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Apr, 2023

Together for Meaningful Membership

What makes you feel safe? What, what makes you feel, feel safe? I think all of us kind of live in this thought of feeling safe, of wanting to be safe. Biological observations say that we want to feel safe that there are some things that we often do. Really. Three things are pretty common. We fight, we fight or we freeze, we see this not just with people but with animals, right? What happens when you walk up to a frog that's sitting, you know, next to the pond as you get close? What does that frog do? That? Frog jumps in the pond trying to get away from you? It's flight and, and a skunk, you get near a skunk. Well, you know, a skunk gives you a nice sample of their famous fragrance pepe lie. And, you know, next thing, you know, you're, you're in the middle of their, their fight, you know, they're, they're engaging, they're defending themselves and, and then a lizard, have you ever watched a lizard? A lizard will run away from you but not a long way away from you. It just, it just gets a little bit away from you and then it freezes almost like, well, maybe they don't see me anymore. You know, that's, that's this, this freezing thing. And then there's the Virginia opossum. Right. That rolls over, throws its tongue out, opens up his mouth. Emits some crazy things to make it, make everybody think that it's dead when actually it's not. So there's these pictures of, of safety that we, we pursue with, with flight or fight or are just freezing, But sometimes we don't have to do something to try to feel safe. Sometimes feeling safe is about being somewhere, right? I mean, maybe you feel safe at home or maybe you feel safe at, at work. Maybe you feel safe at, at the golf club, at the country club, at the hunting club. Maybe you feel safe at the mall. Uh, maybe you feel safe with money, maybe you feel safe with, with some type of retirement hobby. You know, maybe you feel safe at Krispy Kreme. I don't know. You, we all have places that we, that we feel safe. This, this sense of ok, I'm going to be ok here. But one of the deepest feelings of safety doesn't involve something we do and it doesn't involve something, a place that we are. One of the deepest feelings of safety we have is more of an emotional reality or, or we would say is as Christians a, a spiritual reality and it is that feeling of, of spiritual and emotional safety, that sense of connectedness that is most often something that's more powerful than being physically safe, that being emotionally safe, being emotionally connected has a greater sense of power than just being physically safe in, in one place. So what is the one, uh what is one of the most deepest and most powerful and most meaningful ways to be connected like that while we continue our series together For Good, where we're looking at the basic common values of a healthy local church. And the reason we're doing that is because in a world full of bad, we want to be together for good. And what kind of good? Well, the kind of good that brings that deepest, most powerful and most meaningful connection to the very fibers of our soul, a type of, of safety that we can't even describe a type of connection that goes way beyond just a place we are or something that we do. Our message today is, is together for meaningful membership. And we'll be looking at first Peter chapter two and we're going to start with verse four and, and what Peter is going to do is he's going to help us see the, the power and the privilege of finding the most meaningful good in the life of a local church. It sounds, sounds a little bit crazy but the most meaningful good in the life of a healthy local church. So what does Peter say? Let's find out beginning with verse four. Peter says, this and coming to him as to a living stone which has been rejected by people. Peter says that to follow after Jesus Christ is like drawing near to a living stone. Well, that makes sense, right? I mean, hey, Peter, every day, I'm around stones that are alive. Surely. I know exactly what you mean. It sounds crazy. So, what is he getting at? Well, in the Old Testament, the way that God's people would draw near to God is they would go to the temple, they would go to the, the building made of stones. That's, that's the way that they found their connection to God. They went to the building made of stones. But Peter is making a pretty amazing declaration here. He's saying that in order to get to God, you no longer have to go to the building of stones that the building of stones is, is not the place you have to go across denominations, the front of the church is often called the altar. And, and what Peter is laying out here is that the altar can, can have its place. But the altar really in its purest form is the way you used to go to God. And now we have this amazing way to go to God. We don't have to go to the altar. We don't have to go to the temple to get to God to follow after God to draw near to God. We actually can go to the living stone. We can go to Jesus Christ. We have access to God directly through Jesus. But why a living stone? But why would Peter even use language like that? Why, why do you just say Jesus? Well, because there's a picture here and we see it throughout scripture. It's the picture of Jesus being the corner stone just outside the corner of this building is a, is a stone. It's the cornerstone of the sanctuary. It's got a date on it. There's some things etched in it. The the picture of a cornerstone is, is what's what's holding it up, so to speak. And so the the cornerstone of our faith is found in this living stone, Jesus Christ. Today, we are not here to draw near to a statue. We're not here to draw near to a building. We're not here to draw near to a dead spiritual guru that's sitting in a cemetery somewhere in the Middle East. We are here to draw near to the Son of God. We are here to draw near to the crucified savior. We're here to draw near to the risen Christ who is alive and will be alive forever more. This is no fairy tale religion. We are coming to the stone, the living stone, but not everybody believes that we know that, right? Not, not everybody believes that what happens around Christmas time around Christmas time. We'll start seeing the T shirts and the signs and the bumper stickers that say something like this. Put Christ back in Christmas. Right. Well, that's not just a bumper sticker that popped up at Walmart. You know, in the nineties, Peter is saying that back in his day, there were plenty of people that didn't want to put Christ in Christmas. Ok. Plenty of people that didn't have Christ in Christmas to begin with didn't want him there and still don't want him there. They never had him there to begin with. In other words, there were plenty of people that were rejecting, but they weren't rejecting Christians and they weren't even rejecting the idea of Christmas. They were rejecting Jesus. They, they hated Jesus and they rejected Jesus. They wanted to have nothing to do with this living stone. And in a sense, hatred for Jesus, it really started before he was born. But I tell you, it really, really kicked in when Jesus started standing up in crowds of people and saying things like this. Matthew 4 17 repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand from the moment that Jesus began to preach that we are all dead in our sins. And that the only hope to be not dead in our sins is in the truth of God that eternal life was in God. And in God alone, from that moment, he started being rejected, people didn't wanna have anything to do with Jesus. Herod hated the Christ child so much that he tried to kill him as soon as he was born, when we look at the world and, and the ways of the world, the world has no true esteem for Jesus Christ. Sure people might say, well, Jesus is one of many good teachers or I like the things that Jesus said about love but true esteem for Jesus is, is not something the world has, the world rejects and has rejected Jesus. The world has hated Jesus and they've rejected Jesus. So what does God think about Jesus though the world rejects him? What does God think? Well, verse four, the next part says this but is choice and precious in the side of God, the world may have no true esteem for Jesus but God does. God has high esteem for Jesus. He is chosen and precious in the side of God. Our baptisms today were were fantastic. I I love every second of all of that. But the baptism of Jesus was a little different than our baptisms today because in the baptism of Jesus, there was this one thing that happened, a voice boomed from heaven. Everybody in the crowd heard the voice and the voice of heaven from God said this Matthew 3 17. This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased for generations. People have rejected Jesus Christ. But throughout all those same generations, and even before the foundations of the world, God has esteemed Christ. He has highly esteemed Christ. Jesus is choice and precious, how choice and precious. Here's how choice and precious. When everything shakes out in the end, when everything shakes out in the end of time, there will only be one true, eternal, highly esteemed king, only one and that king will be Jesus Christ. That's how esteemed God has made him. That's how precious and choice He is to God. Now, what does any of this have to do with being a healthy church? And maybe more importantly, what does any of this have to do with you? Well, listen to verse five, Peter goes on you also as living stones are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood. Part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ is that we are a living stone. We are the living stone, but we're, we're like the living stone. Jesus is his choice and precious. We, we stood condemned, we stood outside of the family of God. We were not chosen and precious but, but now because we've received Christ of believers is chosen and precious in the side of God as a living stone. We, we have this in common with what Peter says here about Jesus chosen and precious in the side of God. I, I don't know what you're feeling like today. I, I don't know what's happened in some of your lives this week. I don't, I don't know what you're experiencing. I don't know what's waiting on you. Tomorrow. But I do know this part of what it means to be a believer and follower of Jesus Christ is that you are chosen and precious in the sight of God. And I'm telling you that matters in the hardest moments of life when you feel rejected and overwhelmed. Do you know how many times in the last 72 hours? I've said really Lord, really, really Lord, I mean, in every category of my life, you know, we we have those moments. It's like really, really come on really. And yet in that moment, the power of the Gospel can help us even in that moment to say, wait a minute, there is this eternal promise that will never change no matter what's getting ready to happen, no matter what just happened, no matter what will happen next week. And that promise is this because I am in Christ, I am chosen and precious in the sight of God. You can take that to the bank to be like the living stone. It's pretty cool to, to be chosen and, and precious in the sight of God. It's amazing to be transferred out of the darkness of sin and be transferred into the marvelous excellencies of God. It's, it's stunning. Just a few sentences later in verse 10. Peter says it this way for you once were not a people, but now now you're the people of God. You had not received mercy. You were without hope in this world. But, but now you have received mercy to, to be a living stone is the most incredible and amazing and stunning and eternally satisfying thing that could possibly happen to us. Why? Because we aren't just little stones out doing our own little religious thing. We are chosen and precious in the sight of God. And we are eternally connected to the cornerstone. We are connected to Jesus Christ and nothing can separate us. We aren't just little stones in the, in the gravel and the parking lot behind Krispy Kreme. No, we, we are living stones just chew on that for a second. We're not just, just loose stones. We're not just, just little pebbles. We are chosen and precious stones. And Peter said, we are being built up into a spiritual house of God. Come on, living stones being built up into a spiritual building, a spiritual house, a spiritual temple of God. Are you looking for a way to feel safe and connected? I promise you ain't going to find it at the club and you ain't going to find it at the mall and you won't find it with your money, you won't find it even with your health. But if you truly want your soul to be safe and connected, the one way you can do it is to go. I'm a liff stone. I am being built up into a spiritual house of God, dear Christian. We are living breathing stones. We are a living breathing building for the marvelous excellencies of God that is meaningful. We, we exist, we are alive to proclaim, live in, enjoy be the benefactors of the marvelous excellencies of God that is meaningful. In his second letter, Peter said the world as we know it will pass away. It's, it's going to pass away and look, I'm telling you whatever your news channel is, it's not going to tell you that it's going to make you afraid about it. But it ain't going to tell you that the world as we know it, it's going to pass away some of the things that we're fighting so hard to keep will one day no longer exist. That doesn't mean that everything is wrong to fight for. Doesn't mean there's not some things we're supposed to keep. But in the big picture, there's only one thing that will be left and that one thing will be everything connected to the cornerstone. The one thing will be connected to Jesus House, the spiritual house of God will never pass away. The church of Jesus Christ, not a religion, not a denomination, not a cult. The actual church that Jesus Christ has built and in and is continuing to build the church of Jesus Christ will never pass away, really, really, really, this building will pass away but the church will never pass away. It will never pass away. Does that mean we shouldn't have nice buildings or is it bad to have a nice building? No, no, it's great to have a nice building. That mean, we shouldn't keep up the buildings and keep up the campus. No. No, it's great. In fact, you know, this afternoon at our church conference, our, our church is going to approve to, to redo the, the carpet, uh, up in the youth room and to, to get a plan to, um, hire somebody to do a, a renovation plan for this in the building. I, I, I don't know if you caught that how I said the church is going to approve, just, just went ahead and assumed that. Um but yeah, we, we, we need to take care of our campus by all means. So, so yeah, it's, it's good. It's great for us to have places to meet. But, but the church, the spiritual building will never pass away and, and we are living stones in that building that's meaningful. We are choice and precious tones in the temple of God. That's, that's not just a, that's not just a thing because that temple, that building, that house will never pass away, it will never fade away. And, and that's why we say we want membership in a church to be meaningful. It's why we say we, we want you to be connected to a healthy local churches as more than just an occasional attender. Look, we, we love to see people on Easter and Christmas. That's great. But, but we would love for them to be more engaged than just Easter and Christmas. We would love for them to be engaged in the joy of what it means to really be a part of a spiritual family. What it means to be part of this spiritual building. Look, life happens. Ok. Life is busy and it's hard. There's all kind of things on the calendar. Our kids and our grandkids have 700 games and 700 directions. There's trips to the emergency room, there's emergency surgeries and things change as we get older. So there's, there's no perfection with what it means to be engaged and, and be an active part of a local church. But, but even with all the things that happen to the best of our abilities, for the glory of God and for the good of our souls, let's do everything we can to be consistent with prayer, everything we can to be consistent with encouragement, everything we can to be consistent with making disciples, everything we can to be consistent with attendance, everything we can to be consistent with volunteering, everything we can to be consistent with giving of time and energy and money, everything we can to be consistent with joy. These are some of the basics of what it means to be a great and faithful member of God's church. There is a great value in being a living stone in the spiritual temple of God man that sounds so churchy, right? There's great value in being a living stone in the temple of God, the living building of God. But what does that mean? Well, 82 years ago, CS Lewis was writing about this concept of what it means to be a part of this, this spiritual temple. What it means to be a, a living stone in the living house of God, the living building of God. And this is what Lewis said. The place was there first. It's a great picture. See God started the church. So the place was there first. And he said this, the individual was created for it and he will not be himself until He is there. We won't be ourselves until we are living stones in the living building of God. Look every single generation from the Garden of Eden until now has always been in this pursuit of, of finding purpose in life, finding safety and connection. And boy, we look for it everywhere, don't we? We look for it and in our jobs we look for in our education, we look for in our family and our friends and, and our money and our retirement, our sports and hobbies. Today, we're, we seem to be obsessed with trying to look forward and, and identities and orientations and just about everything else you can possibly imagine. But, but Lewis is, is no moron. All of, of scripture points us to this reality that you were created with purpose. You are not an accident, you were wonderfully and fearfully made and you were created first and most to enjoy and glorify God. Even if you don't know it, even if you don't believe it, that's what God has declared that He has created you to worship and enjoy Him forever. So, until you find yourself, is this living stone, you will not be yourself until you're there. The most meaningful way to find purpose in your life is to find the corner. Stop the most meaningful way to find safety and connection in life is to find the cornerstone, to find Christ. And until we do, we will never be ourselves. But boy, when we do, we will truly find ourselves. I had many times. Uh we were, I was there for 13 hours yesterday in the, er, and, and so there was, there was a lot of time to think and I was trying to put this together. Um, and my mind was shot. So I don't know if any of this is coming out right or not. I guess we'll see, we'll let God take care of it. But, but I can remember so many moments of, you know, just kind of sitting there going. I, what is it? What, what is it that we're, we're all trying to find. And I, and I kept coming back to this, the simplicity of this truth that we are. As Augustine said, we'll be restless until we find God. Our, our heart was made for God. We'll be restless until we find the cornerstone, until we follow after the cornerstone until we chase after Jesus. Now again, this, this sounds like nice language. But, but what does it mean? What does it look like in real life to be a, a living stone? I love how Ray Orland breaks it down. So practical. No wonder then that when we join a healthy church, we feel refreshed, reinvigorated and more alive. I mean, I don't mean to speak for our folks that were baptized today, but that was the vibe I have been getting from them, you know, but be being a part of, of this church has helped them be more refreshed, reinvigorated and more alive. Orland goes on. We may have looked for our church as if we were shopping like consumers, but God is better than that. And he was up to something deeper. He was fitting us into his temple as living stones. And it is in discovering that larger reality for which we were created that we come alive. You know, the sadness of, of all the different things that people chase after in the world is that when they breathe their last, those things will not make them come alive. They barely made them come alive in this life. But to find the cornerstone to, to be a part of, of the living building of God, we come alive. It's, it's hard to describe but many of you know what it means. You know what it feels like. Ray goes on to say this not by getting our own way in the church, but by fitting into something sacred, ancient and massive church membership is glorious. Church membership is, is glorious. I mean, if we're honest, that sounds a little silly, right? I mean, come on, just, just, just being a part of a church is, is glorious. Well, the picture here is, is not just that our name is on a card in the church office and there's some, some history connected to that. Now, the the picture is that it's glorious in the sense that through genuine conversion expressed in, in meaningful involvement in a local church. We come alive. We are part of something glorious and that glorious thing is Jesus the cornerstone, the gospel, the Kingdom that will never pass away. This is meaningful. Listen to what Peter says next. He quotes God's message to the prophet Isaiah, a message that Jesus also quoted and this is what it said. Behold, I am laying and Z A choice stone, a precious cornerstone. That's Jesus in the next part of verse six. And the one who believes in Him will not be put to shame, will not be put to shame, will not be disturbed. As the Old Testament describes, it will not be disappointed. God by his design chose to make Jesus Christ the cornerstone of the only true everlasting kingdom, every other kingdom, every other place, everything as we know it will pass away but not the kingdom of God founded on Jesus Christ. And why did God do that? Why did God put everything on Jesus? Why did he, why is he? Why is he building his kingdom around Jesus? Well, here's why, because Jesus his choice, Jesus is precious. Jesus is perfect. Jesus cannot fail. Jesus will not decay. Jesus won't fade away. It's impossible for Him to perish. And if we are in Christ, that means it's impossible for us to perish this morning. When I talked to my dad on the phone and prayed with him that the last thing I said was God, thank you that in this moment and in every moment that today and forever, Jesus is the best answer. We have best answer no matter what we're facing, no matter what we're going through. And as hokey as that may sound to millions and billions of people in the world, we have found a way to build our life on that truth. And when we're struggling, there is no greater truth in that Christianity is not a fairy tale religion. We're not here to, to worship stones or, or worship statues. We are here in a relationship with the living cornerstone when it comes to your last breath and all the breaths until that moment, putting your personal trust in Jesus Christ is something that you will never be ashamed of. It will not shame you. It will never disturb your eternity and it will not disappoint you. It is impossible for the gospel of Jesus Christ to disappoint because it is impossible for Jesus to disappoint in Psalm 46 2. The psalmist says this therefore, we will not fear though. The earth shakes and the mountains slip into the heart of the sea. Why would we not fear? I mean, I don't know, that sounds a little frightening to me. You know, I mean, that sounds like an earthquake. It sounds like an earthquake at the beach. You know, no part of that sounds fun to me. And, and yet there's this picture. The psalmist says, we, we won't fear. Why would we not fear? Why would we not fear if the earth begins to, to crack and fall apart? Because our confidence, our hope, our life is not ultimately built on the mountains and the rocks and the stones of this earth, but our confidence, our hope, our eternity, our life is built on the cornerstone on Jesus who will not fail. He is precious and he cannot and will not disappoint. That's what we mean by meaningful membership. We aren't just talking about, hey, we, you know, we're going to have a packed night and hey, we're going to have a membership drive that that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about the reality as Tammy prayed at the beginning. This, this is not a club, this is not an organization, this is, this is not even a religion. The church is a living temple. It's alive, it's made up of, of living stones being built together by God for a future that will not end a future that that will not fade away. And how can we even claim that? Here's why? Because today is Easter Sunday and tomorrow is Easter Monday and Wednesday is Easter Wednesday. And next Tuesday is Easter Tuesday. There is no single millisecond of our life where Jesus Christ is not risen. He is the living cornerstone. He is the living stone and because he is alive right now and our eternity are set, secure, safe connected and we cannot be disappointed. It is not up to us. It has been accomplished by Jesus. Jesus is not a figment of our imagination. He is the precious cornerstone and we build everything on him. The old hymn says, what on Christ? The solid rock we stand. Why? Because every other grain of sand, every other thing we believe in love and put confidence in. It's like sinking sand, all of it. It's all sinking sand except Jesus except the cornerstone. I've shared this story with y'all before, but I, I really never tire of hearing it. John Newton, who wrote the, the well known hymn, Amazing Grace was either late seventies, early eighties, I think and, and he was preaching at his church. He's pretty feeble at this time, almost blind. And he had a, a helper who was with him all the time and Newton was, was preaching at the church and, and he said, Jesus Christ, it's precious. And this helper who was up on stage with him kind of quietly whispered, hey, you've already said that twice. And as the story goes, Newton very loudly said, I've said it twice. I've said it three times and now I'll say it again. And that is, was if the stones of the sanctuary rattled as he shouted to the church, Jesus Christ is precious. You know, it's a funny thing to sit in the hospital room and not really know exactly what's shaking down, but it really is an amazing thing to sit in the hospital room, to sit in the, er, to sit in traffic, to sit in an argument with your spouse or your kids, to be at the bank when it seems like everything is falling apart and, and whatever else we find in life, it's an amazing thing to, to sit in that moment and to remember and discover that there is something meaningful about being a living stone in the building of God. It, it really, really matters. The reason we say we want to be together for, for meaningful membership is because the church is glorious. It's, it's glorious. The church is, is unlike anything we can possibly imagine because it is all centered on the cornerstone on Jesus Christ. And to be connected to Jesus Christ is the safest reality your soul can ever know, to be connected to Jesus Christ doesn't involve flight or fight or freezing. It simply involves faith, faith in the cornerstone and faith in that cornerstone. You, you will never be disappointed. As I said earlier. It was humbling for my dad to just keep saying, hey, man, you need to go. You got people to baptize. You got a sermon to preach. I'm thankful I, I was raised in a home where it was meaningful to be a member of a church. It, it wasn't just a country club thing. It, it had value and it has great value to me that, that my dad is just pushing me and priding me. Hey, man, you, you need to go and make much of Jesus. Why? Because his choice because he's precious because he is the cornerstone of eternity and he cannot and he will not, no matter what you face, he cannot and will not disappoint you. He won't. That's good. Uh Let's be together for good.


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