ďThe Glorious ChurchĒ†††††††††† 1 Peter 2:4-10†††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††† May 29, 2011

 

SCRIPTURE INTRO:Weíre studying 1 Peter this summer.

The theme of this letter is Christian suffering.

†† How as a Christian, you can live in such a way that the troubles, pains,

†† and sorrows that inevitably come, donít crush you, but make you better.

 

The theme verses of the letter are chapter 1 verse 6 and 7:

†† ďIn this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.These have come so that your faithóof greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fireómay be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.Ē

 

There it is:Suffering, grief, trialsórefined by fireópraise, glory and honor.

 

And Peter says in this passage thatin order for that to happen

†† you canít live alone.You have to be part of something bigger than yourself.

 


 

INTRO:Have you ever noticed that there is only one person who can yell

†† at other peopleís children and get away with it?

Even if some people donít like it when this person yells at their childó

†† they almost never say anything about it.They just accept it.

†† And many people do more than just accept itóthey support it.

†† They actually take this personís side against their child when their child yelled at.

 

Itís not school teachers.In fact, if teachers yelled like this, really chewed students

†† out like this person does, many parents would go straight to the principal.

And if the principal yelled at their children like this, would take it to school board.

†† Itís not scout leaders or dance instructors.Itís not even policemen.

So who can yell at other peopleís children and get away with it?

 

Youíve probably guessed.Itís coaches.

They can stomp and yell and scream and chew a kid out

†† in a way that nobody else can and get away with it.

†† A big part of that is the enormous value that many people place on athletics.

But I think the more fundamental reason is that parents realize this is what it

†† means to be on a team.Their child made the team.Heís part of the team.

When he gets yelled at and singled out by the coach, itís not just about him.

†† Heís part of something bigger.

†† All the other players know that they are in this together.

They learn one anotherís weaknesses.They are listening when the coach chews

†† another player outónot so they can mockó

†† but so that they can compensate for those weaknesses and work together.

They want to be on the team because they love the sport and want to play.

†† And so they understand their coach and all the pain he puts them through.

 

Will played Pop Warner football last fall.

One practice, a mother was pacing back and forth, seemed agitated.

†† Finally she said to me:Do you see what the coach is doing to my son?

†† Do you see how he keeps singling him out and yelling at him?

†† I think I need to go out there and say something to him.

I said:Maíam, I know nothing about coaching football, but know thatís a bad idea.

And she said:Yeah, youíre right.

She didnít like it, but she understood that her boy was part of a team.

†† And he wanted to be a part of that team.

†† And that made all the difference in processing his pain.

 

Peter says that if you are going to be refined by fire, you have to know Godís grace.

†† You have to know that your salvation in every part is the work of God.

†† So even your sufferings fit into Godís eternal plan for your salvation.

And Peter also says (as weíve seen for the past two weeks)

†† that even though your salvation is all of God, and all grace,

†† you have to make every effort to live a holy life.

If you arenít striving to be holy as God is holy,

†† then you arenít going to respond well to the heat of suffering.

†† Youíre going to fall to pieces.

 

Now, Peter says, one more very important thingóyou arenít in this alone.

You arenít saved alone.You arenít pursuing holiness alone.

†† You arenít suffering alone.As a Christian, you are part of something big.

He doesnít use a sports metaphor hereódoesnít say you are part of a team.

†† He says:Youíre part of a people, a nation, a race, a priesthood.

 

These are all different ways of describing what?The church.

1 Peter 2 is one of the great church passages in the New Testament.

There is a lot of theology about the church that can be gleaned from verses.

†† That would be ok to do in a sermon.What does this teach us about the church.

But I want us to stick to Peterís theme and purpose.

†† Whatís he teaching Christians about pain and suffering?

†† What does the church have to do with being refined by fire?

 

This is Peterís point:In order to be refined in the trials of life,

†† you must participate heartily in the church.

Itís in the church that you learn and apply the benefits of the gospel.

†† Itís in the church that you pursue holiness.

†† And so it is in the church that your suffering makes you pure gold.

An authentic Christian is not a lone ranger Christianó

†† Heís part of the team, and working things out there.So how do you do it?

 

How do you participate in the corporate life of the church in such a way

†† that you are refined in your suffering?

When you join Christ Covenant, one of the membership vows goes like this:

†† Do you promise to support the church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?

There it is, two pointsówork and worship.

†† 1.You must participate heartily in the work of the church.

†† 2.You must participate heartily in the worship of the church.Letís look at each.

MP#1You must participate heartily in the work of the church.

Peter describes the church with a very interesting word picture.

†† He says the church is a spiritual house, a temple, that is built out of stones.

But these arenít ordinary stones, they are living stones.

†† Each living stone is an individual member of the church.

†† You, me, the other people sitting on the pew with you.

And this temple of living stones is built on a cornerstone.

†† That cornerstone is Jesus Christ.

Now, letís look at Peterís word picture of the church piece by piece.

 

First, letís look at the cornerstone.

To fully appreciate this, you have to know a little bit about building practices

†† in the Ancient Middle East.

†† Back then, the cornerstone was not just decorative, as it is today.

It was literally the first stone laid, it was the largest stone, often weighed tons.

†† It was set in place to determine the position of the entire structure.

 

It was the most carefully quarried stone, with most precise angles.

†† The rest of foundation was built in relation to it as well as walls.

†† If the cornerstone was true and firm, the building would be too.

So the cornerstone most carefully chosen stone, most expensive (precious) stone.

†† Peter says that Jesus Christ was Godís chosen and precious cornerstone.

 

So first there is the cornerstone, then there is the rest of the building, other stones.

†† Thatís you.ďYou also, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house

†† to be a holy priesthood.Ē

I listened to an interesting sermon this week.The preacher used this image

†† of Christ as the cornerstone to say that every part of your life has to be built

†† in reference to him.Here are these other building blocks of your life.

†† Your finances, your marriage, your career.

They all has to line up with Jesus.He has to be the cornerstone who determines

†† the placement and angles of your life, so to speak.

 

Thatís a good lesson and certainly true.But thatís not what Peter is saying, is it?††

†† Heís not talking about our individual Christian lives.

†† Heís talking about our corporate Christian life.The church.

The stones that are now laid in this temple in relation to cornerstone

†† are other believers, members of the church.Christian laid on Christian.

 

Now ponder that image.

†† Youíre in this temple of other Christians who are lined up with the cornerstone.

There are Christians below you who are supporting youólined up with Christ.

†† There are Christians above you who you are supportingólined up with Christ.

Christians on either side of youówho are keeping you in lineó

†† and youíre keeping them in line.Itís an active process.You are being built.

 

And once the builder puts a stone in place.Finds a good fit for the stone so that

†† it is being supported and supporting other stones, it needs to stay there.

You must find a role in the church, a right spotó

†† so that there are people accountable to you, and you are accountable to others.

You are praying with people, and enjoying fellowship with them,

†† and helping them along, discipling them.

And to the degree you participate in that that fitting process,

and actively become a living part of that building, to that degree God inhabits you.

 

This work of being fit into place doesnít normally happen in the big meetings

†† of the church.It happens in smaller groups, informal settings, one-on-one.

Reason we have covenant groups, Sunday school, Bible studies, prayer meetings.

†† To provide places for this fitting to happen.

 

Remember the pattern of the Jerusalem church.

†† Met for worship in the Temple courts and in each others home for fellowship.

They understood this intuitively.The church would never be built if all they

†† ever did was come together in a big group to hear Peter and apostles preach.

But from the very beginning the followers of Christ knewó

†† we have to spend time together, getting to know each other.

 

And remember how they knew each others needs and took care of each other.

†† There were widows and poor people in the Jerusalem churchó

†† other members gave, and deacons distributed food and money.

This is the work of the church.Being fitted together with other living stones.

†† Getting to know people who are different from you.Entering their lives.

†† Building up the spiritual house together.

As you do, you are connected to other people who are connected to Christ.

†† You experience his suffering and his glory through lives of other believers.

 

Many American Christians have a completely different view of Christian life.

†† They think it works this way:

I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.Itís just me and the cornerstone.

And I go to church, or any number of different churches just to energize my own

personal walk with Christ.Thatís the purpose of the church.

†† Thatís what church membership means.

I get my spiritual shot in the arm by going to church on my terms,

†† when itís convenient for me, and then Iím out of there.

 

You cannot square that individualistic approach to the Christian life with 1 Peter 2.

†† You canít do it.You have to be fitted into place if you want God to inhabit you.

And more to Peterís point.

†† This is how you learn Godís grace, grow in holiness, and are purified in suffering.

 

This past week we celebrated two milestones.Eliza turned 16.

†† I took her to the courthouse, she got her driverís license.

†† And on Friday Adrienne graduated.

And in my mind, I canít help connecting those milestones with the 15 years

†† weíve been here at Christ Covenant.Way God has fitted us in.

 

I think of people in this church who have been living stones beneath me.

†† Who by their faith and encouragement have supported me.

†† Iíve watched them face suffering connected to Christ.

And the living stones above me.People who have come to me for pastoral counsel

†† and Iíve been able to hold them up, and tell them the truth.

†† And by telling them the truth, Iíve found that Iím preaching the Gospel to myself

And those special people who are fitted beside me and who say:

†† Andrew, you need to get in line here with Christ.

I wish I could name names and tell stories.

†† But I canít because these things are too tender.But you know what I mean.

 

I know without a doubt that if I go through a furnace, if I go through sufferingó

†† Iíll come out a better man than I otherwise would have because of you all.

Because of those of you Iíve gotten to know over these years.

†† The examples youíve set in your own suffering.

†† Our many conversations.Our times of prayer.

 

If you want to be refined by fire and not burned up.If you want to be softened

†† by the heat and made more tender and kind, then you must participate

†† heartily in the work of the church.Being fitted in as a living stone with other

Christians who are connected to Christ in his suffering and glory.

That brings us to the second point.In order to be refined through suffering . . .

MP#2You must participate heartily in the worship of the church.

Peter continues to develop this word picture of the church.

He says that after the temple is built up of living stones

†† it is inhabited by a priesthood who spend their time offering sacrifices.

ďYou also like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood,

†† offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.Ē

Then, after the section on Jesus the cornerstone, his suffering and glory, Peter says:

ďBut you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.Ē

 

Heís describing our worship with OT terminologyótemple, priests, sacrifices.

In fact, this is the very language of Exodus 19ó

†† kingdom of priests, holy nation, chosen people.Itís not exclusive to NT.

 

There are many Christians who interpret the Bible this way.They say:

There was Israel and the Jews, God did his thing with them, kind of works oriented.

†† Now there is the church and Jesus and grace.In the NT whole different thing.

We donít believe that.As Presbyterians we believe in covenant theology.

 

One of the key features of covenant theology is that the Bible is one story

†† from beginning to endóOne God, one way of salvation through faith in Christ,

†† one people of God, one way of worshipping God, one final destiny for elect.

There are certain administrative changes between the Old and New Testament.

†† There are certain forms the OT church followed that served the purpose of

†† foreshadowing Christ.After his coming, those no longer needed.

But at the very heart, there is no difference between us and them.

†† Israel is the church and the church is Israel.

 

So our corporate worship is essentially the same.

†† As Peter says here:We too offer spiritual sacrifices, we declare his praises.

Since Peter raises the issue of sacrifices, letís look at the sacrifices of OT

†† worship and see how they apply to our worship today.

†† See how even this morning, just following the pattern of the OT saints.

 

The book of Leviticus was the worship manual for Israel.

†† In every worship service there were three primary sacrificesó

†† The sin offering, the burnt offering, and the fellowship offering.

†† These three sacrifices were made at every worship service in same order.

There were other sacrificesógrain offering, wave offering, guilt offeringó

†† but these were all secondary sacrifices.Were only offered on special occasions.

Now, in one way these three primary sacrifices were the same.

†† And animal was killed, something done with blood, cut up, burned.

†† But different actions were emphasized with each sacrifice.

 

The OT worship service started when the people were called to worship by priests.

†† The Levites and musicians would then lead in music and singing.

After that, the sin offering was presented.

†† The action that was emphasized in the sin offering was the sprinkling of blood.

It was a time for the people to confess their sins before God,

†† and to be reminded that God forgave their sins through the death of a substitute.

†† As the saw the blood sprinkled in various places, assured they were forgiven.

 

Do we do that in worship?Do we offer that sin offering?

†† Yes, we do it every Lordís Day when we confess our sins together.

†† Weíve gathered in the presence of a holy God, we confess our sins.

At Christ Covenant weíve chosen to follow the pattern that the church has

†† followed for thousands of years.We pray together a confession of sin.

And then what do we do?I remind you that the blood has been sprinkled for you.

†† Youíve been forgiven by Christ.Be assured, your sins are forgiven.

†† And as you respond with gratitude, you complete that first sacrifice of worship.

 

Churches donít have to do it that way.Could confess sins in pastoral prayer.

†† Could sing a song of confession.Could have a time of silence.

†† But you have to do something.Itís the first sacrifice we offer in worship.

There are some churches who have dropped all confession of sin because

†† they think itís a downer, not very visitor friendly.We want to be upbeat.

But thatís just plain wrong.Peter says, weíre a priesthood.

 

The next sacrifice was the burnt offering.

†† The distinctive action of this sacrifice was the cutting up of the animal,

†† the washing of the parts and the arranging of those parts on the altar.

This signified the consecration of Godís people.

†† The re-arranging their lives in a way acceptable to God.

 

How is this sacrifice continued in our worship?Through preaching of the Word.

†† The sermon is the burnt offering.Your submission to the Word of God

†† is your sacrifice.As you allow it to cut you, and wash you, and arrange you.

Hebrews 4:12 says:

The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Yes Lord, you say, as you listen the sermon.Cut me, wash me, re-arrange me.

†† Iím going to make these changes in my life, change my thinking, change the way

†† I treat my spouse, change the way I spend my money.

We know that in OT worship there was a time when the Levites would read the law

†† and explain to the people.Donít know when in service, but likely at this point.

†† Saints of old also offered themselves as sacrifices before the Word of God.

 

Then the last sacrifice was the fellowship offering.

The distinctive action was eating.A portion was burned symbolizing Godís food.

†† And a portion of the meat cooked and eaten by the worshipper, family, priests.

†† A fellowship meal between the Lord and his people at the end of the service.

Does that sound familiar to you?Of course it does.Itís a picture of Lordís Supper.

†† In fact, remember what Paul calls it in 1 Corinthiansófellowship, koinonia.

 

Communion is an offering of praise that you give to Godó

†† reaffirming your covenant with him, with one another.

Communion, sayingóIím with these people.Not just Christians in general,

†† not just the church in general, but this body of believers.

One reason we chose, about 12 years ago to have weekly communionó

†† pattern of church throughout the ages.Sacrifice of praise we offer to God.

 

Hereís Peterís point.As you commit yourself to the regular, corporate worship

†† of Godís people.As you participate in your priestly role, offering sacrifices.

Week by week, month by month, year by year, decade by decadeó

†† these great Gospel truths are worked in deep and change you profoundly.

†† Iím a sinner, but Iím forgiven.Iím under Godís Word and being changed by it.

†† Iím at peace with God, in living fellowship with him and his people.

Youíre able to go through the furnace of suffering and come out purified.

 

Iíve only been in the ministry 19 years, but Iíve seen this pattern.

Believers who are committed to corporate worship, who love it, who make it a

†† priority in their lives, generally hold up better under trials.They shine in them

†† more brightly, and if they are cast down, come out more quickly.

And on the other hands, believers for whom worship is one option among many

†† on the Lordís Dayótaking a back seat to sports, lake, company, sleeping inó

†† often fall hard in trials.Appear barely different from unbelievers in response.

CONC:Do you want to be refined when you pass through the fire?

Do you want to be made better, softer, more useful?

†† Peter says you canít do it alone.

†† God has saved you to be part of something bigger than yourself.

 

Iíve told you before about an experience I had on a mission trip.

During the summer between my junior and senior year of high school

†† I went to Spain for a month with a group called Teen Missions.

We worked in a village building a house that was going to be a Christian

†† drug rehab center.It was the ministry of a little evangelical church in city.

 

On Sundays we would go into the city to worship with this church.

It was a small group, about 50 people.Led by an American missionary.

†† And it was mostly young people.Older than us.We were high school age.

†† Most of them were in twenties.

The Spanish had a custom of greeting you with a kiss on both cheeksó

†† which was nice because some of the Spanish sisters in Christ quite attractive.

 

The second or third Sunday we were there, noticed one of these young women had

†† had a bruised face and split lip.Someone asked missionary, was she in a wreck?

Noóher father hates her faith, beat her last Sunday for going church.

†† But there she was, smiling, greeting us with a kiss as came in the door,

†† worshiping her Lord Jesus with a glow on her face.

 

Why was the church so important to her?Why did she go to church that Sunday?

†† Why did she take risk of gathering once again with fellow Christians to worship?

Iím sure she had a personal relationship with Christ.

†† She had experienced times of personal communion with Him.

†† So if going to cost her so much, why didnít she worship in privacy of room?

†† The Lord would have been there with her.Better than risking her face.

 

Every Christian here this morning knows why she went to church on Sunday,

†† even if you have never articulated itóitís the reason you are here now.

†† This is who we are and what God has saved us to be.Living stones in his temple.

 

And as King David said:

ďI rejoiced with those who said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord.Ē

She wanted to go.She was glad when Sunday came and she could gather

†† with fellow believers to worship the Lord and offer her body as a living sacrifice.

And, of course, it was plain to see that she was being refined into pure gold.

 

As you participate in the life of the church, worship and work,

†† you will be connected to the suffering and glory of Christ through other

†† Christians who know him.

As you worship, you will have the great Gospel truths worked in deepó

†† your sin, Godís forgiveness, his claim on your lifeó

†† and when the trials come, you will be able to process your pain through

†† those big things, and come out a better Christian.