Stones that bring life and light

1 Peter 1v22-2v10.

The world we live in today is a very connected world in relation to the internet.  In  the last 15 years, internet growth has gone from 500 million users, which was around 7% of the world population, to over 3.5 billion users today, which is around 47% of the world population.

Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, has 1.86 billion users alone, with 1.23 billion of those accessing the social media site every single day.  When you think that the average Facebook user has 155 ‘friends’ that’s a lot of connected people.

I don’t know if any of you saw the BBC documentary series, Britain from above, but in that documentary, it said that in Britain alone, we make almost 1 million calls a minute over land lines, send 300,000 texts per minute, and BT alone is carrying 223 million megabytes of data per hour, which is the equivalent of accessing half a million web pages per second.   It is said that Data, and connectivity, is the foundation of our new economy.  Without it, it would not just be teenagers that would be at a loss for what to do.

And this morning, we are going to look at this subject of connectivity, but not connectivity in relation to the internet and data, but connectivity as God describes it.  

 

Last time we looked in 1 Peter, we looked at the subject of the pursuit of holiness because we are instructed to ‘Be holy as He is holy’ and we described our ability to do that based on 2 things – our passion for the Word of God and our passion for putting it into practice, in a nutshell, knowing Jesus more and more and obeying what He says out of love for Him.  Because the call to holiness is a call to love – a love relationship with Jesus, and one of the outcomes of that is that we love each other sincerely.  We love because He first loved us.

And the illustration that we have in 1 Peter chapter 2 is that of a spiritual house – which most people would describe as the church – made up of living stones – which most people would describe as those belonging to Jesus.  Jesus Himself is referred to as the living Stone and as the cornerstone, in this spiritual house from which all the living stones take their bearing.

And it would seem that Peter is changing the subject of having a sincere love for one another, which is an outcome of a pursuit of holiness, to talking about church, but he’s not changed the subject, he’s still talking about a pursuit of holiness and he’s talking about it in the church and  there are 2 things that Peter brings out as outcomes, and that is life and light. And the display of life and light is an expression of a pursuit of holiness is based on that sincere love we have for each other.

And these are the 2 things that I want to look at this morning – Life and Light.   But before we get into that, there is something very important we need to look at first.

Verse 4 begin, ‘As you come to Him, the Living Stone’.   Isn’t it wonderful that after the challenge of last time to have a sincere love for each other, deeply from the heart, to put away malice and deceit and to crave that pursuit of holiness as we grow up in our salvation; Isn’t it wonderful that Peter reminds us, before he launches into the next section, to come to Jesus.

We come to Jesus…   It’s almost like Peter knows our reaction to the challenge to that pursuit of holiness; that challenge to love.   To love Him in getting to know Him more; to love Him through obedience to Him; to love one another deeply from the heart for that is His standard of holiness that He calls us to live by.   It’s almost like Peter knows that we read those words and we look at the holes in our holiness and we say. “Oh Lord, help us we pray.  Help us to be more like you Lord” for as Peter said himself where else can we go but to you Lord and so he says, ‘As you come to Him, the living Stone.’

Ah yes, how wonderful it is to come to Jesus.  For what do we find when we come to Jesus, especially when we feel inadequate against the standard He sets and the challenge He places before each one of us.

When we come to Jesus, He does not say – check out the holes in your holiness – there’s this and that, and woah! look at the size of that one.  He does not do that.  He does not even come boasting about how holy He is.   When we come to Him, when we draw near to Him, He draws near to us and He says – hey, look at who you are in me – look at what I’ve done for you already.

And as we have read and as we read on, we discover that He is our saviour – the one chosen by God and precious to Him because He is the one that has purchased for us this great salvation.  He is the one that brings us a hope to shout about because it is a hope that holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past.  We discover that in Jesus, He is cornerstone for our lives. Jesus is the rock and foundation for our hope, the basis of our faith.   He is the one from whom we gain life.   We find that when we trust in Him, we will never be put to shame. We discover we are chosen, we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, we are a people belonging to God.  We discover that we have received mercy

We have not just been forgiven.  We have become a whole new person. 

No longer worthless, inadequate, helpless or hopeless.  But deeply significant and special.

No longer rejected, unloved or dirty.  But completely accepted. 

No longer guilty, unprotected, alone or abandoned.  But  totally secure.

And after you come to Him, the Living Stone, and you receive all those truths of who you are in Christ, you’re singing…. you’re singing with joy.  The Lord builds us up when we come to Him so that outcome is, as verse 9 says, so that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light!

We could spend so much more time on this subject.  It’s so important to remember that when we come to Him, the Living Stone, we need to allow His pure, holy, unconditional love for us to speak truth to us regarding what He thinks of us.  How much he values us.  How much He loves us.

Because that love is the foundation of pursuing holiness, and its the foundation of the outcomes of holiness: Loving each other as we highlighted last time, and it’s the basis of bringing or producing life and light. 

Bringing Life

So how does who we are in Christ, bring life.

Well very simply, when we come to Him the Living Stone, our life, comes from Christ.  He is the Living Stone – chosen by God and precious to Him, so we also are like living stones – verse 5 – which means we too have been chosen by God and are precious to Him.  And the life He is giving us is building us into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Now when you think of a spiritual house in the context of being a living stone, we may imagine it like how houses are built.  There are bricks and all of them fit into place in a uniform manner all taking their bearing from the cornerstone.  All working together to produce the structure. But that would mean we are all the same.  But we are not.

Yes, God has made us each one of us significant, accepted and secure in Christ, and He has also made us unique.   So maybe it’s more like a stone that’s not uniform – a bit like stones you find in a dry stone dyke.  All different shapes and sizes that together make up something of beauty.

But I don’t think it’s like that either, because those stones don’t move which means they are not living.

Let me explain.  The image I have is a house where all the stones that make up the house are continually moving because all the stones are living.  If you like the house looks like it’s walls are continually moving and changing as the stones in them keep changing position in the wall.  That’s because when one living stone needs support in some way, there are other stones that move from somewhere else in the structure to come beside it or beneath it.  When one living stone needs help, there are other stones that come along side it.   So you have this idea of the stones making up the spiritual house continually moving, because to be living means that you have eyes that see, feet that move, ears that hear, mouths that speak, hands that serve. 

You might think that it’s impossible for that dynamic fluid structure can stand, but remember the stones get their life from the living stone who is the cornerstone who does not change, and his life is resurrected life and His life that He has given us is his Holy Spirit within us. So What is impossible with man is possible with God

Do you get the picture. That can’t happen if each living stone is in a specific place like in a dry stone dyke.  this is where they are and they can’t move away from that spot type thinking.  That type of thinking generates a mind set of things not being my ministry or calling so I won’t get involved. That’s someone else’s job.  It generates a mind set that says, the worship leader is up there, but the songs he or she has picked have no impact on me so why should I get involved. It says that my prayers are not as good as someone else’s so I won’t bother going to the prayer meeting.

But we, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.  We cannot do that without the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The spiritual house we are being built into is the temple of God. We, the church, are the temple of the Holy Spirit, it’s a place where God dwells.  We are being built into that spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.  In other words, we are not merely the passive structure where God dwells; we are also the active participants in worship and we know worship is a lifestyle not just singing of songs.  We are active participants in worship And not just participants, but a special kind of participant, the priests. All of us.  All of us are part of this dynamic body ministry.  And it’s a body ministry. 

We all are the priests of this new spiritual house, and our privilege now as priests is to draw near to God with spiritual sacrifices.   That’s the goal here – to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus. And if that’s the goal, it must be very important.  So what are these spiritual sacrifices?

A few things very briefly, 

Our Bodies

In Romans 12:1 Paul says that we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual act of worship. That means, I think, that everything we do with our body is to be done as an act of worship to God. That’s why worship is a lifestyle. Whether we eat, or drink, or hammer nails, or drive a car, or make a meal, or program a computer, or read a book, or swim 10 lengths, or mend a shirt—whatever we do with our body, do to the glory of God. 

Praise and Thanks

Hebrews 13:15 says, “Continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to his name.” It might include singing or speaking words of praise. So the spiritual sacrifices are the praises and thanks of God’s people alone and in group worship.

Acts of Love

Or it might include acts of love like giving and sharing. For example, in Philippians 4:18 Paul receives gifts of support from the Philippian church and says, “I received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.” 

And in Hebrews 13:16 it says, “Do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

So the spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, and I’ve only picked out a few, there are more, are the deeds we do, the words we speak, the songs we sing—when we do them spiritually. That is, when we do them in reliance on the power of the Spirit, according to the will of the Spirit, and for a manifestation of the Spirit—which is a manifestation of Christ. When we seek to be like Jesus. To be holy as he is holy. 

It’s dynamic, As Paul says to the Galatians in chapter 5v13 – you, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather, serve one another in love.

An outcome of a pursuit of holiness is love, and it’s life – life in the Spirit.  Serving one another – being living stones that listen, that see, that hear, and then move and serve other living stones.  The stones in the spiritual house are living, because they take their source from the living Stone Christ Jesus – who went to where people were, who taught people, who healed people, who prayed for people, who gave practical help to people, who served people by washing their feet – nothing was beneath him.  Who obeyed the will of the Father, even to death on a cross.   That was His life – and that’s the life He gives us.

For we are that spiritual house, we are that holy priesthood.  As verse 9 says – you are a chosen people, you are a royal priesthood, you are a holy nation, you are a people belonging to God.  Once we were not a people, now we are the people of God. Once we had not received mercy; now we have received mercy.  This is what we are called to be folks because this is who we are.

As a holy priesthood This means that we all have access to God through Jesus Christ. We do not take our sacrifice to the priest and watch while he or she takes it to the altar or to the tent of meeting with God. We all are called by God to approach the altar and the throne, and to make our own personal sacrifice in personal life and in corporate church life.  To see, hear, speak act and move as the Spirit directs. To pursue holiness – we show sincere love for each other, by showing love in action, by showing life. And He came to give life and life in abundance!

And that combination of love and life – give light.

Bringing Light

Because who we are in Christ, that love that we show, and that life that we demonstrate is so that we can declare the praise of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.

Jesus said, You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify Your Father in heaven.

Imagine the lights of Britain the hour before dawn.  Static.  Piercing the darkness.   But they are not moving.  They are doing their job but they are stuck in their place. They are indeed shining a light but it’s not life.

Now imagine the telephone network of Britain coming alive on a normal working day.  These are connections happening as calls are being made   It’s dynamic, it’s living, it’s continually changing.  it brings light and its life, life like a fire that spreads as connections are made. 

And this is a very simple illustration how our life as living stones gives light.  This is how who we are in Christ, his spirit in us, gives us the confidence to live as He lived, to love as He loved, to be holy as He is holy. Not just to stand in our spot giving light, this is me in my part, that’s you in you part, but to move and show that life with Jesus is like a fire within us spreading and igniting others, and so our light shines before others, that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.

Conclusion

We live in a very connected world.  It caters for a mentality that says you can connect to anyone anywhere in the world without having to move from your armchair. 

And there is a danger that kind of mentality comes into the church.  My role in this spiritual house is  such and such. Someone else does this and someone else does that.  I’ll just send a message to that person and tell them to do such and such because that’s their ministry and not mine.

That’s not what it means to be a living stone.  We need to get off our armchair and pursue that friendship with Jesus that seeks to know Him more, that seeks to obey Him out of love, that seeks to be that spiritual house, where there is love, life and light.  That means we have to not only hear, see and speak – we have to move and act and serve.  It’s dynamic – it changes all the time depending on the need and the leading of the Spirit – but it’s our life of worship as a spiritual house that glorifies Christ.

Is our lifestyle of worship spiritual?  Do we worship in spirit and in truth.  Are the sacrifices we offer spiritual sacrifices?   If they are not, it is not acceptable to God. If it is, he will accept it, not because it’s perfect—it never will be in this age—much less because it’s refined or well-crafted, but because we offer those spiritual sacrifices “through Jesus Christ.”

Spiritual sacrifices are sacrifices from Christ and through Christ and for Christ. They get their power from the Spirit of Christ, they get their content from the Word of Christ, and they have their goal in the glory of Christ. And they flow only from a heart devoted to his power and his Word and his glory.  And that is the only kind of worship God accepts.  It’s a pursuit of holiness.

Maybe this morning you’re in that place of discouragement, in that place of feeling down or low, in that place of thinking this is all too much for me to cope with. It’s all very serious and I do t think I can do it.  Then do what Peter says in verse 4, come to Jesus.  Come to The living stone.  Let Him tell you what He thinks of you.  

How much He loves you. 

How you are His child.  

How you belong to Him.  

How you are a saint, a holy one. 

How you have direct access to Him.  

How you are a citizen of heaven.  

How you have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.  

How you are free from any charges against you.  

How you are assured that all things work together for good.  

How you are seated with Christ in heavenly places. 

How you are His workmanship. 

How you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you

Let who you are in Christ give you cause for praise to Jesus.

And let who you are in Christ, show you that your life comes from Christ.   He is the Living Stone.  He is the Living Water. He is the Living Word. The common expression there is that He is the Living one.  The Stone, Water, Word – these are all just expressions of His life to us. 

And to be a like a living stone, as He is the living Stone, tells me that we are build and support one another.  An expression of loving one another deeply from the heart.  That life of connectivity one with the other through Jesus Christ is true life.  It’s life that gives light.   Is life that proclaims from the rooftops that we have been called out of darkness into his wonderful light.   And his light, His life, His love is so very wonderful. 

So my encouragement and my challenge this morning is get involved.   Get involved as a living stone.  Get involved in the prayer meetings, get involved in bible study, get involved in expressing practical support to each other, get involved in welcome at the door, get involved in praying with each other, get involved meeting and encouraging one another, get involved in worshipping, in serving.  get involved.  Get involved in body ministry. And if you’ve got a heart for something we’re not doing come and talk to the eldership.  Get involved so we have that continually moving dynamic spiritual house led by the spirit where as a holy priesthood together we offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  Reaching. Involving. Equipping. Releasing. 

We can only do this through Jesus Christ, that’s why it’s so important to come to Him, the living One, the cornerstone from where we all take our bearing and our life.   For once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God.  We are a chosen people. We are a royal priesthood.  We are a holy nation. We are God’s special possession, for we have received mercy and we desire to declare the praise of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light. 

Let’s be living stones that bring love, life and light.

Amen.