Tag Archives: 1 Peter 2:4-10

How all Christians have a responsibility to be priests

6 Jul

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Christians, you are all priests!  All week long we have been looking at some unusual ways Peter describes Christians’ identity and responsibility.  A holy nation, living stones, and now priests!  Yesterday we talked about how Christians can understand their identity as priests.

Now let’s look at how Peter in 1 Peter 2:4-10 describes as our priestly responsibility.  What do priests do?  Peter lists two tasks:

The first task, Peter says in verse 5, is that we offer spiritual sacrifices.  Note that the sacrifices are spiritual.  Peter is talking about the spiritual realm here.  One illustration he mentions about how to make spiritual sacrifices is when he says in verse 9 that we, “declare the praises of God who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Have you ever heard the lines of the song: “we bring a sacrifice of praise”?  God desires us to praise him.  At first I thought, “Why does God want us to praise him?  Isn’t that a bit self-serving of him?”  It can seem like it.  But in the unexpected, upside-down way of God, praising him turns out to be the best possible way for us to live.

That is important.  Praising God is a lifestyle.  Praising him is not just singing songs during a worship gathering.  We try to emphasize this even about our worship services.  We would be wrong to say that they only part of our worship that is praising God is when we are singing songs.  The correct view is that all the parts of our worship service should be seen as and done as praise to God.

When we place our monetary gifts in the collection baskets, we do it with a heart of praise and thanks to God.

When we greet one another, we do so with a heart of praise to God, thanking him for placing us in a church family with all its variety.

When we share our stories of God’s work in our lives, as we pass around the microphone, we do so with praise and thanks to God.

When we study his Word during the sermon, or in our classes, we do so praising and thanking God that he still speaks.

Every part of our worship service is praise to God.  We emphasize that because we want that attitude of praise to spill out into the rest of our lives.  Drive your car, praising God.  Prepare food in your kitchen, praising God.  Go to work, praising God.  Work hard at work, praising God.  Interact with your friends and family, praising God.  Clean your house, praising God.

That’s how we priests bring a sacrifice of praise: we live lives of praise to God.

The next thing that Peter says holy royal priests do is in verse 12, live good lives. The actual text says, “live such good lives among the rest of the world that they too will see your good deeds and glorify God.”

Holy royal priest live good lives!  How do we live a good life?  I would suggest that Peter is talking about a life of following the way of Jesus.  The good life is how Jesus himself lived. Jesus calls his followers to live like he did.  How, then, did Jesus live?

Discover for yourself by reading the Gospels, the four accounts of Jesus’ life.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Open up space in your life to read about the life of Jesus. It is amazing material. But it will require time.  Netflix can wait.

Your kids can do this too.  Have them take a break from Minecraft or Fortnite.  Read to them the stories of Jesus.  Learn about how Jesus lived.

As you read, pray: “Lord Jesus help me learn how to live like you live.”  Make a bookmark with that prayer, and use it as a reminder to pray that prayer before you read.

What you will find is that the way Jesus lived was very odd.  And amazing. His way is so different from the way of the world.  As you read, discover how you can choose to live differently, and then ask the Holy Spirit to change you, to make you more like Jesus, to live like he did.  Then try it out.  Try to practice kindness and forgiveness when your heart feels anger.  Try to practice love when you have been hurt.  Spend time alone with God like Jesus did.  Invest in helping others like Jesus did.  Speak the word of God like Jesus did.  Practice patience and goodness and self-control.

That’s the good life of Jesus that he invites his holy royal priests to live!

How all Christians should identify as priests

5 Jul

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

Sometimes people have bizarre reactions when they learn I am a pastor.  If they had been cursing, once they find out I’m a pastor, they’ll over-apologize and try to stop.  Often they’ll ask where Faith Church is and talk about how they’ll visit some Sunday.

Even people within our church family can have strange reactions.  At a church meal, they’ll often wait for me to pray for the meal before they start eating.  Or if they get sick and go to the hospital, they’ll want me to visit.  I could go on an on with stories like that.  I’m just a regular guy, so even after nearly 16 years in ministry, I’m still often surprised by these reactions to me.  Pastors aren’t special pray-ers or visitors, but people often think we are, elevating us to a higher plane of spirituality.

As we saw yesterday, Peter taught against this idea when he said that all Christians are royal and holy priests.  Not just pastors.  Not just missionaries.  Not just Bible teachers.  Every single Christian is a priest!  We’re all on the same level in God’s eyes.  Sure, we have different gifts and different roles.  I am so thankful for this teaching about all Christians being part of the holy, royal priesthood.  As a pastor, I think way too much focus is placed on me.  All Christians need to learn how they are priests.  But how?

In our continuing study of 1st Peter 2:4-10, Peter explains our priestly identity, which we will look at today, and he explains our priestly responsibility, which we will look at tomorrow.  So for today, what is our priestly identity?

First Peter says we are holy.  He was telling the Christians in his day that they are set apart.  It doesn’t mean “holy” in the sense that they are perfect.  It means they are set apart for a special purpose.

They are a “people belonging to God,” he says, and “a people of God.”  We all need to see ourselves that way.  A special people, belonging to God, set apart for a purpose, which we will look at tomorrow.

Here we can start to see Peter’s flow of thought into verses 11-12 which we already covered a few weeks ago when we talked about the theme of aliens and strangers.  People who have been built on the foundation of Jesus need to see that that are so precious in God’s eyes.  Though we might be strangers and aliens in the world’s eyes, we are people who belong to God!

Another way that Peter says they are holy or set apart or special is that they have received God’s mercy.  How amazing!  You are loved by God.  He has shown mercy to you!  How has he shown mercy?  God has shown his mercy by making it possible for us to become living stones.  Read about that here.

That is the first way Peter teaches that all Christians are priests: you are a holy priesthood.

Second, he says we are a royal priesthood.

Royal? Did you know, Christians, that you are royal?

You’re like Meghan Markel.  Remember her?  She recently married Prince Harry, and is now known as the Duchess of Sussex.  She doesn’t have royal blood so she cannot be called “Princess.”  That is a title she can earn eventually.  William and Kate’s children, however, were called princes and princess at birth.  They have royal blood.

When Christians consider our relationship to Jesus, we’re like Meghan Markel.  We weren’t born of royal blood.  We were adopted into it. Or as Peter says, we are reborn into God’s family, and thus we are now children of the king, with the rights and privileges of royalty.

Think about how special God views you!

If I were to guess, most of us would never think, “I am a holy, royal priest in God’s Kingdom.”  We don’t see ourselves that way.  I suspect we don’t think of ourselves that way because we are humble or feel unworthy.  Humility is respectable.  But Peter is saying, “You actually are holy, royal priests in God’s Kingdom,” and because of that we all need to see ourselves that way.

But note that the world will not see us that way, and we shouldn’t try to get them to!  Being a holy royal priest of God doesn’t mean that we go around saying that!  “Look at me, I’m a holy, royal priest!”  That would be really weird or arrogant.  Instead, we stay humble.  We know that God looks at us as holy royal priests, and so we gratefully and humbly serve him.  Jesus, our great high priest, gave us the pattern for how live in his Kingdom when he washed the disciples’ feet and gave his life as a sacrifice.

So all you Christians, your identity is holy, royal priests.  Yeah, it is an unexpected identity.  But take on that identity.  And tomorrow we’ll see how Peter describes our priestly responsibility.

Why all Christians need to see that they are living stones and priests

4 Jul

Photo by Jen Millet on Unsplash

We’ve been seeing lots of images of lava in the news in the last month or so, as volcanic activity has rocked Hawaii and Guatemala. Red hot glowing lava seems alive, as it crawls along the ground.  But it is not alive.  Lava is molten stone.  There is no stone that is alive.  Maybe something like coral is close.

Yesterday we looked at 1 Peter 2:4-10 where he says that Jesus a living stone.  There Peter also calls Christians living stones. How are we living stones?

A living stone is an anomaly.  Stones are dead.  They have no life in them.  But living stones?  How can a stone be alive?

What Peter describes here is something that is physically impossible.  A stone that is alive.  For a stone to be alive, a miracle has to take place.  The stone’s physical properties have to change.  The rules of biology and geology must be replaced.  That is exactly what has happened for Christians.  We once were dead in our sins, but we have been made alive in Christ Jesus.

That is good biblical talk right there, but what does it mean?  “Dead in sin, alive in Christ.”  It means that all humans have a sin nature, and we will choose, over the course of our lives, to behave in such a way that goes against God’s will for us.  That is sin.  Choosing to do what God does not want us to do.  From the littlest white lie to grand acts of violence and everything in between.  Because of that, the biblical writers figuratively call us dead in sin.  What they mean is that when we die, we will be separated from God forever. That’s really dead.

But thanks be to God, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Because of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection for us, God is at work rectifying the sin problem.  He has made it possible for us to place our faith in Christ, to trust in and obey Jesus, and thus be reborn.  This is what baptism symbolizes!  The idea of new birth is the idea of new life that Peter has mentioned three times so far in his letter.  Here he hints at it again.  This time he is not talking about being born again as babies, but he is talking about the concept of something that was dead that is given new life.  A stone that is alive.

In Christ, we are living stones, just as Jesus was the original living stone.  As he died and rose again to new life, so we too, when we trust in and obey him, we can become living stones, which means that when we die in this life, we will not be separated from God, but we will be with him forever.

The image of living stones, then, is an image of hope!

Now Peter quickly changes images.  Next he says that we, the church, are a holy and royal priesthood, a holy nation, and we have a job to do!

Priesthood is not a word that is common to many Protestants.  In Catholic circles, it is common.  The priesthood is how Catholics and some other denominations describe their pastors.  Would the idea of priesthood have been common to those first Christians Peter was writing to?  Some of them likely came from a Jewish background, and it was a big part of their history, there were priests of the nation of Israel.  Also, some of these Christians were Greek or Roman, and there again, pagan religion in Greco-Roman society had priests.

In each of their societies/culture there was a priestly class.  But in those cultures, like ours, only the rare few were priests.  Most people are not priests or pastors.

Peter teaches something shocking.  He says they are all members of the holy, royal priesthood.

Not just the pastors.  Not just the missionaries.  Think about that: Every single one of us that is a living stone is now in the priesthood!  You transformed living stones are all priests!  We so rarely talk about that.  We should not elevate a priestly class within the church.  I’m the pastor.  It doesn’t mean that I am in a different special class in the church or in the Kingdom of God.  The young, the old.  The males, the females.  We are all on equal footing in God’s eyes.

So how did Peter envision that these Christians live out their role as living stones in a royal and holy priesthood? We’ll look at that tomorrow!

Would you go to a church named “The Church of the Holy Royal Priesthood of the Living Stones”?

3 Jul

Photo by Stefan Kunze on Unsplash

I would like to propose a new church name: Church of The Holy Royal Priesthood of the Living Stones.

Do you like it?  Would you go to that church?

I don’t know if I would.  I’d be thinking, “Huh? Something is off there.”  I would really be suspicious of going to a church with that name.

And yet in our next section of 1st Peter, 2:4-10, Peter uses those exact terms to describe the Christians he is writing to.  So actually, if a church named itself the Church of the Holy Royal Priesthood of the Living Stones, we would have to say that church has a completely biblical name.  A weird name, for sure, but straight off the page of the Bible.

Why would Peter use those words to describe the church?

Read the passage again, and what you’ll find is that there are actually more terms Peter uses.  There were so many I couldn’t figure a good way to include them into a church name.

He starts off calling them Living stones, a Spiritual house, and a Holy priesthood.  Then it gets confusing because the next one he says is “Royal priesthood”.

Didn’t he just say “Holy Priesthood”?  He did.  Now he goes on and says “Holy nation.”  Is he changing his mind?

Holy priesthood, royal priesthood, holy nation. Peter is all over the place.  Can we sort this out?

Imagine being these new Christians hearing this read to you for the first time; would this passage be helpful to you?  In my mind, I read and think, “Peter, what are you talking about?  What is a holy, royal priesthood that offers spiritual sacrifices?”

Is Peter trying to give them a job description?  Is he saying there “Here is what I want you to do?”

The simple answer is Yes.  He is giving them a job description.  That means by extension, he is giving us a job description.  We can learn in these verses what we, a church, are to do.

But before he gets to job description, he is giving them an identity, which is why he mentions all these labels.  And in particular Peter needs them to see the central place that Jesus must have in their identity as his church.

In verse 4 Peter says “you come to him.”  To who?  To Jesus.  Jesus, Peter says, is the living stone.  Then he goes on to describe Jesus three ways: Rejected by men, Chosen by God, Precious to him.  Those phrases describe Jesus’ identity.  A living stone who was rejected by men, chosen by God, precious to him.

It gives me the image of a game of backyard soccer.  The neighborhood kids come together, and they start to pick teams.  There is often one guy or girl that no one wants.  All the kids are getting picked, running over to their team captains, so thankful that they got picked.  You know how it feels to be picked for a team, right?  Doesn’t matter if you are kids or adults.  If you get picked, it is so life-affirming.  Sadly we also know what it is liked to be rejected.  To be the kid who is waiting there, hearing other kids’ names called, desperately hoping their name gets called, and one by one, the options narrow down and their name is still not called.  Then it comes down to the final two.  At the final two, you do not want to be picked last.  Your heart starts pounding, your face flushes red with embarrassment and fear.  Then you hear it. The other person’s name.  You are last.  Rejected.  No one wants you, and it hurts.  The team captain with the final choice looks at you and says “I guess you’re on my team.”  Wow, that stings, right?

Peter says that person picked last was Jesus. Jesus was rejected by men when he was crucified.  But surprise!, there is an unexpected turn of events.

Jesus was chosen by God not to die, but to rise again!  The dead stone lives.  Jesus is precious to God.  This odd living stone, whatever that means, though he is rejected by men, is actually quite amazing from a totally different viewpoint, from God’s viewpoint.

Peter is saying this because these Christians he is writing to are experiencing the same thing in their world.  They, too, were being rejected by men.  They are being persecuted.  They are not wanted in their communities.  These Christians are a tiny minority, and they seem really odd to the vast majority of the people around them.  When these Christians received and accepted the Gospel, the good news about Jesus, the word of God that was preached to them, and they started following the way of Jesus, they started becoming different.

So Peter reminds them that they, like Jesus, are actually chosen by God, and what’s more, they are precious to God!  Peter is saying that they also need to see themselves as living stones, just as Jesus was.  He is their foundation.

They are living stones built on the foundation of Jesus.  They are being built into a spiritual house to be a royal priesthood.  Time out?  What?  Peter is changing images so fast here.  Living stones?  We barely have a clue what that is about, and now he is calling the Christians a royal priesthood?  Why is he changing images so fast?

We will look further into those two images, but first let’s keep going through verses 6 and following. There we see that Peter goes on to describe the foundation of Jesus.

He quotes some Old Testament passages in verse 6-8 showing that Jesus is the foundation.  More specifically, Jesus is the precious cornerstone of this spiritual house.  But there is a problem.  Not everyone thinks Jesus is precious.  We who believe think he is precious, of course, but for some other people, Jesus is a stumbling stone.

You ever walk on rocky path and stumble because there was a stone you didn’t account for?  At our house, it is dog toys.  It seems like every day, someone in our family, me included, walks across the living room carpet, not looking down, and steps on a dog toy, stumbles, looks hilarious doing it, and says “Bentley!” our dog’s name.

Jesus, Peter says, is a stumbling stone for people who do not believe.  It’s not just that they don’t believe in Jesus.  They find him distasteful or repulsive.  All that Jesus stands for, they find unnecessary or unhelpful, maybe even wrong.

So when we look at Jesus as precious, we stand out at odd.  When we see Jesus as precious, we want to follow his way.  We want to be like him.  That is what Peter is saying.  We are living stones, built on the foundation of the original living stone, Jesus.

How is Jesus a living stone?  He was dead like a stone and came back to life!  Because Peter calls Christians living stones, how are we living stones?  Check back in tomorrow when we’ll take a look at why Peter uses this unique image of living stones.

Naming a new church is difficult (and the Bible might make it worse!)

2 Jul

Image result for naming a churchHave you noticed the trend in the last 15-20 years to give churches unique names?

For years Christian churches tended to be named by one of four methods.  The first two methods are quite practical.

First, it could be simply the location, usually connected to a denomination’s name.  A church is named for its town name, or street name.  For example, in a town near us there is Leola United Methodist Church.

The second common method was the timing of when the church was started relative to other churches, usually of the same denomination, in the same area.  You see this mostly in larger towns or cities.  In Philadelphia, one of the most famous churches is Tenth Presbyterian.  That means there were nine other Presbyterian churches before it.  I can see the original members of the church thinking, “We have Grace Presbyterian, Westminster, Trinity, Philadelphia…they’ve already taken all the names!  There are nine others!  What should we call ours?”  Someone says, “How about Tenth?”  And it stuck.  That’s true!

Then the next two methods are distinctly Christian.

A church could be named for a famous Christian, usually titled a Saint.  Some of our sister EC Churches are named for saints.  St. Matthew’s EC Church is in Emmaus, PA.

Fourth, churches used to be named with a word related to a significant Christian concept: Grace, Faith, Trinity, Christ, Bible.  In Lancaster county, we have three different Trinity EC Churches.   One in Lititz, Manheim and the city. And that is how Faith Church got its name.

But in recent years, groups starting new churches became more…creative.  Have you ever heard of the Babylon Bee?  It is a Christian publishing company that releases satire, trying to help us laugh at ourselves and our idiosyncrasies.  Let me read a few lines from an article they published about this trend in creative church naming.  Again, this is satire, meaning that it is not true, and is meant to be funny.  So you’re allowed to laugh!

CHARLOTTE, NC—A representative for the Ekklesia Church Planting Network confirmed Monday that church planting teams from around the nation are running dangerously low on edgy names for new churches.

“We’ve really started scraping the bottom of the barrel,” the representative noted.

The problem was perhaps most pronounced in a recent brainstorming session for an Oklahoma City urban church plant. According to sources at the scene, in a conference room featuring a whiteboard displaying all kinds of different random, unique names for churches, Ekklesia church planting specialist Holly Quinn reportedly just sat staring blankly at the coffee machine while chewing on a pen. Suddenly, she just started throwing out whatever random words popped into her head as possible name ideas. “Pipes. Barnyard. Bauble. Weasel. Pilot.”

According to the representative, the crisis has been brewing since the ’90s, but only recently has the potential name shortage come to a head. “You definitely can’t just use words like ‘Faith,’ ‘Bible,’ or ‘Church’ anymore,” the rep said. “Even ‘Grace’ is played out, our research has consistently shown.”

If we had more time, we could experiment with the Babylon Bee’s Church Name Generator, where, with the push of a button they create church names for you!  Try it, it’s amazing.

My point is that churches have been experimenting for centuries, using all kinds of names to describe what they are about!  How should we describe a church?  A few weeks ago, I said that “family” is a good word, because Peter taught that we should love one another.  But it seems like Peter himself maybe wasn’t totally sure how to describe a church.  In our next section of 1st Peter, 2:4-10, he uses a whole bunch of ways to describe the church.  And some of them are…unexpected.  Check back in tomorrow to find out what they are!