Category Archives: Community

21Apr/18

Be the Alien you are!

1 Peter 2v11-12

 

 

These 2 verses introduce a package of practical teaching from Peter of what it means to pursue holiness in the different contexts we find in life – as part of society, as part of enterprise, and as part of family.

He starts with a reminder that we are aliens and strangers in this world.

The world “alien” immediately, for those of us who love a little bit of science fiction, immediately makes us think of strange new worlds, new life and new civilizations, of boldly going where no man has gone before 🙂

The word “stranger”, we are brought up to believe they are someone to avoid – stranger danger.  Don’t talk to strangers.

But Peter also knows that the word “alien” means a foreigner, and “stranger” to mean a person who does not know, or is not known in, a particular place or community.

Now, many of us here, have been living in the Highlands for many years.  We are not aliens and strangers in our communities. We are known.  But we have to remind ourselves who Peter is writing to – he is writing to people exiled and scattered throughout the provinces – he is writing to people who are living for Jesus wherever they are – and for many of them they were actually aliens and strangers in the communities that they found themselves.

They were people were from, say somewhere like Jerusalem, and now found themselves as aliens and strangers in places like Pontus, Galatia, and Asia. 

Now many of you know that I am originally from Hamilton where I was born and brought up and at the age of 19, 1 week before my 20th Birthday, I moved to Inverness.  I know you’ll find this hard to believe because of my youthful looks, but I’ve actually lived in Inverness longer than I’ve lived in Hamilton.  And when I arrived in Inverness, I took some time to get to know the place because, to me, Inverness was a strange place, I was an alien, a stranger in these parts.  And as I got to know the place and the people my life and my speech slowed and I began to become more ‘Highland’.  I was speaking to a work colleague on Thursday evening who was from the village of Cleland, which is not too far from Motherwell and Wishaw, and he was amazed that I was from Hamilton – I obviously don’t come across as someone from Hamilton, whatever that means, maybe because my accent has mellowed from that central west of Scotland dialect you know by the way.

 When my cousins moved from Cumbernauld to Preston in the late 1970’s, my aunt and uncle kept their accents but my cousins who were all below the age of 10, almost immediately adopted the Lancashire accents of those around them.

Because it’s the most natural thing for us as humans to try and blend into the society and the culture that we live in. Because by nature, we don’t want to be aliens, we don’t want to be strangers.

But Peter is reminding them they are aliens and strangers in the world – not aliens and strangers in a place, but in the world. And he urges then, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against their souls.

In other words, no matter where you are folks, you need to remember that you are a whole new person.  You have received a great salvation in Jesus, you have a hope that holds the future in the present because its anchored in the past.  You are called to pursue holiness – to show love, to bring life and light!  Because you have been called out of darkness into His wonderful light.

And Peter is urging them not to go back into a lifestyle from that which they have been rescued from.  Because Peter is well aware that as they try to live in a new place, in a different part of the world, it’s the most natural thing for them to try and blend into that society, blend into that culture – when in Rome do as the Romans do type thing.

He is reminding them as As Paul reminded the Philippians “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body”

Paul is saying, and Peter is saying, conforming to society and culture around us is not the model folks – because we are chosen, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.  We are now citizens of heaven and we need to reflect the standards of heaven.

Peter is telling us that we cannot afford to return to that which we have been saved from, because we are looking towards that which we have been saved to.  Our great salvation in Jesus.

And the challenge of pursuing holiness that we have been talking about over the last few weeks is based on not conforming to the standards of this world – to be different – to live differently.  In other words don’t do what your natural instinct tells you to do and conform to the society and culture you find yourself in.  

Because this society and culture with its temptations are waging war against our souls.  And we are urged to fight against that onslaught.  For the salvation of our soul is of prime importance – that’s why we’ve accepted that great salvation in Jesus, because that salvation is of prime importance; that’s why we pursue holiness, because that salvation is of prime importance.

Our citizenship, our culture and our society is heaven.  We have been bought with a price – with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without sin or blemish.  He has redeemed us for Himself and Jesus has sent us His Holy Spirit to live in us.  We are His temple, where He dwells, we carry His presence.  Once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God.  We are citizens of heaven.  Peter urges us not to be ashamed of that – not to “fit in”; but be an alien, be a stranger in this world for that is who you are, because you’re a citizen of heaven.

Peter urges us to live as citizens of heaven, so that, as he goes on to say in verse 12, we live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.

The goal is the glory of God. “Live such good lives, or keep your behaviour excellent, as some versions put it, so that . . . the pagans, non-believers, might see your good deeds and glorify God.”  The challenge of our lives in living as aliens and strangers is whether our lives direct people’s attention towards the glory of God.

If we live our lives in such a way that it doesn’t point people to the glory of God, then our lives are not as they ought to be.  We become nothing more than people who conform to a culture and society that ignores God. Because we are ashamed. 

But here we have yet again, an urging, a commending, to live in a way that pursues holiness, that points to the glory of God.  Its from the time we get up in the morning till the time we go to bed at night and everything in between is to point people to the glory of God.

Notice too that the doing needs to come out of our being.  Because Peter urges us to win the war of our desires – verse 11 – before telling us to live such good lives that point to the glory of God in verse 12

Because Beautiful Conduct Springs Only from Right Desires

Verse 11 says that it is “sinful desires that wage war against the soul.” So Peter says abstain from them. Then in verse 12 Peter says we should keep our “behaviour” excellent so that people will see and give glory to God. So first he focuses on desires and then on behaviour.  This is the same pattern we saw in 1 Peter 1:14–15. “Don’t conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance, but . . . be holy in all you do.” Fight first at the level of desires and then at the level of conduct.  Out of our being comes our doing.

Jesus said in Matthew 23:25, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”

In other words, it doesn’t do any good to try to shine up the conduct on the outside without changing the desires on the inside. 

Good deeds flows from good desires. As Paul put it to the Galatians – “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature”

So How Does Excellent Behaviour or good deeds Point to God’s Glory?

How does verse 12 work? How do our good deeds point people to the glory of God?

The answer, I think, is given in 1 Peter 3:15 where it says “Always be ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” What they see is some external action, and what they ask about is your internal hope.

What Peter is saying here is that when people look at you, what they see expressed in your actions, is what you hope in. So they see a certain way of acting—some humble act of love (Galatians 5:6) or some righteous act of courage (Hebrews 10:34) or some self-denying act of generosity (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)—and they notice that you must not be hoping in what people usually hope in—self-exaltation, safety, money—and they are puzzled as to where your hope is.

So they ask about your hope: where do you get your confidence, your contentment, your satisfaction when you act that way?  Especially when people think what on earth are you doing? 

For when we direct our desires to God and find hope and contentment in his mercy and power and promises, then our outward life starts to show what Peter calls “good deeds or excellent behaviour”. These behaviours point to God’s glory because they point to a stable, sure, satisfying object of desire and hope that is not of this world. The point to Jesus. 

You see by pointing to the glory of God, we see the heart of God in urging us to live this way.  Because who is glorifying God in verse 12, but the pagans who see our good deeds and glorify God on the day He visit us.

Now how can pagans glorify God on the day He visits us.  I think the answer is very simple.  They themselves come to know this great salvation in Jesus, though the lives that we lead as citizens of heaven, as aliens and strangers in this world.  For the heart of God is that none should perish, and when He returns, He desires as many as possible to glorify Him on that day.

And before Peter then launches into practical teaching about how we live as citizens of heaven as part of society, as part of enterprise, and as part of family – he tells us, no… he encourages us, no…. he urges us, to have very strong desire for, to have a fire in our belly for living as a citizen of heaven so that others can become citizens of heaven.

As we were hearing from Ps Tim Jack at our Highland Network Leaders weekend:  on the day of Pentecost everyone had something in them – the Holy Sprit; but that was just the beginning, that was if you like a breathing in, but the rest of Acts 2 is the breathing out – the disciples breaking out of the room and into community and they spoke a language that people understood.  Our job as spirit filled believers is to engage a society that understands a language we speak by the breathing out of the Holy Spirit.

And this is what Peter is also urging.  Our citizenship in heaven, our status as aliens and strangers in this world does not mean we talk a different language that no one understand, but we speak and show a language that points people to the glory of God, that even though they see we are different, that breathing out of the Holy Spirit, causes the Holy Spirit to work in them so that they come to understand for themselves this great salvation in Jesus.

What these two verses make clear is that there are two tremendous issues in the world. They are, quite possibly, the most important issues in the world. And one of the reasons we know that we are aliens and strangers in the world is that the modern world we live in does not believe that these two issues are the main issues.

If the world believed this, the newspaper and TV and the theatres and the universities and popular music and industry mission statements and government goals would look and sound very different than they do. But in fact we live in a world that shows by its priorities and values and preoccupations and pleasures that it does not regard these two issues as paramount. In fact, they are not even on the list of the world’s priorities.

The two issues that dominate these two verses—and indeed dominate the whole New Testament—are <slide> the salvation of the human soul and the glory of God. The two great issues of the Bible are how the soul of man might not be destroyed and how the glory of God might not be belittled.

Conclusion

As I said earlier, many of us here, have been living in the Highlands for many years.  We are not aliens and strangers in our communities. We are known.  

If someone was to ask me to describe myself, I might say that I am a 48 year old married man who is father to 3 boys. I work 4 days a week as an IT project manager and the rest of the time I work as a Pastor in a local church.

In others words – a fairly average kind of guy that fits into a middle class society of family life and work life.  Nothing special. 

And there in lies the problem.  Because in that description of myself I have conformed to how society and culture describes themselves.  People will think that’s nice, they may think that’s ‘interesting’; If I do some good deeds, they may think I’m a good guy with a big heart, but they can’t see anything that will point them to the glory of God, in other words I am belittling the glory of God in my life.

But if I started with, I am a citizen of heaven, I’m seeking to live a Godly lifestyle in this world because Jesus has saved me from destruction and given me a hope for the future that is sure. And I outwork that lifestyle as a 48 year old married man who is a father of 3 boys.  I outwork that life style as an IT project manager and as a Pastor in a local church.

Then they may think I’m weird, a bit of a fanatic, maybe an alien; but when I do good deeds, they know the reason why – they know the motivation – they know it’s because I’m seeking to glorify God, I am seeking to maximise the glory of God because God has saved me through Christ.  They will observe my lifestyle, my deeds, and if there is a fire in my belly that seeks to live to the Spirit and live as a citizen of heaven then one day, if the Lord tarries, I might have the privilege of seeing those who have observed my lifestyle, they might accept salvation in Jesus for themselves, and so another soul may be saved for the glory of God.

But we need to be unashamed of wearing the badge of being an alien and stranger in this world. We need to be unashamed of the gospel of Christ. Unashamed of declaring our faith in Him. Unashamed of having fingers pointed at us as a result. Unashamed of people thinking we are weird.  Unashamed of living to a different standard. Unashamed of having excellent behaviour. Unashamed of Jesus. Unashamed.

Because we are chosen. We are a royal priesthood. A holy nation. A people belonging to God.

It’s time to stop being a hypocrite.  It’s time to stop playing Christian.  It’s time to stop conforming to this world and this culture.  It’s time to repent from those ways and time to turn again to what Christ saved us to be, and made us to be;  It’s time to be the aliens we are and speak and live differently to this world.

Invite the scrutiny. Live lives that can stand up to such scrutiny.  Live lives that show that out of our being in Christ  comes our doing of love, life and light.

Cause them to ask us why we’re different. Why are we an alien.  And as we do, let’s be ready to give an answer and pray one day they too may become citizens of heaven. 

Amen.

21Apr/18

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.

31Dec/16

The River from the Temple

Ezekiel 47v1-12

Over the years we have had many prophecies about ‘river’

If church is to be of value, then it’s work need to be done in the community.  What happens in church should affect the community.

What does church need to be here?  What going to happen here?

Ezekiel 40 – Open eyes and see what you see and tell people everything you hear. Number 1 priority is declare the word of God.  Reading out loud the Word of God when in church – verses on our hearts.  Also looking for prophetic ministry to be released and brought forth. Also the power of preaching.

Ezekiel 43&44 – The glory of God filled the temple, a place of worship. Connection with God. Seeing Jesus. It’s not about the songs of the volume of music.

A place of God’s ways.  Where His will is done. We no longer need all the lambs and sacrifices because Jesus has paid it all. But we still need to do His ways.  We don’t know what that means for us but we need to do things His way – with decency and in order.

Then Ezekiel turns his attention to what’s going to happen in the community – what does God want in community.

Freshness

Where the river flowed the salt became fresh

Life

Where the river went it was swarming with life

Purpose

They had their nets spread

Fruitful

Trees down the banks of the river

 

God wants church to be a place of Word, worship and ways.  But church was not bringing freshness, life, purpose and fruitfulness – it was the river that flowed. The connection between church and community is the river – the Holy Spirit.

What then is our role?  3 things

Committed – River flowed from the altar, the place of sacrifice.  A place of commitment is ‘all to Jesus I surrender’.

Cooperate – with the Holy Spirit. He went in ankle, knee, waist deep – gets in the flow

Confidence – in God. Ezekiel was our of his depth, but trusted God.

 

What God wants in church.  What God wants in community. What God wants in us.