Sunday Sermon: ‘Rising to the Occasion’ (I WILL Series #7)

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Let’s begin our time this morning by looking at a passage from the book of 1 Peter –

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

What is Peter saying in this verse? First of all, the word ‘sanctify’ means to set something a part for a special reason. One translation says, ‘worship Christ as Lord of your life.’ Another translation says – ‘dedicate your lives to Christ as Lord.’ To me it is saying, ‘Determine that Jesus is the Lord of your life.’ ‘Put your life under the lordship of Jesus Christ.’ What will happen if we do? At least three things:

1) Our lives will noticeably change
2) Those watching will begin to question why
3) We will have the opportunity to tell them about Jesus

To fully appreciate what Peter was saying, we must understood who he was writing to and why. Look at verse 14 –

1 Peter 3:14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;

Peter was writing to Christians who were beginning to experience persecution for their Christianity. Many believe that Peter wrote about the time that Nero burned Rome. Why is that important? Nero was the emperor of Rome and as many of you know, Rome was not favorable towards Judaism or anything associate with it. Though the church is made up of both Jews and Gentiles, it began primarily Jewish and therefore in the eyes of many it was little more than an offspring of Judaism. Of the Roman emperors who opposed Christianity, Nero was probably the worst. Nero was extremely immoral and a lunatic. Some of his more infamous attacks upon Christianity included trying animal skins on the backs of Christians and throwing them to packs of wild dogs and covering them with tar and then setting them on fire to burn like torches during the night.

This is who Peter is writing to. In chapter one, verse one, he calls them ‘strangers who have been scattered.’ In chapter two, verse eleven, he refers to them as strangers and pilgrims. And in chapter three, verse fourteen, he refers to them suffering for righteousness’ sake.

What would say to the suffering Christians if it was your duty to write to them? Would you tell them to run and hide, or would you tell them to stand up and fight? Peter told them to make Jesus the Lord of our lives and then be ready to share with others what made them so different. That’s why I have entitled today’s message, ‘Rising to the Occasion.’ The Bible never encourages us to lower ourselves to the standard of this world. The Bible also encourages us to rise to the standard of Christ.

1 Peter 2:1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, hypocrisies, envies, and all evil speakings, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: 3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe –  he is precious, but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

There are three things I want to point to you:

I. The Church is a Spiritual House

A. God’s House in the Old Testament

The Jewish temple in the Old Testament was a magnificent structure. It was originally built by Solomon about a thousand years before Jesus was born. Even in Solomon’s day it was considered to be worth millions, if not billions of dollars. Throughout the structure there was gold, silver and other precious metals. No expense was spared.

The Jewish historian Josephus says that the temple was covered with plates of gold and where there wasn’t gold, there was pure white marble. Whenever the sun would shine, the gold would be blinding and from a distance the marble looked like snow. [1] 

Yet this magnificent ‘man-made’ building would not endure. Jesus said that not one stone would be left standing upon another. (see Matthew 24:2) These words came true in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and tore down the temple. Why did God allow this magnificent temple to be destroyed?

When Solomon built the temple he said –“Will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (see 1 Kings 8:27) Though Solomon did everything he could to build God a house to dwell in, he realized that it was insufficient. God deserved something better. When we come to the New Testament, we see what kind of temple God desired.

B. God’s House is the New Testament

1 Peter 2:4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.

Today there is no temple in Jerusalem and even if there was, God wouldn’t be in it. Today God’s temple is not a physical building. Today God’s temple is a spiritual building. God’s temple today is His church.

1. Christ

a. The Chief Corner Stone

Peter tells us in vs. 6 that Jesus is the ‘chief corner stone.’ A corner was a very large stone laid at the predominate corner of the building.

It was often massive giving stability to the building of the structure
It was carefully set in place in order to guidance to the rest of the building

b. A Living Stone

1 Peter 2:4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone…

Though the Jewish temple was built magnificently with gold and silver, it was still just a building. It was dead, yet our God is not dead. He’s alive. Jesus is alive.

2. The Church is God’s Spiritual House

1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house…

Jesus is alive and so is His temple. Christ dwells in a living temple.

There is something else important that I should point out to you: stones is plural and house is singular. By myself, I’m not God’s spiritual house. I am one of the living stones and so are you. And it is when we are brought together by the Spirit that we form this place for God to dwell. Jesus said, “I will build my church…’ What is God’s temple? What is God’s spiritual house? It’s the church.

II. The Church is a Spiritual Priesthood

1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood…

Serving in the Jewish temple were men known as priests. Only men from the tribe of Levi could serve as priests. No one else. Only one man, known as the high priest, could enter into the Holy of Holies where God dwelt, and then only one day a year – the Day of Atonement. The Jewish priesthood was a lot of ritual, but no relationship.

But with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, all of that changed. A building in Jerusalem was no longer God’s temple. Those who accepted Christ as their Savior were.

In 70 AD, the Jewish temple was destroyed by the Romans. With the destruction of the temple came the dissolving of the priesthood. No doubt the priests tried to continue for a while after the destruction of the temple, but they had nowhere to minister. Thus, over time, they dissolved.

Today there is a new priesthood. Every believer, regardless of whether they are young or old, black or white, male or female, rich or poor, slave or free – is a priest in God’s spiritual house.

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people…

Originally God chose the nation of Israel to be His priests. Peter is referring back to the book of Exodus when God said – “you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 9:6) But Israel forfeited that right. “He came unto His own and His own received Him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name…” (John 1:11-12)

I doubt that most of us ever consider ourselves to be a priest. We think of priests as either being men way back in the Bible that wore funny clothing, or a high-ranking official in the church. Yet the Bible tells us that every believer becomes a priest in God’s spiritual house. Housewives and mechanics; teachers and carpenters; husbands and wives; moms and dads; sons and daughters. Every believer is a part of this spiritual priesthood.

III. The Church Offers Up to God Spiritual Sacrifices

1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

Priests in the Old Testament offered up various sacrifices and offerings. What are the spiritual sacrifices of the church’s priesthood?

Scripture teaches us that our sacrifices includes our serving. (see Romans 12:1-2) It also includes our praise (see Hebrews 13:15) and our giving. (see Philippians 4:15-20) I think that we could also include our praying as a part of our priesthood. (see Hebrews 4:14-16)

There is another spiritual sacrifice that you and I can make every day, and though most Christians are probably overlooking it, it’s one of the most important parts of our priesthood. It’s how we live out our lives before the world.

Do you remember where I started this message?

1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

‘Determine that Jesus is the Lord of your life and then live in such a way as to cause others to ask what is different about you.’ Consider how Peter says this plays out.

1 Peter 3:14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you – with meekness and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

This is what Paul meant when he wrote –

Philippians 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

Shine as God’s light in a dark world. Where should we shine?

A. Shine Before Our Government

1 Peter 2:13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16  As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. 17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

B. Shine Before Our Employers

1 Peter 2:18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

C. Shine in Our Homes

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear…

7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

D. Shine in His Church

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

Application:

Here’s what I imagine some of you thinking about now –

‘This is crazy!’ ‘You mean you expect me to  ___________________________?’

Consider one last passage from 1 Peter –

1 Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

Some of you remember how about twenty years ago everything was WWJD (What would Jesus do?) Do you know where that came from? It came from this verse of scripture. A man by the name of Charles Sheldon (1896) wrote a book entitled, ‘In His Steps.’ It was a little book about a community of Christians who decided that they would pause ask themselves the question ‘What would Jesus do?’ before they made their decisions. So what would Jesus do if He was here today?

22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

What did Jesus do? He laid down His life for us. That’s what it means to be a Christian in a godless world. Jesus said, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (see Matthew 16:24-25)

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[1] Josephus, Chronology of the War, Part 7: The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem

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