2017-5-14 Look Like Living Stones

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          May 14, 2017

“Look Like Living Stones”
Text: 1 Peter 2:11-12

As we have noted for the past weeks, we are living stones.  We are both built upon the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ, and are built into a spiritual house—both to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God in Christ and to declare the praises of Him Who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Today—and for many weeks to come, God willing—we shall see what living stones look like.  We also shall seek God’s grace to look more like this.  Let us hear God’s Word to our souls today.

(HEAR READ THE TEXT)

The Apostle Peter, led by the Spirit of the living God, has much to say to us about our conduct in the world—but first he reminds his readers, then and now, just who we are.  Peter’s first word is a noun of direct address, “Beloved.”  Notice Peter’s tender, shepherd-like care in his late years—when he was not far from seeing His Lord again face-to-face.  Note that, in Peter’s single word, we are beloved of God as well.  All that follows comes from Him Who is the great Lover of our souls.

Peter further addresses his readers as sojourners and exiles in this world.  The Greek word underlying soujourners (paroikoV) and the Greek word underlying exiles (parepidhmoV) have the same lexical definition—to wit, a person who for a period of time lives in a place which is not his normal residence.  In other words, we are not yet Home.[1]  Truly, though we be in this world, we are not of this world.

In view of who we are in Christ, then, we are to behave in certain ways.  These ways fall under two main heads.  First, God calls us, in His Word, to abstain from the passions of the flesh.  These passions are common to human nature, but they are deadly if left untreated.  Hear God’s Word on the matter from the Apostle Paul’s Spirit-led pen: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.  I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).  Such is the proclivity of our flesh, modeled by the world, and incited by the devil.

From these we simply must abstain.  We abstain from such deadly, God-dishonoring acts by walking in the Spirit—and, in so doing, we shall not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).  Moreover, we abstain from these acts by crucifying the flesh by the same Spirit.  Those who belong to Christ do exactly this (Galatians 5:24).

Not only are we to obtain from the passions of the flesh, but also, second, we are to keep our conduct honorable.  We do this as we order our lives in concert with the fruit of the Spirit.  Hear again Paul’s words to the Galatian Christian households, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).  We well to pursue these things, even as we pursue observance of the moral law of God generally.  In so doing, the world may speak against us as evildoers—for its values often stand diametrically opposed to those of God—but let us persevere in well-doing, for we shall reap in due season if we faint not (Galatians 6:9).  Let us see now what we stand to reap if we persevere in honorable conduct.

Our position in Christ, and our conformity to Scripture’s commands, tends to happy ends.  First, the world may see our good deeds.  Though no act we perform is perfectly righteous (Isaiah 64:6), God will make them visible to unbelievers—in His time and for His glory.  More than this, God will make these undeniable to them too.  Second, the world may glorify God.  This is true generally at any time such a work occurs, but this is true especially on the day of visitation.  This day of visitation may be taken in two senses.  Either it may be taken as a gracious visitation—when the Spirit regenerates a formerly-lost soul and grants him saving faith, justification, and the rest.  Then that new-found soul—formerly hating the good works and the good workers—now loves both, and that by the power of God.  Or the day of visitation may be taken as final visitation, that is, Jesus’ glorious return—when all, either gladly or grudgingly, will confess Jesus as Lord to the Father’s glory (Philippians 2:10-11).  All of this is in concert with Jesus’ own teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:16).

The American evangelical church, especially in my native Deep South and the rest of Bible-belt country, had a problem seventy-five ago—namely, legalism.  This legalism involves, among other things, a strong adherence to moral righteousness—which, per se, is commendable.  Two problems arise, however, and they arose in the Southern evangelical context.  First, there arose a judgmental attitude toward transgressors—no matter whether a part of Christ’s Body or not.  Second, there arose an approved rectitude far beyond that which Scripture requires.  It was, in the Bible belt, a Southern-fried Pharisaism—pure and simple.

This doesn’t seem to be the main problem now.  The main problem now—and for some time—is its diametric opposite, namely, antinomianism.  Antinomianism, which means something like against law, tells us that—even though we be in Christ—anything, or most anything, goes.  Moral standards becomes relaxed clear out of conformity with God’s will for our lives.  Today’s text, and others like it, inform us that God has a standard for the conduct of His redeemed—and we ignore or flout it to His grief and to our peril.

We need, by the powerful grace of God, to look like living stones.  We need to walk in concert with today’s text.  We need to do it winsomely, and we need to do it ascribing all glory to God in Christ.  Therefore, beloved ones in the Lord Jesus, let’s go be what He has called us to be.

AMEN.

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).

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