Statistics
1457 sermons as of October 15, 2017.
Site Search powered by FreeFind

bottom corner

   
Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
 send email...
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Preached At:St. Albert Canadian Reformed Church
 St. Albert, Alberta
 www.stalbertcanrc.com
 
Title:God has Made Us into a Spiritual House
Text:1 Peter 2:4-8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Church Building
 
Preached:2007
Added:2010-01-22
Updated:2013-08-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 133:1,2                                                                              

Ps 50:7,11

Reading – Psalm 118; Ephesians 2

Ps 118:1,3,6,7

Sermon – 1 Peter 2:4-8

Hy 34:1,2,3,4,5,6

Hy 40:1,2,5

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, sometimes we refer to this building as “the church.” “Where are we going today, Dad?” a child will ask her father. “We’re going to church.” Other times we’ll refer to this place as “the house of God.” We might pray at the breakfast table on Sunday morning, “Lord, please bless us today as we go up to your house.”

Now, we all know what we mean when we talk like this. Yet we should remember how the Bible speaks about our places of worship. It doesn’t call them “churches.” It doesn’t call them “houses of God.” No, reading through the New Testament, we find there’s actually very little concern for where Christians gathered for worship. They would gather at a river. They would assemble in lecture halls. They would find someone who had a big home and meet there. It didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter, because “the church” is not the building. “The house of God” is not made of bricks and mortar. Rather, the worshipers are the church! We – you and I and everyone here – are the house of God!

What does that mean? Think back to the Old Testament. Back then, the Israelites worshiped at one central place; first the tabernacle, and then the temple. That’s because there, God was pleased to show his physical presence among his people. He even called the humble temple his “dwelling-place;” He referred to the lowly Holy of Holies as his “throne-room.” Yes, that was God’s house! And so it was fitting that the people would gather there for worship, for prayer and sacrifice and song.

But now something has changed. The temple service has been abolished by Christ. And God no longer makes his dwelling in one particular place. Now God makes his dwelling in our hearts. Through his Holy Spirit, the living God is very near, at home within us. That’s why the New Testament even calls each one of us, and all of us together, “temples” – temples of God’s Holy Spirit.

            And that’s why in our text, Peter calls us a “spiritual house.” We don’t drive to the house of God on Sunday morning – we are the house of God, every day! Yes, we are God’s temple. This means that we, as a house, need to be built together on a firm foundation. This means that we, as a temple, need to be a centre of worship activity. And this means that we must be holy – holy, because the holy God has made his home right among us. I preach God’s Word to you from 1 Peter 2:4-8,

 

            God has made us into a spiritual house. We are:

1)     built on the one cornerstone

2)     made up of many stones

3)     called to holy service      

 

1)     We are built on the one cornerstone: In our text, Peter’s going to talk about buildings.

He wants to tell us how we as Christians form the dwelling of God on earth; a temple that is put together, stone by stone.

            And the apostle begins this image in the right way. He doesn’t start by discussing what’ll take place in God’s house – the things that we get to do  for God. No, he starts with the foundation. Because without a good foundation, everything else is unstable, including our good works. The basis for the church needs to be firmly in place.

            And it is in place!As you come to him, the living Stone…” Peter begins (v 4); that is, as believers seek out our Saviour more and more; as Christians strive to be built up into Christ; as sinners search for strength and support and spiritual gifts – as we come to come to Jesus, we know He’ll never disappoint. For he is “the living Stone.”

            You know that Scripture often pictures our God as a Rock. It’s an image that speaks powerfully of his faithfulness, his trustworthiness. Like a rock, strong as He can be. God is not a God who’ll change with time, a God who’ll crumble under pressure. No, we can count on him, year in and year out.

            It’s true, though, we don’t usually think of rocks as being that exciting. They might be dependable, but for the most part, they just sit there and gather moss. Yet notice how Peter puts it: Our Saviour is the living Stone. Our Rock is personal; He is full of life; He even gives life to those who go to him. As we come to Jesus the Rock in our time of need, we know that from him will come streams of living water!

            Yes, for this living Stone is the cornerstone of God’s house. Isaiah spoke of him long centuries ago, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone” (v 6). As you’ve probably learned, the cornerstone is a vital part of any house that’s made of stone. For such a house, the mason will carefully build up the walls, fitting each stone together according to its size and shape. But he has to start this work somewhere, in one corner. And he does so by using a specially-chosen stone as the very first. It’s a weighty decision. This stone needs to be well-shaped, and solid, and of the right size. That’s because on this single rock, the mason will build all the rest. On this single rock, the rest of the house will depend!

Beloved, Christ is our chosen and precious stone! He’s the one God always wanted as the foundation of his temple, his people. He was even set aside for it, Peter told us, “before the creation of the world” (1:20). And yet this living stone was “rejected by men.”

            Peter knew all about this. He’d been there, on the scene, when the promised Christ was discarded like so much garbage. Those expected to know better, the scribes and Pharisees, decided that Jesus was not the one. And so they opposed him throughout his ministry, hating him with an ever-growing hatred. Soon, blinded by their jealousy and led astray by their ignorance, they had Jesus arrested, tried, and killed. They turned the will of the people against their own Messiah, and they didn’t rest until He was dead.

            The Jews passed him over. No, they scorned the cornerstone altogether, threw him away and said He was worthless. He wasn’t strong enough; He wasn’t big enough; He wasn’t fancy enough.

            “Rejected by men.” Peter witnessed all this firsthand, and it filled him with anger, with frustration – but especially with a deep and unrelenting sorrow: that Jesus’ own countrymen could miss the whole point. And so when we read the book of Acts, we often hear Peter preaching to the same Jews who had been so blind. He passionately argued that Jesus was the promised Christ; he strongly urged them to take back the stone they had rejected. If only they would open their eyes, turn, and be saved!

Peter quotes Isaiah again, and says of Christ: He is “a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall” (v 8). For despite his earnest preaching, so many people in Peter’s time didn’t receive the gospel message. It was scandalous to the Jews: a dead peasant for a King. It was foolishness to the Gentiles: a crucified Hebrew for a Saviour.

And at first, Peter himself had stumbled on this Stone. When Jesus told the disciples that He would suffer and die, Peter vehemently opposed him: “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” He stumbled, and he almost didn’t get up. Yet over time, Peter learned who Jesus was. He learned what kind of Christ his Master would be. He learned that this stone was fully approved by the Architect himself! Jesus, “the fragile stone,” would have a place in God’s building – not merely as an anonymous chunk of the walls, but as the chief cornerstone.

The quotation from Psalm 118 tells the whole story, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” (v 7). Now, let’s understand that a capstone is actually different from a cornerstone. The cornerstone forms the key part of the foundation – it’s the first stone set in place. But the capstone is often  the last stone in a building, set right at the highest point of the house, the climax of the construction. And this too, was an important, even beautiful stone. It was a stone to celebrate: the job was finally done!

            Cornerstone or capstone: We don’t have to decide between them. For Jesus is both! He is both the beginning and the end; both the church’s stable foundation, and our highest glory. Whatever the world may think of him, this living Stone is our confidence and our joy.

Yes, in his perfect sovereignty, God turned the rejection of Jesus into something great. The kicking and smashing of the stone – all of this actually moved forward the Architect’s plan. For by his suffering, Jesus became the perfect fit. By his death, He became the Rock we can build on. By his resurrection, He showed that He’s the Stone who is truly alive.

            And so as God’s house, we can be built on Christ. It is Jesus Christ who brings us together, and who keeps us together. We might share a lot of other things, too – ethnic background, political views, a favorite hockey team, perhaps – but Jesus Christ is first. For every one of us can only rely on him. Every one of us can only be saved through him. That reject, that crucified criminal – He’s our cornerstone!

            Thus when we face challenges as a church, we know we can depend on Christ. Christ will give us the courage to deal with sin in this household. Christ will give us the direction when we have to make decisions for the future. Christ will strengthen us as we brings the gospel to our neighbors. Christ will forgive us when we as church fall short of his commands. He’ll do all this – we can count on it! For He’s our Rock!

            In Ephesians 2, Paul uses the same image. He says, “[You are] members of God’s household… with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.”

As the house of God, we’re built on Christ. But in this is also a call to action. Peter says that our living Stone is precious – so we must treat him as precious! We have to keep coming to our living Stone. Building in faith: trusting that He’ll give wisdom; that He’ll give growth; that He’ll give strength, even when Satan tries to topple us over.

Think also of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7, “Everyone who hears [my words] and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (vv 24-25). As a church, let us base ourselves on Christ more and more, by putting into practice his words. Let us practice what He says about forgiveness. Let us practice what He says about supporting the poor. Let us practice what He says about letting our light shine in this world. Let us practice what He says about prayer. These things might be hard, but they’re right. For they were spoken by the living Stone, and He’ll bless us when we obey.

So why would some reject the Christ? What reason could a person possibly give for ignoring the life-giving Stone? Peter says, “They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for” (v 8). Some people in this world were never meant to be part of God’s house. Yet it’s their own fault that they stumble on Christ.

And the Stone doesn’t go away if people don’t believe – no, the living Stone will also be a heavy rock that crushes them. At this judgment of God, we must be silent and stand in awe. We must give thanks all the more that by God’s grace we’re part of his house, made up of many stones.

 

2)     We are made up of many stones: If Christ is the cornerstone, then what are we? We

are “living stones… being built into a spiritual house” (v 5). Yes, just like our Saviour, we are living stones. We used to be dead rocks; lifeless, useless, ready to be turned into gravel. But the living Stone has made us alive.

            And Christ has done this for a very specific purpose. He doesn’t want us stones to scattered here and there, on our own, or gathered in small clusters. When you drive into the mountains, you can see that. Along the highways and in the valleys, there are countless loose rocks and boulders. Some in big piles, others just lying there, all by themselves. No rhyme or reason to their order, just left where they fell from the mountains, or left where the glaciers dropped them. As stones, we’re not meant to be like that!

Yet so often we think of the Christian life in very individual terms. “I’ve got to take care

of my own faith, first of all. Being a Christian is all about my personal relationship with Christ.”

But being “living stones” calls us to something else, something greater. We’re meant to be built together; each of us “a building block,” each of us with a part. God wants all of us to become something beautiful – to become a spiritual house.

Now, we might not build houses out of stone anymore, but the idea is basically the same as it always was. You put various materials and parts together: today it’s concrete; lumber and plywood and structural steel; wiring and ducting; shingles and windows and drywall – you put it all together in the right way, and you have a house. By themselves, all these materials are just the separate piles of stuff you find at Home Depot. All that material by itself has potential, nothing more. But together, it makes a house where someone can live.

That’s what God wants us to be. Not a physical house. But a spiritual house, that is, a house filled with the Spirit – a temple. As we said, the temple at Jerusalem used to be the place of God’s presence. That era has passed away, and now God dwells in us as his church. He dwells in a spiritual house, made up of many stones.

            Peter knew what it meant to be a stone! That’s what Jesus had named him: Simon was a rock, for building Christ’s church. As an apostle, Peter was given an important place, even right there in the foundation. But all who confess Jesus as the Christ are stones! To all of us, Christ has given a part in his house. Just like Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “And in [Christ] you… are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (2:22).

            “Built together.” As Christians, we can’t be content to be random rocks, lying here and there, apart from everyone else. Nor can we be remain in small clumps or piles, comfortable with a few others, but not really forming a house for God. You can’t build a house out of a handful of stones, or a few 2x4s! Beloved, it takes everyone, all together.

            A couple times now in this letter, Peter has called us “strangers in the world.” We’re strangers, because we don’t fit in – we shouldn’t fit in! – with the society around us, a society so bent on sinful indulgence and constant pleasure. In this world, we stand out, as strangers.

And yet here’s the thing: We shouldn’t be strangers to one another! It’s wrong when you have a church full of “strangers,” people ignorant of each other, people doing their own thing, people not taking part or people not being included. It’s wrong, because we have one cornerstone: If you’re building your life on Jesus Christ, you should join closely with others who are doing the same! Those who stand out in this world, should stand together as church.

            It’s not easy. Peter has said that these Christians are “scattered,” scattered over a wide area of Asia Minor. We too, are scattered – in the sense that we can be so busy with our lives we almost forget everyone else. We might see each other for a moment on Sunday, but for the rest, we might think very seldom of the other stones.

As fellow stones, we must overcome this tendency to be scattered. Overcome it, by getting to know each other. Overcome it, by praying for each other. Overcome it, by showing hospitality to one another. Overcome it, by being glad to get together for fellowship. Overcome it, by reaching out to those stones who are “strangers.”

            How can we do it? We can do it, because as living stones, we all fit together in Jesus Christ. Sharing a trust in him, we can overlook every other difference. Sharing a desire to serve him, we already have a wondrous unity. As many stones of many kinds, let us build the church – let us form a beautiful house for God!

             

3)     We are called to holy service: So what takes place in the temple? In a word: Worship.

It’s always been a place where people present thanksgiving and praise to the Lord. And Peter has called us God’s house. But now Peter changes the image slightly. We’re not only the stones that form the building, we’re the priests who work in it! “[We are] a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (v 5).

            Day and night, you know how the priests in the Old Testament would present offerings to God. Cows and birds, bread and oil – all of it, given to God, in thanksgiving for his goodness, in atonement for human sin.

            But holy worship, we’ve said, has changed. So has the holy priesthood. It’s not just adult males from the tribe of Levi who are set apart to serve. It’s everyone! It’s the men and women; it’s the boys and girls; it’s the 20-year olds and the 80-year olds. All these stones, all these priests, are called to offer sacrifices to God.

So what do we give him? It’s not animals any longer, nor bread and oil. God calls us to give “spiritual sacrifices.” Think here of Paul’s words in Rom 12:1, “I urge you… to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.”

“Bodies” means the whole works. Offer your hands to help fellow saints and neighbors. Use your eyes to study God’s Word. Present your ears to listen to the sorrows of someone who needs to talk. Sacrifice your mouth to speak uplifting words to the discouraged, to sing praises to our Saviour. Employ your mind to meditate on the goodness of God in Christ.

            The sacrifices that the Israelites brought were burned up or used by the priests in their service. That is, those sacrifices only lasted so long, and then were gone. But we must give ourselves to God continually. Not just on Sunday. Not just at devotion time. Indeed, we’re not allowed to slack off for a while, but are called to keep on offering ourselves, each and every day.

            And, says Peter, our holy sacrifices must be pleasing; they must be acceptable to God. God isn’t willing to accept every sacrifice, just like He wasn’t willing in the Old Testament. He won’t accept our left-overs. He won’t even accept top-quality offerings, when they’re made with wrong motives. The Lord desires genuine sacrifice: presented in faith, presented in thanksgiving.

For we do all this, says Peter, “through Jesus Christ.” Remember what this temple is built upon – it’s built upon the cornerstone who is Christ. The greatest glory of this house is our crucified and resurrected Lord! Today we offer sacrifices of gratitude. In view of God’s mercy, we offer ourselves to God.

As a church, this is what we are, and this is what we must be: God’s holy temple, even God’s holy priesthood. Let’s bring this to mind on a regular basis! For it’s easy to be critical of the church; there’s a hundred things we can find wrong. But consider how highly Peter speaks of the church – and let’s not imagine for a moment that the churches he served were so much more pure, holy, mission-oriented, and unified than we are. The same weaknesses that trouble us were found in those churches, too.

Peter looked past all that, and he considered this: What is it, that makes up the church? Is the church made of perfectly formed and fitted stones? Is the church populated by priests who never fail in their duty? No, the church is a group of sinners who have humbly come to Christ for salvation; it’s a collection of weak saints who are now committed to serving him.

Sure, we’ve got lots of building to do – lots of “home improvements” to make. But let’s always remember how God views us. He looks at us, living stones, and He sees potential. He sees those who are washed in the blood and Spirit of Christ – He sees a covenant people who can together be his dwelling-place on earth.

Let it be said then, that God lives in this church – no, not in this building, but in US! May God be present, and may He be pleased with what He sees. May God be pleased by our unity. May God be pleased by our worship. May God be pleased by the sacrifices you present. Yes, may the holy God be pleased to make his home here, among his holy people!  Amen.

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2007, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster


bottom corner