Living stones and royal priests

1 Peter 2:412

There are only two kinds of stones in this world – living stones and dead stones.

There are only two kinds of people in this world – people who follow Jesus and people who don’t.

Which kind are you?

USA currently has more people who follow Jesus than any other country, but not for long. Things are changing rapidly in a big way. The country with the most Christians will soon be a country that has been noted for its persecution of Christians.

By 2030, China’s total Christian population will exceed 247 million, making it the largest Christian congregation in the world.

Jesus told his disciples to make disciples. It seems that is what they are doing in China.

Are you making disciples? Do you remember from last week the final instructions that Jesus gave before he left this world? He said, “Go and make disciples.”

He didn’t say to make churches or make Christians, Jesus said that disciples should make more disciples. OK, so what’s a disciple? What are we and what are we making?

Peter, the disciple who walked so closely with Jesus from the start of his ministry, tells us in today’s Scripture that everyone who follows Jesus is a ‘living stone’.

A disciple is a living stone. If you follow Jesus, you are a living stone.

Jesus is the one who divides the world into two camps. We belong in the camp of those who trust and follow Jesus. In the other camp are those who don’t trust Jesus. We are divided by our attitude toward Jesus. Whether we see him as the living cornerstone or as a worthless lump of stone to be rejected.

When you first put your trust in Jesus and start to follow him, Jesus transforms you into a living stone like himself and starts to build with you.

In verse five, Peter says God is building us into his spiritual temple. This is the temple in which God lives. God doesn’t live in buildings of concrete and brick, like this one. You are the bricks in the wall of God’s temple.

The church is a living building of living stones. We are the church. Someone may have heard a church building spoken of as God’s house, but in fact you are God’s house. All of us who follow Jesus are God’s house.

Peter also says in the same verse that you are a priest. You, even if you have only been following Jesus for a very short time, are a priest.

Your job is to offer sacrifices. In the Old Testament with a physical temple, the priest offered animal sacrifices and grain sacrifices. But all of us who follow Jesus are now priests in a spiritual temple who offer spiritual sacrifices. The Old Testament sacrifices were either sin offerings or thank offerings. In a sin offering, the animal was killed to take our punishment. Jesus did that for us on the cross, and so we don’t need to.

So you and I are called to offer up our thanks to God, and we are to do it with the whole of our lives. We do it by the way we live.

Peter is giving us a picture of the church, and the church is us. We are the living stones in the walls and we are the priests offering the sacrifices.

Peter explains in verse nine what a disciple is, and what we are to invite others to become. We who follow Jesus belong to God, we are a royal priesthood, and we are a holy nation.

This means we are God’s possession, with special privileges as his people in a special relationship with him. We have access to him and we have been separated from the world into a new nation.

When was the first church? You might think at Pentecost, but perhaps it was in the garden of Eden and it was called Adam and Eve. There were only two people in the first church. When they broke their relationship with God, the church was destroyed. God is restoring his church by restoring our relationship with him through Jesus. This is the church we invite people to join when we invite them to become disciples.

How do we do this? Look at verses 9 and 12.

“As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”

“Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.”

Revelation 21:22 says there are no church buildings in heaven, where ‘Nothing evil will be allowed to enter’. There are only the people of God and God himself.

What God is doing today is building his church.

What Jesus has tasked us to do is help build his church.

But we are not to run out and erect buildings, for that is not the church. We are to make disciples.

We are to be God’s voice as he calls people out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Peter says that we are to do this by declaring his praises. This reflects Isaiah 43:21 – ‘I have made Israel for myself, and they will someday honour me before the whole world.’

Then and today, people praise God for what he has done for them, for saving them and making them his people. We are to go around telling people what God has done for us so that they can see what he can do for them. So that they can join us as disciples, living stones in the wall of the church, royal priests in the spiritual temple.

In addition, we are to live God’s way. Not our way, and not the world’s way.

Peter says, ‘I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.’

It isn’t easy to be a disciple, a holy priest. But we are to live up to this new standard so that whatever we are accused of, however we are persecuted, sinners and pagans will confess that our behaviour is always honourable. Our deeds and our ways must always bring glory to God.

We are now a breed apart in this world. We are foreigners and strangers. We have lost our nationality and now belong to God’s holy nation. This should be our attitude. This world is not our home. We are no longer Korean, Chinese or British, or any of those other nationalities that the world has made, we are now citizens of God’s holy nation and we are royal priests.

In every area of our life we now live to please him.

Our attitudes to sex, drugs, money, status, possessions, honesty, integrity must be different. If you fit in at work, if you belong, maybe you aren’t being church.

We have to look at our lives and ask ourselves, does my life look any different from the life of a person who isn’t a living stone and a royal priest?

Does my life look like the life of a disciple who is going out of her way to make disciples?

Am I part of the church, or am I a spectator? If you are a spectator, you are welcome here, but we hope that you will join us and become part of the church. We want you to experience the new life, join God’s holy nation, become a royal priest and join us in making disciples.

About Pastor Simon

Pastor at Jinju International Christian Fellowship. Formerly of Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK. I am Simon Warner of Jinju Church. We speak English at Jinju Church, South Korea.
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