1.31.16: Knowing Who You Are

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Reflections / Notes / Summary


  • I used a strange example at the end. I had built a little church out of Lego blocks (Hence the bricks in the slideshow background). I had no idea how it would go over. It was one of those things that I knew would either be revolutionary or a total miss. There was no middle ground. I had each member of the congregation take a brick off of the church, representing that each individual is a building block in the church body.
  • The Lego idea went amazing. In fact, months later a man walked up who showed me that he had drilled a hole in his block and kept it on his keychain. He said it’s a daily reminder. When I heard that, it blew my mind. The little things really do make a difference.

Summary: So, this sermon was really one of the first where I broke away from my original church’s style of being totally topical with proof texts. I sat on 1 Peter and let the church chew on it for a while. I kept a running theme going, using construction and masonry examples, comparing us to the bricks we use to build buildings.

Sermon: Knowing Who You Are

Morning, friends! So, if you’ve been with us the past couple of weekends, we’ve been in this pretty awesome series going over the book of 1 Peter. The first week, we talked about the rules of being a good visitor, we talked about how important it is to be on your best behavior, and if you were in the evening service, you probably saw a little bit of scar tissue in my life come to the surface. When pastor Jeff asked ‘What were the rules you follow when you’re in somebody else’s house?’ and I yelled ‘Don’t touch anything, don’t break anything.’ I just need to elaborate on that: My parents – they were awesome. They were never like that. I never really heard that from them. But me? I was a stinkin’ bull in a china shop everywhere I went. I still am. I’ve just learned to stay away from pretty much anything that can’t survive me. Then last week, Jeff talked about how we are God’s official “green card” holders, how we, like it or not, reflect God in everything we do. We are supposed to be the image of God while we’re here on this earth. We are citizens of heaven, but we have our green cards here on earth. That’s such a cool analogy, isn’t it church? So, we talked about being prepared and being focused. Today we’re going to talk about knowing who we are in God’s plan and God’s kingdom.

Before we get into the message today, let us pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, Lord God. First, I just thank you for the privilege of being able to spend time with brothers and sisters in Christ. I thank you for every face in this crowd tonight, Lord. God, I ask that you would get me out of the way here today, and that you would let the Holy Spirit take over this message. I ask that these words would not be mine, but would be yours, and that you would use this message to pierce the hearts of your people and let them grow and learn from it. Lord, God, it’s in your son Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

Let me tell you a little bit about me you may not know. It’s mostly because I’m not married yet, but I’ve always been kindof a loner. I’ve never really been big on the roommate thing. I’m a person who values my independence. The day I moved out of my parent’s house (by the way, I’ll admit I moved out way too early and ate a lot of ramen noodles for the first year or two), man, that first taste of freedom I decided I never really wanted to go back. So, I’ve lived on my own for a lot of years now. Last July I bought my first house….because for some reason apartment complexes don’t really like guys who play bass guitar and drums… Anyways, I budgeted, I made some sacrifices, went with what I could afford, sacrificed what I wanted….but, that’s a whole different sermon. So, here’s what I could afford….this house is tiny. Tiny, and cheap. It’s literally in an alley. Seriously, it’s literally a garage. People freak out when I say my house is ‘316 AND A HALF’ South Scott Street…the ‘half’ confuses everybody…it’s a ‘half’ because it used to be where ‘316’ parked their cars, and it was either make everybody else change their street number or throw a ‘half’ on my address. So, it’s only about 900 square feet, one bedroom, but for some reason this house has like a thousand steps, right? I’m pretty sure 300 square feet of my house is just…steps. So, there’s a step to get into my office, a step to get into my living room. two steps to the kitchen, a step down into the dining room. 19 Steps to get upstairs. Literally no two rooms in this house are the same height, OK Church?  Now, I know what you’re thinking…you’re probably asking, at this point ‘With that many stairs, how is this guy not in shape?’

So, fast forward to last weekend. I’m running errands and I’m in Lowes, I’ve been looking for a little tool chest, tool cabinet type thing for weeks, right? So I’m in Lowes and I’m wandering around.” I think it was the voice of an angel, but I ’m drawn to aisle 135 or so…wherever tool boxes are. Lo and behold, there is it A beam of light straight from heaven hits this tool cart and I hear angels bust out into song. I look at it. It’s perfect. 38” High, 20” Deep, 30” Wide. PERFECT for what I needed. SCORE! Pretty much solid steel. It was seriously exactly what I was looking for, it couldn’t have been more perfect. Then I look at the price tag. Not only is it perfect, but it’s 40% off, on clearance. “YESSSS!!!!” Clearance stickers are always a direct sign from God that it’s OK to buy something, right, church? So, not only that, but the only one they have left is the display model so that means I’ll talk another twenty bucks off because of some weird scratch, and it also means I’m also not spending the next four days putting it together…. So, this is a little victory in the life of Denny, right church? Look, I don’t get a ton of victories like this, so I’ll take what I can get.

So, the Lowes guy helps me load this beast of a toolcart up on a cart, I pay the cashier, then I go to put this thing in my truck. By myself. Ooof, this is kinda heavy. So, I grab it, give it everything I’ve got, and finally leverage this thing and get it in my truck, whoo, I’m already exhausted. So, I get home and it hits me. This thing is going upstairs. Church. Remember, I live in a funhouse that has a million steps, and this staircase is narrow….and I also don’t have a handrail going up my steps, but that’s another story. So, I pull this toolcart out of my truck, and barely get it in my door. And I spend a good 10 minutes flipping this heavy thing end over end…a couple of steps at a time, praying that I don’t lose my balance…understand, if I lose my balance, Denny’s hitting the bottom of the stairs, a toolbox is landing on top of me, and my heavenly green card is revoked, right church? Now, what made that toolbox so hard to get up those stairs? It weighed around 100 pounds, that’s not *that* heavy, right? Sure, but it was awkward…Aaaah suck it up, big guy. Well, here’s the thing. I struggled so much because I was trying to do it alone. With one other person, we would have just carried that thing up the stairs, set it down, and been done in less than a minute. Church, here’s the deal. I wasn’t meant to carry that thing upstairs alone, because we are not MEANT to do life alone, right church? That brings me to the first point on our outlines.

God wants us to be in community with each other. See, so many of us spend most of our lives trying to do everything on our own, but that’s not what God has in store for us. Let’s take a look at 1 Peter 2, verses 4-5: As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Peter writes this to us to let us know that even though we’re visitors here on this Earth, we’re meant to be in community together. Yes, we are individual people, but we’re individual people with individual gifts meant for so much more. We’re all meant to be pieces of this church, pieces of God’s kingdom. We’re all stones that go together to make one church and one community, right? But, honestly, how many of us spend our lives like me unloading that dumb toolbox, amen, church? “I’ve got this, I’ll get this. Let me just push this up the stairs by myself. If it falls and kills me, I’m good, at least I tried. Right? No, church, that’s the OPPOSITE of what you need to do. See, we’re all stones in this great big spiritual house known as the Church. All over the Bible we see examples like this. The Body of Christ, The Stones of our spiritual house, even in Acts the people shared everything together. Church, we’re meant to do life together, amen? That’s why we’re so big on being here every Sunday and that’s why we’re so big on small groups. Is there anyone here who isn’t in a small group right now? If there is, I encourage you…GET IN A SMALL GROUP! It changes lives. If you haven’t made coming here every Sunday a priority, then do it. IT CHANGES LIVES!

What else sticks out in this verse? this part is a little tricky: let’s work through it together. That’s your second point. God needs us to MAKE SACRIFICES! Peter says we’re supposed to be a “Holy Priesthood, offering SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” Well, I see that sacrifice word, so that means we need to get some lambs, some cows, something, right, church? No, no, no, no. Don’t worry. It’s a little different now.

These spiritual sacrifices are things that we need to do to mold us and shape us into those stones used to build that “spiritual house” we’re talking about. See, I want you to think about the way they had to do things back in the old days when they built buildings. Do you think that a carpenter back then would run to Lowes, buy a couple of thousand bricks, have them delivered, and just start building? Nope. See, bricks back then started as, well, pretty rough rocks. Those rocks would be chiseled down, cut, and formed into rocks that could be used in a building. They’d start out pretty rough, but by the time they were done, they’d fit together perfectly to make a strong, sturdy house. It’s the same thing that Jesus talks about in John 15:2. “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” See, in all of us, there are some things that we do, some rough edges that we have that need to be chiseled away. We have to make sacrifices. We have to lay aside our own desires and make the decision to be stones in this spiritual house. It’s not always going to be easy, and it may be painful, but it’s what we have to do. See church, I need to ask every one in this room. Where in YOUR life do you need to get chiseled? Now, I don’t mean abs, I mean in what areas of your life do you need God to do His part to chisel away your rough edges. Everybody in this room has an area. If you’re going to be what God needs you to be, you need to hand God the chisel and give Him to OK to start shaping you.

So, now I want to ask a simple question. Easy Question: What am I holding in my hand right now? This is a single stone, a single brick. As you can see, this one’s pretty well refined, it’s pretty straight. When Peter talks about us, those bricks being put together to form a spiritual house, each one of these bricks represents one of us, right church? Remember earlier, I said we’re a community. Let’s put it in perspective. Would any of you guys want to take a single stone and call it your house? Doesn’t look too comfortable to sleep on, does it? Doesn’t look too comfortable to sleep under, does it? Is it going to protect you from the rain? Is it going to protect you from those storms in life? No! Didn’t think so! It takes a lot of stones to build a house, amen? But, you take everyone here, take this community… Now you have a bunch of stones, right? Now you can start building something, right? Put a couple stones over here….put a couple stones over there….now we’re cooking, right church? Now everything’s coming together? Well, wait, there’s still something wrong. Is this a house or a minefield?

So, what are we still missing? Let’s look at verses 6-8, right after Peter tells us we are all stones in this church, we’re all meant to do this thing together, Peter then goes a little Old Testament and brings something up from the book of Isaiah, a prophecy about Jesus…Peter says: “For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame. Now, to you who believe, this stone is precious, but to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.”

Church, every one of us is a piece of this church, we’re all living stones. That’s good in its own right, but that’s not enough. We wouldn’t have a solid foundation, we’d just be a bunch of mismatched pieces like these stones here, stones hanging out aimlessly in a field…meeting here, hanging out for an hour, and going home. Lot of good that does, right, so what makes our spiritual house thrive?

See, Peter calls Jesus a “cornerstone” here. Do any of you guys know what a cornerstone is? Back in Jesus’ time, and even today, when brick buildings are built, a cornerstone would be the first stone they laid. All the other stones and walls would be built off of this cornerstone. It’d be a perfect stone. If it wasn’t perfect, nothing in your building would line up. Take this stone right here for example. What would happen by the time we had built our building on this stone? Pretty messed up, right? But, take a stone like this one, this stone right here…could you build a house off of this one? See, that’s why it’s so important to remember Jesus is your cornerstone. That’s your third point on your outline, church, Jesus is your cornerstone. For this whole “spiritual house” thing to work, Jesus HAS to be the foundation. For the church, and for you. I want to talk about Jesus as the cornerstone of the church, and I want to talk about Jesus being the cornerstone in your own spiritual house. He needs to be both, amen? See, using any cornerstone short of Jesus is going to make a pretty jacked up “spiritual house” Every wall will be crooked and, like my *real* house, it’ll have a thousand steps to nowhere. But, I have to ask…how often do we use something other than Jesus as the cornerstone? Even from a church perspective: That church has a great worship band, I’ll go back. That place has a pot luck every Wednesday? I’ll be back. Spaghetti dinners Saturdays, sign me up! Huge festivals, Beautiful buildings, great pastors, heck yeah, sign me up. I’ll never miss church again….as long as they keep delivering. But, what happens? Well, I didn’t really like that one sermon, I’m not going back. I can’t believe they ran out of coffee. I’m done. That band sounded off today. I think I’ll just stay home next weekend. The pastor looked at me weird, I don’t think he likes me. You know, I don’t think I love Jesus anymore. You know, you laugh, but stuff like that happens. And when stuff like that DOES happen, it’s usually because Jesus wasn’t the cornerstone. People should never say “Come check out the band, they rock! You may even experience that Jesus guy.” People say “Come check out Jesus, he’ll rock your world, the band’s pretty good too.” Here’s the thing? Pastors, events, bands, buildings? Everything breaks, I’ll say something weird, Pastor Jeff will say something weird, Greg’s guitar will be out of tune, he’ll break a string or six….but Jesus….noooo noooo nooo, Jesus will never fail you.

And on the other side of that same coin, what happens if Jesus isn’t the cornerstone of your own personal life? I think it’s safe to say everyone in this room has been there at some point in time, and man, it can get bad, quick, amen church? What are some examples of things in your life that you’ve set as a cornerstone in your past? What have you built your own house on? (Name Some: Addiction / relationships / etc). What happens when you build your own spiritual house around something that’s not Jesus. What does your spiritual building look like? Let me be honest for a minute, I can be real with you guys, church? In my life, I can think of a lot of different things I’ve built my house on that weren’t Jesus. For years my cornerstone was my job. It was my identity, it was who I was, everything in my life was affected by my job. It defined me. For years I tried to build my house using relationships with others as a cornerstone, I’d be sitting there in a pile of rubble, wanting nothing more than to build my house. “Maybe I’m just unhappy because I’m single. Maybe I’m just unhappy because I’m alone right now. If I just meet the right girl, do the right things, everything will be great, right? What? What? It didn’t work? She broke up with me? Aaaah single again, I know what fixes this, my default at that point would be, honestly to turn to pornography. And, my house crumbled. It fell apart. Again. Then, when relationships weren’t a problem, ‘Stuff’ was a problem. You know what’ll make me happy, you know what will get my house in order? I need a bigger TV. I need a better car. I need a bigger apartment. I should save and buy a motorcycle. If I just get enough *stuff* then everything will be PERFECT. Church, how many of you have been there? Maybe you’re building your house upon an addiction. Maybe your cornerstone is a drug, maybe it’s alcohol, maybe it’s pornography. I have no clue, but I can tell you this. Building your house using ANYTHING OTHER THAN JESUS as your cornerstone will leave you EMPTY AND BROKEN. It’s trying to build a house when the only tool you have is a sledgehammer. Remember when I said ‘relationships’ were my cornerstone? It didn’t matter if I was single or not, I was miserable. When I said ‘Work’ was my cornerstone? Yeah, that was great, until even the smallest conflict at work would drive me crazy both on and off the clock. When I wanted stuff? Sure stuff made me happy for a couple of weeks…then then the credit card bills would come in, the stuff would sit around the house, and I’d be just as miserable and now I’m stressed about money. I needed to keep replacing that cornerstone with another imperfect stone…church, and it NEVER WORKED, a few years ago my own spiritual house came tumbling down because I DIDN’T HAVE JESUS AS MY CORNERSTONE. To be completely honest, my life got so out of control I ended up being ANGRY because I was single, spending money I didn’t have, even ended up declaring bankruptcy and going into a really dark place. Church, today, I ask you take whatever it is that’s holding you back…, take that stone, and throw it into the rubble pile. Church, what is your cornerstone right now? If it’s not Jesus, what is it? If it’s not Jesus, what can you do to fix it? And, if Jesus isn’t your cornerstone, WHY isn’t he your cornerstone. What are you waiting for?

Build a new building, with Jesus as your PERSONAL cornerstone and watch what God does in your life. I know you guys are three weeks into the sixty day challenge right now. How’s that going for you? If it’s going good, GREAT, keep it up. If it’s not doing good, start today! Every step that Jeff asked you to take for the next sixty days, EVERY ONE OF THOSE STEPS…is about making Jesus your cornerstone. Try it.

So, what does it all boil down to, church? We’ve talked about well, rocks, for the past twenty minutes, so what am I supposed to do with this? Church, we are supposed to be those bricks in the church, right? Let’s close by taking a quick glance at Luke 19, it’s such a cool story. Pick up in verse 37: “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” Jesus say “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

In this passage, Jesus is saying if his people aren’t busy shouting his name, even the stones will cry out. That’s how big of a deal he is, right church? Let’s be those stones! That’s your last point, church, Point 4. “Be the stones that sing HIS SONG.”

We are a chosen people. A royal priesthood. Every one of us has a part to play. Every one of us is a brick in that building. But, that building…it’s not for us. Let me ask you a question. Do BRICKS live in HOUSES? Does the BUILDING exist for the BRICKS? No, this house….it’s a sanctuary. A sanctuary for other people. See, we are part of the spiritual house, but we exist for more than ourselves. This house, us, we exist for other people. This ‘Spiritual house’ exists for others to come and see. People should look at us, look at our lives, and see something different. Something so different that they want a piece of it. Something so different that it gets their attention. “Man, I want some of that!” Amen, church? They should look at the house we’ve built as a church and see a light. A beacon of hope. How do we do that? Let’s look at this last part of this passage: 1 Peter 2:9-12, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light….once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy, but now you receive mercy. Dear Friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in this world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.”

You know, as I was preparing this message I was watching the news…which is probably a mistake in this day and age…but I saw something that really made me think. Right now, you know that the news is going crazy with all these stories about refugees right? I read no less than five or six (or maybe a hundred, I lost count) articles that all said something along the lines of “Grr…them refugees, they want to come over here and they don’t want to assimilate into our culture. This is America, you do what we do or you get out. Blah blah blah.” Then you look, and it’s usually a conservative, probably at least somewhat faith-based newspaper/website/whatever (not judging, just being honest) It got me thinking…you know, this whole series, we’ve been talking about how WE are the refugees, right? We are refugees, people from God’s kingdom, living here as “aliens and strangers,” right? We have our Green Cards, we’re not even citizens of this world, we’re just passing by, and yet we yell at other people for not wanting to assimilate into “our culture,” which isn’t even God’s culture…at the same time that OUR CULTURE is precisely what we’re trying to get people to ABANDON.

Do you know what OUR CULTURE is, today church? Do you know what song the world sings? “Just do what feels good.” “As long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else, who cares?” “Drugs? Not a big deal.” “Eh, I can quit anytime, I don’t really have a problem.” “Sex? Yeah, it’s a casual thing, no big deal. A little fun never hurt anybody.” “Marriage? If you don’t like it, just quit.” “Violence – Well yeah, violence is awesome. Human life? It’s not valuable.” “God, oh, no, well, you can mention God, but don’t mention Jesus”“CHURCH. NO. STOP. That’s not “OUR SONG” We are refugees and our song is sooo different.

Church, I don’t know about you, but as a refugee, as children of God, our song, that song we sing…the song we sing…says something radically different. Here’s what OUR SONG says. OUR SONG says: “God sent his son to a messed up world because he knew we couldn’t save ourselves. God’s son Jesus willingly took the nails from that cross because he knew we couldn’t save ourselves. Jesus ROSE FROM THE DEAD THREE DAYS LATER, ascended into heaven, gave us the gift of everlasting life BECAUSE HE LOVED US!” Our culture says that EVERY PERSON that believes and accepts Jesus Christ is given the gift of HOLY SPIRIT to guide and equip us as we live in refugees in this crazy land. Our Culture says that EVERY BELIEVER OF JESUS CHRIST has a RESPONSIBILITY to do their part to be a stone in that “SPIRITUAL HOUSE” of God, to be a refuge for everybody who doesn’t yet know what God has in store for them.…You want to know the difference between US as refugees, as children of God and ALL OTHER refugees that have ever walked the face of the earth? Every other refugee comes here to get away from where they belong. We’re here to tell everybody we meet that we want them to COME WITH US BACK to where we belong. Church, as the hope of the world, it’s all of our JOBS to tell the world this great news. Who can you tell? Who in your life doesn’t know Jesus? How can you open up that door? If you don’t personally know Jesus, let’s talk about that, first. Come talk to me after this service, talk to Jeff, or talk to any leader in this church and we’ll help you with that decision. If you DO KNOW JESUS, know that you are the YOU ARE THE STONES THAT SING HIS SONG, AND IT’S A SONG THE WHOLE WORLD NEEDS TO HEAR!

Church, as we close, after we pray, I just invite all of you to come forward. It may seem a little silly, but here’s a little lego church that represents our church as a whole. I want every person here to come forward and take a brick, so you can remember that you are a brick in this spiritual house that’s meant to change the world. Let us pray.