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First Baptist New Orleans

Take Care of Your House

We are in our third week of Strangers Like Me. We are studying Peter’s first letter that he wrote to churches that were located in what is now Modern-day Turkey. These were Gentile believers coming from a pagan background, and they were experiencing persecution, isolation, and they were in exile.  So again, remember that they are strangers in a place that is not their home just like everyone in this room who is a believer in Jesus Christ is a stranger in a world that is not our home, and yet we are surrounded by people that are just like us. We’re all human beings. In our passage today, Peter has some remarks for how the church should behave. Now as Western Christians, we tend to view biblical texts through the lens of the self. We live in a western world that prizes the individual over the group. But this only a Western way of thinking. Much of the world is comprised of a group mentality where the needs of the group are always put in front of the needs of the individual. So we might look at a passage like was just read today and begin to examine our own life, and certainly, self-examination is an essential thing to do, but remember that Peter is writing this letter to a collection of churches. So we need to read these verses in light of what it teaches us about the church collectively.

Crave the Word of God:

"Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation." — 1 Peter 2:2 

We have to go back to the end of chapter 1 where Peter tells the churches to love one another with sincere brotherly love. So in the context of love for one another, you have to put away all of these behaviors that go against what it means to love one another.

Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, slander, and envy. Again, we have to examine our hearts within this church on these qualities. If these qualities describe us than we do not love one another with sincere brotherly love. Malice is the desire to do evil; deceit is misrepresenting the truth, hypocrisy we know is saying one thing and doing another or doing one thing and saying another. Slander is false or damaging statements about another. Envy is desiring what someone else has. Do we have these characteristics in our church today? The answer is obviously yes. I’m not under any illusion this morning that we get along with everyone in the room. I know that we have said critical and hurtful things to each other, and behind one another’s backs. So let’s all confess together this morning that we mess up. Our church is not perfect; no church is perfect, nor will there ever be a perfect church because they are all comprised of sinful people. But let’s reflect seriously on what Peter teaches here. We as a church cannot be all that we should to each other and to our community with malice, deceit, hypocrisy, slander, and envy describing us.

But rather, we as a church should long for the pure spiritual milk. The image is that of a baby who desires milk. I’m no doctor, but I know that sick baby is one that is not able to take in milk. Infants crave it, they cry for it, they enjoy it, and it is the only thing that will satisfy them at times. It gives them the nutrients they need when they are developing.

It’s misleading to think that Peter was talking about new converts to the faith. If we read verse 2 that way, we could fall into the danger of thinking that only when we are new followers of Jesus should long for the word. As if there is some point when we should be mature enough to where God’s word is no longer needed.

I want to be candid with you right now as your friend, as one of the pastors at this church, and as someone who loves you. There is no substitute for being in God’s word. There is no shortcut for growing in Christ. Reading a five minute devotional in the morning with a reference to a Bible verse is not enough. We need to drink deeply from the word of God. Now, I’m not expecting you to—nor does God expect you to—devote 18 hours of your day to being in the word of God, but you need to make it an essential priority in your life. If you don’t have time to invest in the word of God, then I am going to ask you to reprioritize your time. You need to read it, you need to memorize it, you need to meditate on it, and you need to pray over it. I do not want to put a time limit or a number of minutes suggestion on this activity because it’s not about a number. I have probably 100s of songs memorized, and if I can memorize songs that don’t help me grow in Christ in any way than I can spend time memorizing the word of God.

Peter uses a conditional statement in verse 3: "if you have tasted that the Lord is good." Peter wanted his audience to contemplate if they had tasted that the Lord is good, and if they have, then they will want the word of God. If you have no desire for the pure milk of the word, then have you tasted that the Lord is good?

 

Eliminate the Religious Language:

"you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." — 1 Peter 2:5

Jesus is described here as the living stone in verse 4. A reference back to Psalm 118:22 where the stone rejected by the builders becomes the cornerstone.

Men rejected Jesus, but that’s okay because he was chosen by God and precious in his sight. And then Peter takes this one step further and says just like Jesus was a living stone, followers of Jesus are also living stones, which implies that we will be rejected by men but are chosen and precious in God’s sight.

You individually will be rejected by men, and the church corporately will be rejected by men. It’s not a matter of if this happens it is a matter of when. We need to develop some thick skin and be ready for rejection. Peter is telling these believers in exile that they are going to experience rejection but rest in the fact that God views you as precious. Jesus was rejected by the religious authorities and crucified, but God raised him because he was chosen and precious in his father’s sight.

And then Peter does something unheard of in his time. He says that followers of Jesus are the spiritual house, the priests, and they can offer sacrifices. Imagine a Greek or a Roman person walking up to a Christian and saying where is the temple where your god resides? Oh, Jesus lives in my heart. I’m the temple. Where are your priests? Jesus is my priest, Jesus tells me that I can directly access him without the need of some other religious person. But where do you make your sacrifices? Jesus was my sacrifice when he died on the cross for my sins.

So everyone in this room who is in Christ is a temple, a priest, and can make sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. Jesus eliminated the religious structure of the day needed to access God through his death and resurrection.

 

Jesus is the Foundation:

"For it stands in Scripture: Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” — 1 Peter 2:7

Peter begins a series of Old Testament references here. The first text cited is Isaiah 28:16. And in this chapter of Isaiah, God is giving a message of judgment to Ephraim for their unbelief and disobedience. Isaiah was telling the Israelites not to put their hope in these foreign nations, but to trust in God. He is the one who will provide a cornerstone, and it is a sure foundation. God himself has chosen it and it is precious.

This cornerstone that Peter talks about is referencing the foundation. Jesus is the foundation of our lives, and he is the foundation of our church. Our building is not the foundation; the pastor is not the foundation, the programs we promote are not the foundation, the songs we sing are not the foundation, Jesus is the foundation of the church.

Whoever believes in Jesus will not be put to shame. Just like Jesus was honored at his resurrection if believers put their faith in Jesus, they will be honored at the end no matter what happens in this life. In light of these believers struggles during exile, Peter is reminding them that in the end, Jesus will honor their commitment to him. The honor is for those who believe.

But for those who disbelieve, they are rejecting that Jesus is the cornerstone. Peter cites Psalm 118:22. In the context of this Psalm, it is describing the return of the king to the temple to give thanks after his victory over his enemies. The stone in the context of the Psalm was the Davidic king and the builders who rejected that king was the foreign nations. So when these foreign nations refused to worship the king appointed by God, they assured their destruction. But in Jesus’s day, the builders are the religious leaders in Israel who are so concerned with the temple and all of the different rules and regulations regarding behavior in that temple that they completely missed and rejected that Jesus was the cornerstone of the temple all along.

  • Let me show all of the times that Jesus clearly discusses that he becomes the temple. John 2:19, “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Mark 14:57-5, “And some stood up and bore false witness against him saying, We heard him say, I will destroy the temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another not made with hands.Matthew 26:59-61, Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, this man said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days. And finally, the most powerful demonstration of Jesus as the temple is displayed in Matthew, Mark, and Luke when the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Matthew 27:51 describes it, “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The Gospel writers are trying to show us that when Jesus died on the cross and was later resurrected, we now have access to God through Jesus’s perfect sacrifice. We can approach the throne of grace with confidence knowing that Jesus satisfied the wrath of God towards sinners.

 

Jesus is Not Popular:

"...and 'A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.'” — 1 Peter 2:8

Peter quotes yet another passage from Isaiah 8:14. They stumble over Christ because they refuse to believe in him. Jesus is a rock of offense because the offense of the cross is that both Jews and Gentiles could approach Jesus through faith. This was a highly offensive message to Jewish people who were convinced that a right relationship with God could only be achieved by being in covenant relationship with Yahweh. When Paul comes along and begins to teach that the covenant relationship is open to both Jews and Gentiles, this was initially an offensive message to people.

Let’s take this concept of offensiveness a little further, though. Think of all of the ways that the message of Jesus is offensive in our culture today. Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him. This can be understood in two different ways:

  1. taking up a cross is a visual that we will experience pain and suffering following Jesus. People do not want to do anything that requires pain or suffering in our world. Nobody voluntarily signs up for that.
  2. following another person means you are willing to submit to their leadership and give up control of your life. This goes against the cultural idea of the day that because we prize in our culture being able to freely express yourself as an individual but in order to follow Jesus you actual say my individuality is not as important as following what Jesus would have me to do.

Another offensive aspect of Jesus is that if follow after him, we are claiming that he has authority over our lives. The world in which we live today has a major authority issue problem. No one wants to be told what is right or wrong, no one wants to be told how to live their lives, and certainly, no one wants to submit their authority to another freely.

Peter concludes this passage with a very interesting observation. He says these people that stumble and disobey the word were destined to do so. A very important attribute of God is that he is sovereign, and what that means is he is the supreme authority, and all things are under his control. Nothing happens without him knowing about it. Throughout the Bible, we see God intervening in the world in ways that seem evil or out of place. He appointed the Israelites as his holy people over other people, He regularly appointed the enemies of the Israelites to face destruction, and he appointed that Jesus would experience a gruesome and painful death on the cross. And there will be people like Peter said here who are destined not to obey the word of God. God chose Israel in the Old Testament, and yet many of them chose other gods and were never faithful in spite of the fact that God had chosen them. There will be people that do not believe in the Gospel, and God knows who they are. But here is the good news for us. We don’t know who those people are. Therefore, the Gospel is good news for all people because only God knows a person’s heart and only he knows who will ultimately come to faith. Now the reason Peter includes this in his remarks is that he wanted his readers who were in exile to know that even though they are experiencing suffering and evil in the world that those events are not occurring outside of God’s control. And for you and me, whenever we experience evil or suffering, we can rest knowing that God is sovereign even over the suffering that we are enduring. Yes, it might be hard, painful, and heartbreaking but God has sovereignty over it.

I read a story of a missionary who was serving in a country in Central Asia. He and his wife were working in the kitchen one day, and they noticed their 11-year-old boy circled a gang known in the area as the “Rough Uncles.” One of the village boys had a large rock in his hand and raised the stone over the missionary’s son. The missionaries had to watch from a distance because they knew they wouldn’t be able to get there in time. Suddenly, the boy with the rock lowered his hands, and the situation was defused. When the 11-year-old boy returned home, his parents embraced him and asked him what happened. He said the gang asked if he believed that Jesus was God’s son, and he answered yes. The gang then became enraged and threatened to stone him, but the 11-year-old boy told the gang he wasn’t afraid of them and that they could kill him if they wanted to because he would just end up in heaven anyway. This is a proper understanding of the sovereignty of God.

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