of times to denote a conscious coming into God’s presence with the intent to remain (4:16; 7:25; 10:22). For Peter, the word implied the movement of the entire inner person into the experience of intimate and ongoing communion with Jesus Christ.”
This is where a lot of Christians go wrong. You come to Jesus for salvation, naked, broken and helpless. Then once you’re saved, you try hard to live up His commands and then most of the time, feel guilty for not living up to His expectations for you. Somewhere in there we forget how we are still so broken and helpless and constantly in need of Him. We need to learn to consciously come to Him just as we are. We need to learn to run to Him when we have fallen, like Peter did, with all his failures, jumping into the lake to swim to Jesus (John 21:7).
The Christian life is a continual coming to Christ. It is in that broken and empty place where He fills you with grace, the power and motivation to do His will. Do you know you can come to church and not come to Christ? Do you know you can sing worship songs and not come to Christ? Coming to church does not mean communion with Christ anymore than sitting in your garage thinking you’re a car or sitting in McDonalds thinking you’re a Big Mac!
You remember Jesus was once in a big crowd in Luke 8:42-48. A lot of people were around him and I am sure they were all “touching” him. However, in the midst of this crowd, one woman who had spent all her money on doctors for 12 years, who had a bleeding problem, reaches out by faith, feeling unworthy to look at Him or having anyone see her, and touches the hem of His garment. And though all these people are “touching” Him, He only notices her touch and says, “Who was it that touched me?” Peter says, “What are you talking about?! Everyone’s touching you!” Peter didn’t realize that being around Jesus is not necessarily touching Jesus. Jesus says, “Power was unleashed from me” when she touched Him. And a lot of people surround Jesus and are not touching Him. Jesus is here among us today and He wants to touch you, but He is looking for those who are truly coming to Him for His touch. Not the healthy, but the sick. He wants to unleash His power to you as you serve Him here. Don’t leave her without His touch today. Refuse to surround Him. Dare to touch Him every day!
Believers, you can build because of His power. Peter says you are not building yourself up. You are being built up as you consciously come to Him by faith. Practice His presence. Come to Him continually throughout your day. Lift up yourself, people, circumstances, requests over and over again. Some of you are teaching in Sunday School and/or discipleship groups. Come to Him even as your audience is sharing. Ask the Lord to reveal Himself to them and to make you usable as you prepare and as you teach or lead. Even as I am preaching, there are times I am praying in my heart, “Speak Lord.” I know David puts up the sermon audio online. There have been people who have been blessed outside of Living Hope through them. So David, though it is routine and mundane, you too can come to the Lord as you record asking God to build people as they hear the Word.
Some of you are worship leaders. Matt Redman says and I agree with him, that he likes the phrase “lead worshippers” instead of “worship leaders.” It is good you are playing and sounding well and we love you for that, but remember that we need you to usher us into the Lord’s presence and not yours! Be a lead worshipper by worshipping the Lord yourselves through the songs. Build with confidence with His power. Secondly:
b) We build for His praise (1 Pet. 2:4b)
Look at the second phrase in 1 Pet. 2:4. Jesus is described here as a “living stone.” This is a strange phrase that is a paradox. Anyone ever seen a living stone? The word “stone” here refers “to a carved precious stone, but usually it means “building stone.” In one sense, Jesus is a stone. He is our stability. He is unmovable, unshakable. He is the bedrock of all of reality, the foundation of everything. He is where we discover our strength when we are weak. He is our rock! But unlike a regular stone which is cold, dead and not personable, Jesus is the living stone. This stone is living and all who touch Him will also come alive. How can this stone do that? Because He has risen from the dead!
But how did people treat this living, perfectly designed, shaped, and cut out to become the foundation stone of the church? He was rejected. This is why people want to build on sand instead of the foundation stone. They have rejected the cornerstone. The word “rejected” here means to “reject having been examined.” The Jewish people examined Christ and decided he did not fit their measurements on what a Messiah looked like. And people today do the same thing. Does Jesus allow me to sin? No? then I don’t want him. Can I use Him so that he helps get where I want to get? No? then I don’t want him. But what did God think of this cornerstone? Notice: “in the sight of God chosen and precious.” Chosen means “elect” and precious meaning “costly, highly prized, rare.”
Peter is trying to get them to see that Jesus never lived trying to measure up to people’s standards, but God’s. And neither should they, as they suffer for Christ. He wants them to remain in how God sees them, which is chosen and precious (he calls believers also living stones in 1 Pet. 2:5). Even before Jesus did any ministry, God had said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17). It was God’s approval of Him based on relationship and not performance that drove Jesus to serve. One summer, I decided to do my internship for undergrad at my home church in New York. So on Saturday mornings, I taught the youth group a class on evangelism. This went on for several weeks. It was hard. It was draining and the elder of the church was supposed to be my supervisor to encourage, challenge and help be grow, but he never had time to meet with me. Then on Saturday nights, we had prayer meetings and someone would share a short devotional during that time. One Saturday night (remember I taught youth group that morning), right before that meeting, the elder called me and asked me if I can share that evening’s devotional. I agreed. Sunday rolled around and we had church in the evenings. On Sunday afternoon, I got a call and the elder asked if I can preach that Sunday’s sermon. To say no would have been really seen as “unholy,” so I agreed. I got to church and as this was an Indian church, they wanted the youth to participate, so they decided we should sing English songs. Guess who they asked to lead it? Then elder comes to me and says, “Can you read the Psalm and pray as well?”
I did it all because I did not want them to think badly of me. And often once you start people-pleasing and living for people’s opinions, eventually growing within you is bitterness and resentment. The following week I was so angry that on Saturday night, I sat in the back without saying or doing a thing. I was hoping someone noticed and would encourage me or at least pray with me. But at the end of the meeting, another elder came to me and said, “Are you sick? Don’t worry!” (or something to that effect), patted me on the back and walked away. I went home and on my bed that night, I just sat there still fuming. It was then that Matt. 3:17 came to mind out of nowhere (well, it felt that way, but I knew it came from God). I know that verse is pointing to Jesus, but I also knew God was telling me that He loved me before I did any ministry because of relationship and not my works. There is nothing like hearing the applause of the nail-scarred hands. I still think of that to this day, though I still struggle with people-pleasing. Paul says he is a slave to Jesus Christ. Are you a slave to Jesus Christ or a slave to people’s opinions? Is that why we don’t share our faith with co-workers or neighbors?
One of the blessings you get when you come to Jesus to help you build with His power is the assurance that you are chosen and precious because of your relationship with the living stone, Jesus Christ. But as a result, you will get rejection from man. What are the things God looks at when you serve? I always say this because I want it to be ingrained in you: the quality of our work (1 Cor. 3:10-15) and the motives of our heart (1 Cor. 4:5). As you do admin, teach, lead worship or disciple or help with Mother’s Day, ask yourself if you did quality work and for God to purify your motives so that you can build for His praise. What people think of you doing these things is a “small thing” (1 Cor. 4:3). Don’t make it bigger than it should be.
Elizabeth Elliot shares a fictitious story of a day when Jesus was hanging out with his disciples. She writes, “One day Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I’d like you to carry a stone for me.’ He didn’t give any explanation. So the disciples looked around for a stone to carry, and Peter, being the practical sort, sought out the smallest stone he could possibly find. After all, Jesus didn’t give any regulation for weight and size! So he put it in his pocket. Jesus then said: “Follow Me.” He led them on a journey.
About noontime Jesus had everyone sit down. He waved his hands and all the stones turned to bread. He said, “Now it’s time for lunch.” In a few seconds, Peter’s lunch was over. When lunch was done Jesus told them to stand up. He said again, “I’d like you to carry a stone for me.” This time Peter said, “Aha! Now I get it!” So he looked around and saw a small boulder. He hoisted it on his back and it was painful, it made him stagger. But he said, “I can’t wait for supper.” Jesus then said: “Follow Me.” He led them on a journey, with Peter barely being able to keep up. Around supper time Jesus led them to the side of a river. He said, “Now everyone throw your stones into the water.” They did. Then he said, “Follow Me,” and began to walk. Peter and the others looked at him dumbfounded. Jesus sighed and said, “Don’t you remember what I asked you to do? Who were you carrying the stone for?”
I stop here because I think we need to do a heart check for serving here at Living Hope. Who are you carrying the stone entrusted to you (this includes wherever God has placed you to serve) for? Why are you carrying it? Perhaps you have felt a power outage for serving. Perhaps you have been doing it for what you get out of it, how it serves you, instead of how it blesses others or how God gets glory from it. The Word would tell you today to come to Jesus. Will you dare touch Him? At the bottom of your handout, finish this sentence: “I am carrying the stone entrusted to me at Living Hope because….”
Wiersbe, W. W. (1 Pet. 2:4).
“Cornerstone” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornerstone accessed 29 April 2010.
MacArthur, J. (104).
MacArthur, J. (104).
Elliot, Elizabeth These Strange Ashes taken from Tullian Tchividjian’s blog “On Earth as it is in Heaven” http://www.crpc.org/blog/?p=819 accessed 9 April 2010.