Victory on the one true path to life (May 10, 2020)
Victory on the one true path to life
1 Peter 2:4-10
Find one of the infinity stones, and you have immense power! The infinity stones were highly sought after stones, or gems, in the Marvel super hero movies. Each of the 6 infinity stones had different powers. For example, there was the Power Stone which granted immense power. There was the Reality Stone which allowed you to alter reality. The Time Stone allowed you to control time, etc. By themselves, these stones were quite powerful. But when they were all collected and used together, you could do anything you imagined with just the snap of your finger. The main villain throughout wanted to destroy half of all life in the universe. The heroes – spoiler alert… it’s been a year already – the heroes used the stones to bring back that life that was destroyed.
But of course that’s all just a fun fantasy story. I mean, nothing in the universe could do such a thing like that. Or could it? Peter calls Jesus the “living Stone”. And it’s interesting that if you think through all that Jesus has done and can do, you see that he, the “living Stone,” can do all that these fantasy infinity stones can do, and much more! The Bible says about Jesus, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (Jn 1:3). Peter says about Jesus in his 2nd letter, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Pt 3:8). “Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Mt 8:27). But I don’t make this comparison to simply geek out about superheroes or show how Jesus is like a cool superhero. I make this comparison to open your eyes to the true power of Jesus. He is like a superhero and much more, except he is real! Proved it by all that he has done and documented by eyewitnesses. He is the one way, the one truth, and the one life (Jn 14:6). There are not many paths to God. Not every religion is truth. There is only one. And that one path intersects with every one of ours. Either you will stumble over it and go your own way, or you will follow it and live because of it.
I know it’s not a very popular idea to talk about exclusivity right now – that there is only one right way and all other ways are wrong. We like inclusivity. We like acceptance. But Jesus says there is only one way. He says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6).
Unfortunately, many have rejected this one way throughout the centuries. The Jews of Jesus’ time rejected him because of his humility. They wanted a Messiah who would come as a respected king and mighty conqueror. They wanted a Messiah who would change their physical reality from being oppressed by the Roman Empire to becoming their own, powerful and independent nation like during the times of King David.
And what about today? Why do people reject the one way, the one truth, and the one life? This question really has two layers to it. There are those outside the Christian faith who reject Jesus because of his claims of exclusivity. They would ask what makes Christianity different from any other religion? Why should I believe that Christianity is the only way? And we’ve talked about that recently. You can go back to the April 19th service if you missed it. But even within Christianity, sadly, there are many different denominations saying different things. Some say that, in the end, Jesus will reconcile all people to himself – believers and unbelievers. This is called Christian universalism. Others say that it’s all about the works you do in life, either to balance out the bad things you have done (works righteousness) or as a proof that you truly are a believer. And then, throw into the mix of all this the Postmodern concept of tolerance, and we have to accept as valid the beliefs of any other branch of Christianity and you’ve completely stumbled over what Scripture plainly says – what Jesus plainly says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). Then, you are no longer letting Jesus be the cornerstone that should set your angles and head your corners. You are fashioning your life, your faith, by your own design.
Each of us needs to take a good, hard look at ourselves too and examine our personal convictions. Are they still in line with what the living Stone says in his word? Or has our faith gone out of plum, out of alignment, even if ever so slightly. Don’t think that you are immune. Even the disciples were not immune to getting out of line from the Cornerstone. Thomas asked, “We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (Jn 14:4). And Philip, too, thought he had a better design when he said, “Lord, just show us the Father and that will be enough for us” (Jn 14:8). What is it in your own life? What is it that makes you stumble or fall over the one rock of truth that is Jesus? Maybe with all that’s been going on you feel you have to justify God, and make Christianity appealing once again. Maybe you feel ashamed in your supposedly Almighty and loving God during a time when he allows tragedy to strike and people to die. Is your foundation of faith shaking and crumbling under your feet? Do you feel as if you are being put to shame? Then maybe you’ve been building on the wrong foundation. Maybe, somewhere in laying the bricks of your faith you’ve gone off course from the Cornerstone. Because, “the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (1 Pt 2:6). If we are ashamed, then we need to tear down and rebuild all that is not in alignment with God’s Word. When that happens, maybe it’s because we have been the ones building our lives and fashioning our faith in the way that we see best.
Read the text from Peter again and notice that you are not the builder. “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house” (1 Pt 2:5). That’s the very thing about stones, isn’t it? They aren’t alive. They don’t move. They are inanimate. It’s the most lifeless thing you can think of. It’s not like a log on a forest floor that once was alive but now is dead. It’s not like dirt that has the potential of bringing forth life. It’s dead. It’s the deadest thing you can think of. It even resists the tendrils of life that living things send out, forcing roots to go around. And this is what the Bible says you and I were. “You were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Eph 2:1). Resisting the tendrils of life that God sends out because we were “hostile to God; not submitting to God’s law, nor could we do so” (Rm 8:7). You and I were, the deadest thing imaginable. Unable to follow God’s law. Unable to do works of salvation. Unable to prove our true faith by any kind of action. Unable to build ourselves into a spiritual house. We were by nature dead as a rock.
And yet, Jesus takes this idea of a stone and applies it to himself. He once was dead, and then unbelievably rose from the dead to become our “living Stone” – our “Life Stone” if you want to use the infinity stones analogy. Then he takes our cold stony hearts, unable to produce any kind of life in ourselves, or move in any sort of way, and he shows us mercy. And by that mercy he turns us also into living stones and builds us up into a spiritual house.
John the Baptist said Jesus could do this, too – with exactly the same imagery. When the Pharisees and Sadducees crossed paths with the Life Stone, proclaimed by John, they stumbled over it because they were building their spiritual house on a different foundation. They were building their spiritual house upon the presumption that God had chosen them as his people because they were the flesh and blood of Abraham – direct descendants of him. To which John replied, “I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham” (Mt 3:9). And that’s exactly what he did! He took the most spiritually lifeless thing there was, the fallen sinner’s heart, and brought it to life. By his own death and resurrection the living Stone brought you to life and made you a “living stone,” set you upon his foundation, and sees to it that those who trust in him as the only way, truth, and life will never be put to shame.
Now you are, “A chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pt 2:9). I could keep going with the stone analogy. On Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem and the crowds were praising God in loud voices, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Lk 19:38), the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke the people for saying such high praises. Jesus replied, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Lk 19:40). That’s one of the things I miss most during this time of social distancing: seeing the stones whom God has made alive cry out and declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness.
But, despite many churches being temporarily closed, God has opened one up in every Christian home – sent out the tendrils of life to reach many more stony hearts. And he’s using his “Chosen people, royal priesthood, and holy nation” (1 Pt 2:9) to do it. That’s you! Though Christians differ from one another in race, nationality, gender, and social status, Jesus has made us into one holy nation, chosen by him, and special to him! And he gives you the special privilege of having direct access to the throne of God’s grace. No one and nothing stands between you and God. You are living stones because you have direct access to the Life Stone. And because you have the Life Stone, you also have this power! Jesus says, “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing” (Jn 14:12). He’s talking about creating faith – bringing to life that which was dead. We do that by declaring his praises! Jesus does that through us when we share the mercy he has given us.
Six infinity stones for ultimate power… no, I have one better. The one true Living Stone. And because he has brought me and you to life, declaring us royal priests, we too get to use the power of the Living Stone by declaring his praises.