As a Dad, it has been fascinating to me to watch my children grow up. I probably annoy them a little because I tend to take a lot of pictures, but it amazes me to watch how quickly they have changed and how drastically different they seem when I look at pictures or videos I took just a few short years ago. They're growing bigger, stronger, and more mature.
Regardless of our age, every one of us is a work in progress. As God's children, there are things that the Lord has already done for us, as well as things that He continues to do for us. He is building us and strengthening us. He is facilitating maturity in our lives. What do you suppose He wants His finished product to look like? Who is the Lord building us to be?
I. One who craves spiritual nourishment
As we saw when we were looking at the previous chapter of this book, the Lord desires that we have an active faith. He wants us to move in a direction that is the complete opposite of the direction we were headed in when we lived in ignorance. Instead of going back to what He has redeemed us from, He has called and empowered us to make forward progress as new people who desire to reflect His heart and His image.
Back in the day before we we knew Jesus, there were certain practices that we welcomed into our lives that we considered appropriate. When we had conflict with others, we were malicious toward them. When we wanted to obtain something the easy way, we employed deceit. We coveted things that didn't belong to us, and we didn't hesitate to tear others down with our words when it suited our objectives.
But that's not the kind of life a follower of Christ is called to live. We're called to put that kind of activity away. Meaning, we're supposed to be tossing it in the junk drawer of our lives so it gets lost and forgotten because we've been made a brand new person. Scripture tells us we've experienced a new birth in Christ, and our walk with Him begins with a form of spiritual infancy.
Generally speaking, what do infants want? They tend to want rest, comfort, and food. If any of those things are missing, they usually make a point to scream until the situation gets rectified. And when it comes to eating, once they discover that they enjoy food, they tend to crave it more and more.
Our youth pastor and his wife just had their first baby, so they're about to experience the needs of a child first hand. I had the privilege of grabbing lunch with him recently and introducing him to a style of food he hadn't tried before. We ate at the Thai restaurant. He wasn't sure about what to order from the menu, but now that he's tried it, he's going to want to have it again. He loved it, now he craves it.
Our relationship with Christ operates in a similar way. Once we taste the goodness of His grace, the depth of His love, and the comfort our souls find in Him, we tend to crave those things more and more. We want to be nourished by what only He can supply, and as we welcome the various forms of spiritual nourishment He offers, we grow more mature in our faith. As He pours into our lives from His word, from fellowship with other believers, through prayer, and with His peace that is beyond human understanding, we are built up and made strong in Christ. What else does this Scripture tell us He is creating us to be?
II. A priest in Christ's service
There's some language in this passage that, admittedly, is different from how we typically speak. In this passage, Peter is making reference to some things that were spoken of in Psalm 118. As he interprets that passage, he speaks of Jesus being rejected by men, but yet He is the cornerstone of the church. The church is being build by Christ and is held together by Christ. Christ isn't a dormant cornerstone. He's a living stone and He is actively building up His family.
As living stones who are being built up by Christ, we're described as a spiritual house that He's intentionally constructing. And not only are we stones that are being used to construct God's house, but we're also priests who serve within it. In Christ, that's true of all of us who believe in Him. We've been made into a holy priesthood.
During the Old Testament era, priests were instructed to offer sacrifices of certain animals in very specific ways. They were also given the privilege of drawing near to the Lord in a unique and privileged way. Now, through Christ, that privilege is also ours, but it operates on a deeper level. We're invited to draw near to the Lord every day of our lives, and we have the privilege of offering every aspect of ourselves as a living sacrifice to Him. Our time, talents, treasures, plans, goals, and dreams are all things we give to Him with gratefulness for His presence with us.
Do you consider yourself a priest that has been made holy by Christ? Do you realize the privilege you've been blessed with to draw near to God, knowing that He joyfully welcomes you into His presence because you've been cleansed by the blood of Jesus?
As a Dad, I love my kids and I insist that no matter how old they get, I get a hug before they go to bed. I have two children that give quick hugs and two that give long hugs. One actually hugs me for far too long, to the point that it makes me a little claustrophobic and I sometimes say, "OK, that's enough for now." Isn't it amazing to realize that God delights to have us enter into His proximity and He doesn't tire of us drawing near to Him and holding on to Him? This is our privilege as priests who are welcomed into His presence. What else does the Scripture tell us we're being built up to be?
III. One who belongs to God
Not too far from our refrigerator is a drawer that has markers in it. Those markers get used regularly whenever someone in our home brings an iced coffee or other drink back home, but doesn't immediately finish it. Because there are a lot of people living in our house, we've developed the habit of writing our name on cups or other unfinished items before they go into the fridge. When we do that, we're being possessive. We're establishing ownership or belonging as our name is stamped on what we plan to keep.
Through faith in Christ, we've been marked with His name.
This isn't a casual decision on God's part. The Scripture tells us we have been chosen by Him to be a people for His own possession. He called us out of the darkness we were living in, and welcomed us into His marvelous light. He removed the wrath we were deserving of and living under, and bestowed His mercy on us instead.
One of our greatest desires as people is a sense of belonging, and we find that in Christ. Through Jesus, we have been made into a united family of God's people. And He isn't ashamed to associate with us. He doesn't regret coming to get us. He isn't planning to get rid of us.
We belong to God. Who else does this Scripture tell us we are?
IV. A sojourner in a confused world
Some people love to travel. That's sometimes true of me, but there are definitely some aspects of traveling that I find challenging and awkward. I have visited places where I didn't know the language. I have visited places that had a much lower standard of hygiene from what I'm used to. I have visited places that ate and enjoyed foods that were completely unappealing to me. Visiting unfamiliar places can certainly be uncomfortable.
Yet that is how our brief life on this planet is described in these verses. We're spoken of as "sojourners and exiles" in this world. This makes sense since we are citizens of a greater, eternal kingdom.
And in a very real way, the mindset and practices of this world that are in opposition to the heart of Christ are things we should abstain from. Worldly passions wage war against us. They conflict with Christ's will for us. They seek to tear us down even after Christ has built us up.
This world is confused. People don't know who they are anymore. They don't understand and they don't accept who Christ is calling them to be. This world is filled with people trying as best as they can to carve out some sense of identity, but the identity they're trying to adopt directly conflicts with who God has called us to be. This world embraces ignorance, but Christ offers us true understanding. He helps us understand His plan for this world and likewise, His divine plan for our lives. This world needs to see an example in God's people of what it's like to be at peace with God's perfect will.
If you have trusted in Jesus Christ, you can be confident that He's building you to be someone who knows Him, loves Him, and reflects His heart. He wants to nourish you, keep you close to Himself, assure you that you belong to Him, and work in your life even though there are many forces at work in this world that are seeking to tear you down. In the midst of this all, it's quite helpful to know who He is building us to be and what kind of outcome He seeks to produce from our faith. The world we live in may be confused, but we don't need to be. In Christ, we find clarity.
© John Stange, 2017