One of the most common questions people ask in life is, “What am I here for?” If you think we have just “evolved” from nothing, then there IS no good answer for that. A genuine atheist will tell you that the hard truth is, there just IS no meaning at all to life. I read recently where atheist psychiatrist Ralph Lewis wrote: “Atheists do not believe that life is inherently purposeful or meaningful.” There just IS no “purpose” or “meaning” to a life if it didn’t come from God.
But if there is a God, which we believe, then He has created us for a reason, and there IS a meaning and purpose for your life. And if there is, and we believe there is — then there is nothing more important for you than finding out what that purpose IS! And God SHOWS us what that purpose is in our scripture for today, I Peter 2:4-5:
“And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
We will talk some more about Jesus as the “living stone” and “the Cornerstone” next week. But for today, I want us to focus on what this says here about God’s people as being “living stones.” What has God called us for? What is His purpose for you as one of His people?
I. FOR YOU TO BE “ALIVE” IN CHRIST
“And coming to Him … you also as living stones …”
If you read this whole passage, you see that God gives us here the picture of His people as being like a building — He calls us here “a spiritual house.” And we as His people are like “living stones,” that are built together into His spiritual temple of worship.
We see this picture earlier in Matthew 16, where Jesus asks Peter who he says He is, and Peter confesses “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus says to him, “You are Peter (and of course the name Peter means “a rock”) and upon this rock — of his confession of Jesus as His Lord & Savior — He will build His church. So He says, Peter, you are one of the rocks that My church is going to be built out of.
So Peter (to whom Jesus was speaking there in Matthew 16) gives us a similar picture here in his letter in I Peter 2. He says all of us who have confessed Jesus as our Lord & Savior are like “living stones” that together make up His house.
But that word “living” is important. Peter says we are “living” stones. It is Jesus who makes us these “living” stones.
Genesis tells us that in the beginning, God breathed into Adam the breath of life, and he became alive. But Genesis 3 describes how Adam & Eve, the first people, sinned, and they brought sin and death into the world. Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death.” With their sin, death came to all mankind, as their sin nature was passed down to every one of us. So each one of us since has been born with a nature to sin, and then when it comes time to choose, we all in actuality do choose to sin. We are all sinners, both by nature and by choice, and we all abide in “death”, destined both for physical death here on earth, and eternal death apart from the glory of God forever.
That famous verse Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death — but then it goes on to say, “BUT the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Even though all of us as mankind sinned, God still loved us, and He came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, and died on the cross to pay for our sins, and make us right with God. Everyone who believes in Him, and commits their life to Him, is made “alive” again in Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2 puts it this way “For you were dead in your trespasses and sins … but God … made us alive together with Christ … by grace you have been saved.” So in Jesus God has taken us from death to life; He made us “alive.” That’s why in :4 here, Peter says you are like “living stones” — because we have been made alive in Jesus Christ.
In C.S. Lewis’ famous book The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, Lewis tells how in the land of Narnia, when the wicked Queen Jadis cursed one of the inhabitants of the land, that they were turned into dead stone statues. But when Aslan the Lion came to Narnia (and Aslan is a symbol of Jesus Christ) Aslan “breathed” on those dead statues and caused them to come back to life again, and they followed Him in the fight against the wicked queen. Those who were cursed and “dead as stone” were now “living.”
And that’s what’s happened to us, in Jesus Christ. We were dead as stones in our sin, but now in Christ we have been made alive spiritually, and we are like “living stones” who follow Him and make up His Temple. So this is God’s first and most important purpose for each of as His people. He wants to make us alive in Christ. This is a key. You will never become what God intends you to be, and you will never be a part of the really “big things” God is doing with our church, or in our world, until you come to Jesus and and are made alive again.
Have you done that? If you haven’t, that’s the first thing you need to do to get in on God’s purpose. You need to admit that you are a sinner and have rebelled against God, and have been going the wrong way with your life. You need to ask Jesus to forgive you through His death on the cross for you. And you need to ask Him to come into your life and help you to follow Him from this day forward. When you do that, the Bible says “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” He will forgive you; He will save you; and He will make you ALIVE again” — He will give you eternal life. Then YOU will be one of those “living stones” that Peter talks about here, who make up the new Temple of God. But you can’t really be a part of what God is doing, until you are first made ALIVE in Christ.
II. FOR YOU TO BE PART OF HIS SPIRITUAL TEMPLE
“being built up as a spiritual house”
As Peter says here, all of us individual “living stones” whom Jesus has made alive, are “being built up as a spiritual house.” God has a purpose for us, as His “living stones.” The Bible says He is building a “spiritual house” out of us. The word “house” here is often used in scripture to refer to a Temple as God’s House.
In the Old Testament, God had the people of Israel bring all the materials to build a “tabernacle,” a house of worship for the Lord. They brought silver and gold and bronze and wood and cloth — everything that was needed for that house of worship.
But He says now, in the New Testament, the emphasis is not on the physical building of worship, as much as it is on the “spiritual house” that God is making all of us “living stones” together into. God’s church today is not any “building”, but a living organism made out of His people.
One of the most important structures in all of God’s creation is the coral reef. Coral reefs protect the shoreline and all of its inhabitants, and harbor thousands of species of animals which would otherwise not survive — and yet this “structure” is composed primarily of LIVING things — coral polyps that, all bonded together, form the reef!
Well God’s church is like that too. The church is not the building, as we will see in just a minute. The church of God is a living organism, composed of all the individuals that God has made alive in Jesus Christ, who have confessed Him as their Lord & Savior.
WE are the “materials” of God’s church. The real “church” of God is not this building, but the “living stones,” the members that God has made alive in Jesus Christ. God’s purpose for us as His people, is together to form His living church. His church isn’t a “building;” His church is US — the living people who form the Temple of God.
We need to remember that as we transition to a new facility in the months ahead. Many of you know we here at First Baptist are in the process of moving to a new location out on Highway 288. The initial design documents have been completed, and now they are working on the actual construction documents. Lord, willing, soon construction will be underway — and I am excited about that. I can’t wait to get out there!
But let me tell you something else: the physical building that we are building out there is NOT the most important thing God is doing among us.
In fact, buildings themselves will come and go — we need to remember that.
In Matthew 24 the Bible tells us that Jesus’ disciples pointed out the Temple buildings to Him, but He said to them: “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” He was saying, don’t glory in this BUILDING. It’s not going to be here forever.
NO building is. Every building mankind has ever constructed has crumbled. We can quote those same words of Jesus over every new home, over every new church — over every building of every kind that is ever built. Perhaps we should have Jesus’ words engraved on the foundation of our new buildings, just so we keep perspective about it: “Do you see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”
I am very excited about our new building. We need to be praying for the process as the construction documents are finished and the financing is set in place and construction begins. We need to be giving towards it like never before, because it is about to happen! Our giving to the building has been very good — in fact it is ahead of projection; praise God for that! But we can’t be satisfied with that; we have 2 MILLION dollars more to raise; so keep it up! I believe God is going to USE this new building for His purposes in Angleton and around the world.
But as important as that is, we also need to realize that the physical building we are putting out there on Highway 288 is NOT God’s ultimate goal for us. No building is.
— God’s ultimate purpose has never been about buildings — not the one we’re in now, or the one we will be in. His ultimate purpose according to I Peter 2 is that He is building us as individual Christians into a SPIRITUAL “building”, the living Temple (like that coral reef) that He has designed us to be together as a church family. And we will be that family, that “living building” whether we ever have a new building or not.
When I was pastoring in Southwest Louisiana, we had a hurricane come through in 2005 — Hurricane Rita. And many of our homes, as well as our church facility, were put out of action, due to loss of electricity, and limbs going through our roofs, and so on. We were unable to have services and meet in the “church building” for some weeks. But that didn’t stop the LIVING Church of God. We still met and prayed, and went out into our community with shovels and chain saws and ministered to people and cut trees down off their houses and shared Christ. All with our “building” out of commission. Because the “Church” is not the building. It is the LIVING TEMPLE OF GOD. And God’s purpose for each of His people is for us to be a part of this Living Temple.
This is why you can’t worship God just as well at the lake as you can with other believers. Because God’s purpose for you includes being part of something that is bigger than just you. He wants you to be a “living stone,” and to join together with other “living stones” to form the Living Temple of God. This is why we all need to be a part of a local church. This is why it is important that you have your church membership somewhere, and actively worship and serve there. Because a big part of God’s purpose for your life is for you to be part of something bigger than yourself: to be a part of the “living house” He’s making in His church.
III. FOR YOU TO OFFER UP SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES
But what is this “Living Temple” God is making out of us, FOR? He says here, our purpose is “TO (that’s the purpose) TO offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” God says here that our purpose as His spiritual temple is to offer Him sacrifices.
That makes sense, that is what the priests in the Temple in the Old Testament did: they offered sacrifices of bulls and lambs and goats, and burned incense as acts of worship to God.
In the same way, God says, He has made us priests, and is building us together into a “spiritual house” or Temple, and OUR purpose is to offer sacrifices too. But notice He doesn’t just say we are to offer ANY sacrifices; He says we are to offer “SPIRITUAL sacrifices.” So we are not like the Old Testament priests, sacrificing sheep and bulls, and burning incense; we are offering “spiritual sacrifices.” What ARE those “spiritual sacrifices”? Well, the Bible shows us in several places:
—Hebrews 13:15 tells us: “Through Him (Jesus) then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that give thank to His name.”
Here we see that “the sacrifice” God wants from us, specifically defined, is a “sacrifice of PRAISE.” PRAISE is the sacrifice God wants from us. He further defines it as: “the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” The “spiritual sacrifice” God wants from us today is for us to praise and thank Him.
— Psalm 5:3 “In the morning O Lord, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You, and eagerly watch.”
The word “order” my prayer there in Psalm 5:3 is used throughout Leviticus to describe how the priests “put in order” the sacrifice that they offer up to God every morning. So our morning prayer time today, is like the priestly sacrifice of the Old Testament. Our morning prayers and praise are the “sacrifices” God wants from us today.
— In Exodus 30 in the Old Testament, God commanded His people to make an altar for burning incense before Him. That was one of the duties of the Old Testament priests: to keep the incense burning before God.
But in the New Testament, we see that our PRAYERS are the “incense” God really wants:
— Revelation 5:8 pictures in heaven, that there are “golden bowls full of incense, which are the PRAYERS of the saints.”
— Revelation 8:3 shows how the prayers of God’s saints are like “incense” before Him.
— Psalm 141:2 says: “May my prayer be counted as incense before You;
The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.”
Several times in passages like these, God shows us that our prayers are like “incense.” So as “priests” of God today, under the New Covenant, the “incense” we are to offer up to God is our prayers. Just as the priests in the Old Testament were to get up every day and get the incense going, so we as “priests” in the New Testament era are to get up every morning and “get the incense of our prayers going” up to God all day. Instead of “keep the incense burning,” our job now is “pray without ceasing” like I Thessalonians 5:17 says.
So all these passages teach us that today, God doesn’t want “sacrifices” of animals, or burning of incense, as our worship. What He wants is our worship; our PRAYERS, specifically our thanksgiving and praise.
— When get up in the morning, and pray, and sing to God, it is like sweet smelling incense before His throne.
— When you thank God, perhaps in a situation when it is very difficult for you to do that, it is the “sacrifice” that pleases Him.
— When you lift up your hand in worship and praise and prayer, THAT is the “priestly posture” God wants from you.
THIS is what God made you for: to be a spiritual “priest” before Him, who offers up to Him spiritual sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving and prayer, every day. If you are doing that, then you are fulfilling God’s greatest purpose for your life. If you are NOT doing that, then you are MISSING God’s real purpose for your life.
And it’s the same for us as a church family. God has brought us together as “living stones”, to form a great “temple of worship” for Him: NOT this “building,” but us as His people. Together we are ALL the choir — I LOVE our choir; I LOVE the songs of worship they lead us in. But in a very real sense, we are ALL part of the “choir” God is building together here in His church, to lift up “sacrifices of praise” together every time we meet. THAT is what He made us for. And it’s a tragedy to miss what God made you for.
During the English Civil War in the mid-1600’s Thomas Lord Fairfax was considered to perhaps the BEST general in all the the land, and one of England’s most influential citizens. Yet in the midst of the crisis that faced their country, he succumbed to a dark mood, and decided to “retire” — at age 38! — and went home to grow roses. The best general in the land; one of England’s most influential men — and instead of standing up and being counted during one of the most crucial hours in England’s history, he stayed home and tended roses! Fairfax MISSED the opportunity to do what God had raised him up for. Many people of his day regarded it as such a shame that Fairfax had missed God’s purpose for his life.
But sadly, the same thing could be said of many of our lives today. Many of us are just flat out MISSING God’s purpose for our lives.
I was reading a book on Writing by Stephen King (Now, I don’t read the kind of “horror” novels like he writes; but this book about the process of writing was very interesting and helpful.) And I thought something he wrote in the book was very convicting. He said, “I don’t want to speak too disparagingly of my generation” — then he said, “actually I do, we had a chance to change the world — and opted for the Home Shopping Network instead.”
That is actually a very prophetic statement from Stephen King. It accurately describes how so many people today have chosen to waste their lives. God created us to be and to do so much — He designed us to be involved in life-changing and eternity-changing, glorious things — but so many of us have settled for so little! We’re squandering our lives on inconsequential things that won’t matter in a year or 5 years — much less in eternity — and we’re missing God’s real purpose for our lives!
Most people today don’t even know what their purpose in life IS. They just think it’s “to be happy,” or “be successful” or whatever.
But the Bible specifically tells us here that God created us to be priests, offering spiritual sacrifices unto the Living, Eternal, Glorious God, through Jesus Christ.
This is one of the reasons why worship “feels so good” to those of us who understand it, and who practice it. Because this is what God CREATED us for. It is what we were made to do. And it feels good to do what you were designed to do.
And that’s also exactly why so many people feel so dismal and unfulfilled in their life. Because they are NOT doing what God created them to do.
What about you? Are you fulfilling God’s purpose for your life? Are you offering God sacrifices of praise daily? Or do you just get up in the morning, and go about your day, and never think about worshiping God? If that’s what you do, then it doesn’t matter what you achieve or what you do the rest of that day, you have MISSED God’s purpose for your life that day! Your “real” purpose is not your “job,” or your sport, or whatever. Your real purpose in life, is to worship God, in and through whatever you do. If you are missing that, then you are missing God’s purpose for your life.
If you would say, “Hey, I do not believe I am here by accident; I believe there is a God made me,” then the single most important desire in your life should be to fulfill that God’s purpose for you. And Peter tells us here that God’s purpose for you is:
— for you to be alive in Christ;
— for you to be a part of the “Temple” He’s making out of His people,
— and for you to offer Him spiritual sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving and prayer every day of your life, until He calls you to do that with Him in Heaven forever.