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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Living Stones (1 Peter 2.4-5)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
January 29, 2012
Some Music Used
Prelude: "Variations of 'Foundation'" (Joseph Martin)
Song of Praise: "O For a Thousand Tongues" (Charles Wesley, David Crowder)
Song of Community: "This is Your House" (Dawson/Austell)
Song of Prasie: "Come, People of the Risen King" (Getty/Townend)

The Word in Music (Choir): "Built on a Rock" (Jay Althouse)
Offering of Music: Jazz Piano Improvisation (Rick Bean)
Song of Sending: "Grace Alone" (Brown, Nelson)
Postlude: "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" (Paul Manz)

Living Stones
Text: 1 Peter 2:4-5

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

Today we are going to talk about “Christian identity” – not a secret identity… if that’s where your mind went, you’ve been watching too many spy shows on TV. No, we’re going to talk about your Christian identity – who you are if you are a follower of Jesus.

We continue in a study of 1 Peter 2, and today is our first week of several to talk about our identity. Before we got to this, we looked in this passage at who Jesus is. Peter uses well-developed building imagery to help us understand, and this is what we’ve talked about in the past few weeks. Like an architect or master-builder, God has a design or plan which He has been building throughout history. We read from Ephesians that God’s Word, spoken through Apostles and prophets, was the foundation of this plan, indicating what was to come. Last week Greg talked some more about the importance of God’s Word in the growth and development of Jesus’ followers.

And we read about who Jesus is. He is the cornerstone – the precious cornerstone – upon which God has and is building a house. We talked about how those who believe understand the precious value of Jesus as the cornerstone, but those who do not believe find him instead to be a stone to stumble over and a “rock” that is offensive.

And having studied who Jesus is and what God has designed for humanity related to him, the text turns to who we are and what God has planned for us. Now, back to we who watch too much TV… if you are expecting an identity like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, or even something more Bible-sounding, like “Victorious Warrior,” you may be disappointed.


Pretty snazzy, huh? Well, don’t dismiss that out of hand. It’s more exciting than it sounds. Remember that we are in the midst of rock and building imagery… Jesus is also a stone, and there’s much this name and this imagery can teach us about who we are in Christ and how we are to live our life.

So here’s the flow of thought, to help you follow along in 1 Peter 2. God has given us the Word in order that we might grow in respect to salvation, that is, come to know and trust Him for salvation. That’s verse 2. And in God’s mercy or kindness (verse 3), we come to Him through the one who is the living stone. Peter quickly identifies that Jesus was both rejected by men and chosen and precious to God (verse 4), then continues to describe our identity as we come to God through Jesus.

The main idea of our text today: “Coming to Him… you also as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house. Before we get to what it means that we are being “built up as a spiritual house,” let’s look at what it means to be “living stones” like Jesus. 

A Living Stone, Choice and Precious (v. 4b)

By describing Jesus as the original “living stone,” as both rejected by men and precious to God, Peter gives us some indication of what to expect in our own lives.

Peter talks about coming the Lord “as to a living stone” – that is, through Jesus. Peter will describe the two ways Jesus will be viewed in more depth in verses 6-8 (which looked at earlier this month), but here he gives a thumbnail sketch so we’ll know what we are getting into. Jesus is both precious cornerstone and rock of offense. So when Peter writes “you also, as living stones,” this means that we will share in Jesus’ identity.

First the good news part: look at the middle of verse 4. A living stone is choice and precious in the sight of God. The scriptures are full of images and language about how God loves you, chooses you, adopts you, claims you, forgives you, and pours grace on you IN CHRIST. Two weeks ago we read from Isaiah about how God was placing the precious, chosen cornerstone, measured in justice and level with righteousness. If you trust and follow Jesus Christ, then your identity is IN Christ and WITH Christ, and your identity is his identity. Just as Jesus is a living stone, choice and precious in the sight of God, so you who trust in Jesus are choice and precious in the sight of God.

What great news! What great news, particularly if you struggle with discouragement and doubt, wondering if you matter or have a place or a purpose. God’s declaration to you is that in Jesus, you have this identity and purpose: you are precious and you are part of what God is building in the world. And when God sees you, you look like Jesus to Him, a choice and precious living stone. 

A Living Stone, Rejected (v. 4a)

Now here’s the hard part. 1 Peter 2:4 also describes Jesus as “a living stone which has been rejected by men….” Two weeks ago we talked about Jesus as a “stumbling block” and a “rock of offense.” Though Jesus is the cornerstone of all God is doing in the world, for those who do not believe, he is offensive. He trips people up. And what this verse is saying is that when you identify with Jesus Christ – when you trust and follow him – you will experience some of that rejection. You may trip people up and even cause offense, not because you are annoying or irritating – please try not to be! – but because the Gospel itself is offensive.

I hope you’ve heard more than a few times that we should be winsome and grace-filled as we speak and live out the truth. I don’t back away from that one bit. What this passage reminds us of is that Jesus himself – and the message of God’s salvation in Christ – is offensive to some. And yet that is the one thing we must not hide or downplay. We dare not withhold the hope of salvation for fear of rejection, for we’d be withholding God’s love from those who most need to hear it.

So, it’s an interesting balance, right? Jesus is offensive enough without us adding non-saving offense to it with our attitude or behavior. So, we must endeavor to be like Him, which is why this verse follows after what Greg preached on last week. The preceding verse (v. 2) tells us that it is God’s Word that helps us “grow in respect to salvation” – in other words, to be LIKE Jesus, the cornerstone, in our speech and action and witness. As a Christian, expect rejection; but make sure it is for the right reason. 

A Spiritual House (v. 5a)

Finally, we get to what God is doing with these living stones. He is building us up into a “spiritual house,” which we know from previous weeks has Jesus as the cornerstone, God’s Word as the foundation, and God’s wisdom and purpose as the design.

There is actually much that can be said about this “spiritual house.” For this week I am going to simply focus on the composition of it – you and I as living stones built on Christ. Next week we’ll look more at the purpose of the spiritual house as we consider a second identity of “royal priesthood” found at the end of verse 5.

But let’s talk about the composition of this spiritual house. I want to try to illustrate what a spiritual house made of living stones looks like. If you haven’t connected the dots yet, what Peter is describing here is the Church. Remember the conversation between Jesus and Peter in the Gospels? Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; and Jesus says, “On this rock I will build my Church.” This is the same Peter, who is now a teaching Apostle, writing about God building His church on the cornerstone – the rock – of that same Jesus Christ, God’s own Son.

All this is to bring up the question, “What is the Church?” And Peter’s imagery and illustration here is very helpful to understand what the Church is.

You’ve heard me say this before – I hope! – that the church is not the building; it is the people, it is you. Another way of saying this is that the Church is not constructed of dead bricks, but of living stones – people, patterned after Jesus Christ and brought together after God’s own design. The Church is not a dead or static structure, but a living, breathing one, made up of men, women, and children who trust and follow Jesus Christ.

Let me try to illustrate this with a different image to help show some of the implications for this truth.

Look at this [I hold up choir anthem music]. Isn’t it beautiful? Wait, you probably need to look more closely. Look at this part right here [walk out in congregation and point to chorus in the sheet music]. Do you hear how great this part is?

This is the anthem – beautiful music. Look at the title in the bulletin; it’s right here on the page. This is it!

Oh, you see, right? The music isn’t the notes on the page; it’s when it is turned into something alive – sound in the air that connects with your ears and your mind and your emotion.

Well, I know the choir has gone back to their seats, but let me ask for everyone who knows this song – this music… would you stand up where you are. Will you sing just the chorus part so everybody can hear it again? [choir members sing from congregation]

Now that’s music. Very nice; thank you!

Do you see my point? The music is not the notes on the page; it’s the people singing the song. In the same way, the Church is not the building on the corner; it’s the people speaking the faith and living the faith. You don’t DO church; you ARE the Church.

Let me press this illustration just a bit further, though. I was talking with Heather yesterday and she expressed some anxiousness over doing what I just asked the choir to do. And I understand completely! I’m sure all the choir members felt that to some degree or another. They are used to singing all together up in the choir loft. But that’s just it, don’t you see? Even if we can get it into our head that the church isn’t the building or the programs or the preacher, but it’s US; we still gravitate towards being the Church inside the building. It’s much more comfortable to have our prayer groups, Bible studies, and fellowship gatherings safely within the walls. But the spiritual house that God is building is not static and planted on a corner; it’s ALIVE and on the move just as God is on the move in the world. It stretches into your neighborhood, your school, your workplace, your social circles, your relatives, and beyond. That is the Church built on Christ!

And I understand the challenge, the discomfort, the unfamiliarity of that. That’s one reason we have been doing what we do on Wednesday nights. What we do on Wednesday nights is much like what I just asked the choir to do. It’s outside the choir loft, but still within sight and sound of each other. Likewise, when a group meets at Caribou or Starbuck’s or Barnes and Noble for prayer or music or conversation, we are BEING the church out in the world, but with the encouragement and security of some friends around. There might be some strangers around, but there are also some familiar faces. And I can testify to the power of that endeavor. Even the low-key content of those gatherings has reaped significant rewards in terms of living out our faith because we are outside of our choir loft, our sanctuary, where others can hear the Gospel song we are singing. (In the case of the bluegrass, we actually ARE singing!)

But even Wednesday nights are kind of a “practice ground” to help folks get more comfortable singing, speaking, living the faith outside. Once you’ve learned how easy it is to talk about faith at the corner coffee shop with two friends and a room of strangers, I’m hopeful that it becomes a little easier to speak or live faith at Harris Teeter or the Y on your own. Back to the choir; every so often, when they are really working on something, we’ll hear Heather practicing or just singing parts of the songs at home. And every so often, what she is singing will become familiar enough that the kids or I will find ourselves humming or singing along. What if we could do that in the public sphere with the Good News of Jesus Christ? What if we could become enough of a living stone that wherever we go we are in some way drawing people toward Jesus Christ? That’s the kind of spiritual house that God has in mind for you and me. That’s what God is building! Amen.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What Comes Before (1 Peter 2.1-4a) - Greg Joines

Sermon by: Greg Joines
January 22, 2012
Some Music Used
Hymn of Praise: "O Word of God Incarnate" (MUNICH)
Hymn of Praise: "Wonderful Words of Life" (WORDS OF LIFE)
Hymn of Sending: "How Firm a Foundation" (FOUNDATION)

What Comes Before
Text: 1 Peter 2:1-4a

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jesus, the Stumbling Block (1 Peter 2.7-8)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
January 15, 2012
Some Music Used
Prelude: "Prelude on 'Aurelia'" (Charles Ore)
Hymn of Praise: "My Hope is Built on Nothing Less" (MELITA)
Song of Community: "This is Your House" (Dawson/Austell)
Song of Prasie: "The Church's One Foundation/I Lay in Zion" (AURELIA/Youngblood)

The Word in Music: "Scandalon" (Michael Card)
Offering of Music: "In Christ Alone/Solid Rock" (Travis Cottrell)
Song of Sending: "All I Have is Christ" (Jordan Kauflin)
Postlude: "Prelude and Fugue in A minor" (J.S. Bach)

Jesus, the Stumbling Block
Text: 1 Peter 2:7b-8; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

We are in 1 Peter 2 today. Just to remind you what is going on and what is coming, this chapter covers substantial ground in terms of teaching and application. Much of our series will be focused on Christian identity, that is, who we are as those who trust and follow Jesus Christ. That will come with all the names in the passage: living stones, royal priesthood, people of God, and so forth. But we started last week with verses 6-7, which first described who Jesus is.

Using building imagery and a quote from Isaiah the prophet, Peter described Jesus as the “precious cornerstone” which God put in the midst of His people out of His own eternal design and plan. We also saw, from Ephesians, that the foundation of that structure was God’s Word, spoken through apostles and prophets. We’ll return to that idea next week, when we look at the opening part of this chapter. We also saw, in the longer passage from Isaiah 28, that God’s building design also included the “measuring line” of justice and the “level” of righteousness, both found in and through Jesus, who bore God’s just judgment and grants to believers his rightness.

Today, we continue to verses 7-8 in 1 Peter 2. Peter continues the stone imagery, but turns to another picture of Jesus Christ. Jesus is who he is, of course, but Peter points out that believers understand Jesus to be the cornerstone of God’s plans and purpose, upon which God is building the living structure of the church. But now, Peter also recognizes that not all understand or see Jesus for who he is. Instead, those who “disbelieve” (v. 7) see Jesus as “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” 

Scandalous Jesus

First I want to introduce you to the image Peter uses. In good Jewish fashion, he says the same thing twice to emphasize his point. Jesus is a “stone of stumbling” – he is something that people trip over. You’ve all probably run into the literal version of this. Granted, you might have to be in the woods nowadays, but you’ve not been looking where you were going and you got tripped up over a rock. Not only do you stumble and maybe fall, but it’s embarrassing and it can hurt. That’s the effect Jesus has on some people. Peter would say particularly on those who disbelieve in God’s “building plan” and salvation history.

The second image is basically saying the same thing, but is a bit more literal. Even if you stumble over a rock in the path, you normally aren’t offended by it. No, the offense is the literal reaction some have to figuratively stumbling over Jesus. Let me be more specific.

There is plenty to trip people up when it comes to Christianity. There’s inconsistency and hypocrisy – really, all the ways we fall short of the ideals of our own faith. That’s real, but not what is in focus here. Jesus does take that on pretty regularly in his interactions with the Pharisees, so the Bible is not blind to that problem.

Rather, what is in view here are two primary stumbling blocks, and to that I would add a related third.

First, what is potentially MOST offensive, is the very purpose and nature of Jesus. The claim Peter has made, with backing from Isaiah, is that the one God over everything has an eternal and definite plan regarding human history. God has spoken into that history through His Word, and at the very heart of that purpose, plan, design, and will, is Jesus of Nazareth, Christ and Messiah, the very Son of God. What really is in view here is what many have indeed stumbled over, the declaration that Jesus is THE way, the truth, and the life – by Jesus’ own words, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Think what you will about the issues of the day or the requirements of God’s Word, the claims of and about Jesus are what you either build your life on or trip and curse. The word Peter used to describe the “offense” of the Gospel is scandalon, from which we get our word “scandal.” That’s more or less what he is saying Jesus is. If you believe, you understand that Jesus is the cornerstone of all God is doing in the world. If you don’t believe, Jesus, the Christian gospel, and scripture in general, are scandalous. 

Scandalous Word

Secondly, there are all the legitimately difficult teachings of Jesus and scripture – the things that rub against either human nature or the grain of culture – like repentance, monogamy, purity, or selflessness. Peter goes on in verse 8 to explain why people stumble:
…for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word…”
Not only does recognizing Jesus as the only way require submission to him, but God’s Word requires obedience. And that, too, is a stumbling block, and even offensive. I recall a letter shared with me by a friend just after coming to faith in Christ.
I grew up in the church. I knew the doctrines and all about Jesus and I thought it was all totally ridiculous. I thought, “How can you use the Bible to prove the Bible?” And with that, I easily dismissed it all. I never gave it much thought. I never looked deeper. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to know. I was so superior, so much better than those Christians, and it was such a joy to ridicule them, to hate them – it made me feel so smart and unique. I could rant and rail on and on about how horrible it was, about how evil, how unloving and judgmental. I didn’t care if that’s what it really was, or about actually searching for real truth. I created a straw man so I could burn it up every night and glory in my intellectual prowess. I could be amazed by my eloquent drunk-with-self arguments – at how easily I could disarm my pretend opponents. The beauty of my perfect logical masterpiece, lofty in grand, cosmic thoughts and ideas, was founded securely in the shifting sand of my delusion. I was god, or at the very least, if I were not, then god was very much like me.

My arguments, my intellect had nothing to do with truth, but it had everything to do with my clinging to my old life, and my fear of real honesty! What a horror I was if I looked at myself with honest eyes! What a fool I was! Like an ostrich with my head in the sand I had been saying, “I don’t care about reality, I only care about what I want!” I was like a child, stamping my foot on the ground with arms crossed saying, “I don’t care if it would be better, I won’t let you make me happy because I’m mad, I want what I want, and I don’t even know what that is, but I don’t have it so I’m angry!”
How true Peter’s words: “This precious value… for those who disbelieve… [is] a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word….” 

Foolishness and Truth (1 Corinthians 1)

I mentioned a third, related “stumbling block.” That is the seeming foolishness of all this. Listen to 1 Corinthians 1:18…
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…”
If you have been in the Church or been a Christian for a long time, it can be hard to realize just how foolish even the basics can seem. If you ever meet someone for whom church is a new experience, ask them about it. Or imagine what it must be like to come into a church service and hear something like a room full of people chanting the same mysterious words all together at once, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth….” or singing together, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!” And those are just a few examples. Take the real core message of our worship, what Paul is naming here as ‘foolishness’ – the cross of Christ. We hang it up on display, we eat little bites of bread and drink little cups of juice and talk about the body and blood of a man who was tortured and executed 2000 years ago; one who died for many. Foolishness, right?

Peter already linked disbelief with disobedience. And that disobedience is one of the defining characteristics and symptoms of the sin that the Bible keeps talking about. In the Garden of Eden, God said, “You may go and do anything, just don’t do this one thing.” And Adam and Eve disobeyed. Each of us repeats this choice in relation to God. We choose ourselves – my way, my pleasure, my preference – in short, we disobey or reject God’s own invitation to life and relationship.

Jesus Christ says to all, “Come, believe, and follow me.” The same disobedience toward God that says, “No!” plays itself out in a ridiculing and rejection of the invitation and the one giving it. “Come and believe what? Follow who? You have got to be kidding!” That same verse in 1 Peter 2:8 that talks of disobedience implies an alternative. If disobedience to God’s Word causes us to stumble over Jesus Christ, then obedience to God’s Word leads us toward faith in Jesus Christ. Those who believe, we are told, see the “precious value” in Jesus Christ.

In 1 Corinthians, we hear the truth of the “foolish” message:
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe… the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
What does all this look like in a person’s life? Listen to more from the same personal testimony I read earlier:
In all my arguments, in the mountains of ash from the thousands of straw men I had devoured with the flame of my hate, there stood one immovable fact. A fact that could not be ignored no matter how much I railed against it: the reality of the love of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ dying on the cross for anyone (not even necessarily for me) didn’t fit in my perfectly thought out arguments. That one act alone obliterated my cries of “Hate! Unloving! Evil! Judgmental!” That one act alone cried out “TRUTH!” That one act alone cried out “Come to me!” “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by me.” That one act alone when brought before my mind mid-step in my dance of joy on the grave of the made-up religion I so hated called my self-proclaimed intellect a coward, a child, a fool.
The truth is that God has loved us lost and hurting children enough to send us a means of help and hope, rescue and literal salvation. And we, as smart as we think we are, are better characterized before God as angry little children than wise and thoughtful mature men and women. God said that he would destroy the wisdom of the wise. Indeed! 

The Power of God for Salvation

I love the way the Apostle Paul summarizes all this in 1 Corinthians:

The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

It breaks my heart that so many can only see foolishness or be scandalized, even more so that those same ones are perishing. This is not something to revel in or be possessive about. In order to share the hope of life and rescue with as many as possible, we must risk becoming seen as Jesus was seen. We must risk becoming “fools for Jesus.”

Once more, from the testimony:
Praise Jesus! He showed me what a fool I was! Now, praise God, I can be a fool for Christ. But that phrase, while accurate in the eyes of the world, really makes no sense. In reality, I’m not nearly fool enough for Christ. In actuality, the more a fool I can be, the more reasonably I am truly behaving. It is only a paradox in the eyes of the world because the world is so lost and so far from reality, even as I once was. I am being seen as a fool for Christ by the world, yet in truth and by the grace of God, I am making the first wise choices I have ever made. All glory to Jesus Christ – apart from whom there is no wisdom, only folly; apart from whom there is no hope, only fear; and in whom is all joy, all contentment, all peace, and all love.
“Foolishness to those who are perishing and the power of God to those who believe.” Indeed, and sometimes in God’s mercy and grace, the same person can tell of both. Amen!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Jesus, the Cornerstone (1 Peter 2.1-10; vv. 6-7a)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
January 8, 2012
Some Music Used
Service music by Coincidence Maybe?

Jesus, the Cornerstone
Text: 1 Peter 2:1-10; vv. 6-7a

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

Today we are beginning a new series that will take us through January and most of February. Each week we will be in the same New Testament passage: 1 Peter 2:1-10. I preached on one phrase from this passage last Fall and commented at the time that there was so much more in that passage. So, we’re back!

Broadly, this passage is full of imagery, meant to help us understand who Jesus is and what it means to belong to him. So, we’ll begin today with building imagery with its roots coming from the prophet Isaiah. Next week we will see the challenge (even offense) of the message about Jesus. And then in the weeks that follow we will move through a series of images to help us understand our Christian identity. This is simply another way of saying who we are as those who trust and follow Jesus Christ.

That’s where we left off on Christmas Eve and Christmas – that Jesus was not just the quiet little baby in the manger, but that he was born to show us the face of God and born to die so we might live. I promised that we would focus on what it means to belong to Jesus, to listen, believe, and follow; and that is what this series is about.

Today I want to focus on verse 6, which quotes the passage from Isaiah 28 that you heard in the call to worship:

“Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

Like a cornerstone, this key verse establishes the whole passage by describing who Jesus is. Much of the rest of the passage will deal with who WE are in Jesus, but first we must know who Jesus is. 

The Choice Cornerstone

Both Isaiah and Peter use this strong imagery: God has a long-standing plan, God is building something, and there is a key component of that plan that is at the foundation and heart of what God is doing. We find out, of course, that this key component or corner stone is Jesus. But that is just the first important observation to be made. What is equally significant is that Jesus was God’s plan from the beginning – from eternity, in fact – and was set in place and history with all the wisdom, design, and purpose of God’s perfect will. We also read in Ephesians 2:20, which describes more of God’s design, that we are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone." The message of the prophets and apostles forms the content of scripture and is the foundation, indicating the shape and form of what God would build.

The reference to Zion makes a connection to what we studied this past Fall – the covenant with Abraham. Way back in Genesis, God promised Abraham land, descendants, and blessing in order to bless the world. Later in the Old Testament, Zion (AKA Jerusalem) became the demonstration of this covenant promise as the visible center of God’s presence and blessing of His people, populated by the descendants of Abraham and positioned to influence and bless the nations of the world. From Zion, or Jerusalem, King David ruled God’s people as King. To Zion, or Jerusalem, Jesus would come to die, that we might live.

It was there – Zion, a physical place in time – that God was at work. This was foretold back in Isaiah and was fulfilled before the eyes of Peter and the other Apostles.

And between Isaiah and Peter, listen to all the words used to describe Jesus, the corner stone: choice, precious, tested, costly, and firmly placed. These are vivid words that add to our understanding of both Father and Son. This is what God the Father did in sending Jesus into the world. He firmly placed the tested and precious Son into the midst of His people as the perfect fulfillment of the ancient promises and prophecies. And in doing so, God invites our belief and obedient service. 

The Extended Image: God’s Measure and Level

I wanted to take a moment and look further at Isaiah 28. Peter quotes this passage, which would have been well-known to any Jewish readers as part of their scriptures. As is often the case when the New Testament writers quote the Hebrew scriptures, it is helpful to explore the original context of the quote. Isaiah adds a bit of imagery not included in Peter’s quote. In Isaiah, God also brings a measuring line and level to the divine building project. The measuring line is justice and the level is righteousness. Since Peter asserts continuity between the ancient promises and prophecies and what God is doing through Jesus, it is fair to consider that Jesus not only serves as the corner stone of God’s building, but that righteousness and justice would also be found in close proximity to the life, teaching, and ministry of Jesus.

And indeed, Jesus IS the righteousness of God: he is perfectly obedient and perfectly RIGHT with God, which proves to be our salvation because we will all face the holy justice and judgment of God. Our lives, actions, and thoughts will be measured by God’s measuring line of justice, and as Romans teaches us, we will all be found short of that measure or mark. Our only hope – our only salvation – is being identified with Jesus, the only righteous one. He will make us level, or right, through his own righteous obedience. Through him, we can stand before God’s judgment and be credited with HIS righteousness. That is what saves us! 

Hope through Faith: Death Defeated

There is another very important phrase in Isaiah 28 that is not spelled out in 1 Peter 2, but is significantly true of Jesus. Speaking through Isaiah, God says (v. 18), “Your covenant with death will be canceled, and your pact with Sheol will not stand.” What God was announcing through Isaiah was the very Gospel itself. God had designed a plan to save His people from death itself.

What does it mean that they had a “covenant with death” and a “pact with Sheol?” That is part of the basic Gospel message as well. We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and the consequences of our sin and disobedience is death… so much so that we might be described as having a deal with death. It is unbreakable by us, but not so for God. And all that God has intended and designed is that we might be set free from death to life.

The great implication of God setting a cornerstone in the midst of His people is that God has made a way for us to have life. How can we have this life? Both Isaiah and Peter mention BELIEF in this context. The one who believes, says Peter, will not be disappointed. This doesn’t mean that a Christian will never be disappointed. Instead, it refers to the greatest disappointment, that we might die apart from God and not know the righteousness of Christ. What this verse does promise is that through FAITH we can have HOPE. 

Those Who Believe and Those Who Do Not

Our focus today ends with the first part of verse 7: “This precious value, then, is for you who believe…” But the verse continues to address those who disbelieve. That’s what we’ll look at next week. For those without faith and those who refuse to believe and follow Jesus Christ, they experience Jesus entirely differently. Looking at the same data, hearing the same story, considering the same Jesus, believers see a foundational cornerstone in the plan God has designed and been building throughout the whole scope of human history. Those who do not believe not only see something much less; using the same kind of imagery, they experience Jesus as a “stumbling stone” or stumbling block. He is something to trip over, something that trips them up. Next week we will look at the rest of verse 7 and verse 8 and a bit more at why some people stumble so over the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Before we get to the rest of this passage and before you can consider who you are in Christ, each of you must consider who Jesus was and is. Is he the heart of it all or does he keep tripping you up? I’d invite you to read and re-read this passage and the one from Isaiah 28 this week. Consider the Bible’s claim and story – that God had an eternal plan that was focused on the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ. Not only is he the cornerstone for the work God is doing in the world and not only is he the cornerstone for salvation, but he – Jesus – is the starting and ending point for faith, belief, and hope. Amen.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Glory that Was, that Is, and that Is to Come (Isaiah 60.1-22)

Sermon by: Greg Joines
January 1, 2012
Some Music Used
Prelude: "Meditation on 'Regent Square'" (Fred Bock)
  Hymn of Praise: "Angels from the Realms of Glory" (REGENT SQUARE)
Song of Praise: "I See the Lord" (Falson)
The Word in Music: "Once in Royal David's City" (Helvey)

Offering of Music: "Away in a Manger" (arr. Joseph Martin)
Hymn of Response: "Gloria Patri" (GREATOREX)
Hymn of Sending: "Arise, Your Light is Come!" (Walter)
Postlude: "Go, Tell it on the Mountain" (Manz)

The Glory that Was, that Is, and that Is to Come
Text:Isaiah 60:1-22

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**