by Interim Pastor Doug Marshall
Weak and wounded sinner, Lost and left to die,
O raise your head for Love is passin' by.
Come to Jesus, Come to Jesus, Come to Jesus and live.
“Come to Jesus,” Chris Rice
Grow Into Salvation
Our scripture lesson this morning is from Peter’s first letter. It is addressed to all Christians and his message is the same as my sister’s, “Grow up.” Peter is much nicer than my sister was, but the message is the same, “Grow into your salvation.” Peter challenged and encouraged these early Christians to grow in their faith, to become mature Christians. I am convinced that this is a message that all of us need to hear and Peter show us at least three ways we can grow into salvation.
First, we grow into salvation by coming to Jesus. Look at verse four. “Come to him (meaning Jesus), a living stone.” At some point everyone needs to come to Jesus. We all need to turn to him and ask him to be our Lord and Savior. Being raised in the church and coming to worship every week is not enough. Kids, I want you to listen for a moment. You probably are here today because your parents brought you. That is great. I’m thrilled that you are here. At some point in your life you need to come to Jesus and ask him to be your Lord and Savior. You need to come to church not because your parents make you but because you want to grow in your own faith.
I love coming to church. Since I’m a pastor I suppose that is a good thing. I love it when lots of people come to church. I’ll say more about that in a few moments. However, what really matters is not coming to church, but coming to Jesus. Hopefully you will meet Jesus here, you will hear his word and experience his love. But just coming to church is not enough. As one person said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a Big Mac.” We need to come to Jesus. I would suggest that coming to Jesus is something we need to do every day. Every day, take a moment and acknowledge his presence in your life and give thanks for his love. “Thank you Jesus that you are with me. Thank you for your love. Help me through this day.”
The first way we become mature and grow into salvation is to come to Jesus. Whether it is the first time in your life or the first time today, come to Jesus, the living stone, who is the source of our salvation and life.
The second way we grow into our salvation is to recognize who we are. It might be better to say that we grow into salvation by becoming the people we already are in Christ. This is a question of identity. Who are you, really? Who am I? Peter uses a variety of phrases to describe our identity.
He calls us priests. In verse 5 he says that we are a holy priesthood. In verse 9 a royal priesthood. Roman Catholics have priests. They have more power and are closer to God than “normal” people. Bishops are above them and all the way up to the Pope, who is closest to God. But we’re Presbyterians. We don’t have priests, do we? Yes, we do! We believe that all of us are priests. Never put yourself down because you are not an ordained pastor. You are just as important as anyone else. Your prayers are just as good as any pastor’s. You are a holy and royal priesthood.
In verse 9 Peter uses a wonderful string of phrases to describe us. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.” Let me make a couple of comments. First, notice that all of these phrases deal with groups of people, not individuals. In fact, throughout this whole passage the grammar is not in the singular, but in the plural. There are no solitary Christians. To be a follower of Jesus is to be a part of the body of Christ, the community of faith.
Second, in the Old Testament, the people of Israel found their identity and their value in the belief that God chose them. Out of all the peoples of the earth, God chose the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were the ones, and no one else, who were God’s people. Now, through Jesus Christ, we have been included! We are the chosen race. We are God’s own people. God looked out over the world and said “I want Mike to be mine. I want Ruth to be mine, and Dorothy. Oh, I don’t want to forget Rob and Kathy.” God wants all of you. Your identity is that you are God’s beloved children.
Many of us define ourselves by what we do. I’m a pastor. Ron is a music director. Anne is a real estate agent. Sherri is a nurse. Walt is a dentist, but he’s retired now. Does that mean he’s a nobody? We are not primarily defined by what we do. Neither are we define by the things that happen to us. She lost her job. He went through a divorce. She got cancer. They belong to a church that had some problems and now they are losing their music director.
Our identity is impacted by what we do and the things that happen to us. Our identity changes throughout our lives. Yet the most important part of our identity never changes – “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Peter 1:9). You are God’s beloved children and as you grasp that truth, and live it out every day, you will become the people that you really are in Christ. You will grow into salvation.
There is a third aspect to growing into our salvation – we must do the things we were created to do. Peter mentions two things that we are called to do. The first has to do with worship. “Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). Sacrifices were a central part of worship in the Old Testament. We don’t sacrifice animals in our worship, but we still worship. In fact, I would suggest that worship is the most important thing we do as a church, and your presence is an essential part of our worship.
Some of you probably think that is an absurd statement – your presence is essential to worship. With Ron leaving there is a level of anxiety about worship. The organist and choir director is essential. Who will play the hymns and lead the choir? Joe, would play the organ for our hymns? If the preacher isn’t here what will we do for a sermon? Deb, would you like to preach? My guess is that many of you think “I’m not important. I don’t do anything. All I do is sit here and listen. I’m not essential to worship”
That idea is a misunderstanding of worship. First of all, worship is not something passive that you watch. Worship involves active participation of all of us. Second, worship is not about what you get out of it, but about what you can give to it. All of that is a way of saying that when you are not here on Sunday morning something is missing. As a leader of worship I want you to know how important your presence is. The more people there are in the sanctuary, the more energy there is, the better the choir sounds and the better the sermon is. The choir works hard at preparing music and I try to do my work in preparing a good sermon, but your presence here makes worship even better.
A wealthy European nobleman built a small cathedral in the mountain village where he lived. After it was completed, the people gathered for the grand opening of the church. They marveled at its beauty. It was a masterpiece. But someone asked, “Where are the lamps? It’s quite dark in here? How will the church be lighted?” The nobleman pointed to some brackets on the walls. Then he gave each family a lamp and said, “Each time you are here, the place where you are seated will be lighted. Each time you are not here, that place will be dark. This is to remind you that whenever you fail to come to worship, some part of God’s house will be dark.”
Friends, as God’s people, as a holy priesthood, one of the things we are called to do is worship. When we worship we grow in our faith, we grow into our salvation.
There is a second task that we are called to do. Look at verse 9: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty act of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We are called to tell others about Jesus, to tell others how Jesus’ love has touched our lives, to share God’s love in Jesus Christ.
There was an apprentice monk who was a very quiet man, very shy. He loved to spend time in prayer and read the scriptures. The idea of getting up in front of a group terrified him. Unfortunately, to become a full monk in his order he had to get up and lead worship, which included preaching a sermon. After several years living in the monastery the senior abbot told him that it was time for him to give his sermon. Sunday morning he got up, looked at everyone, and panicked. “Do you know what I’m going to say?” Everyone shook their heads no. “Neither do I. Receive the benediction. Go in peace.” He walked out.
The senior abbot was not too pleased. He told him that the next week he would have to do it again and do a better job. The following Sunday he got up in front and again panicked. “Do you know what I’m going to say?” The other monks loved this apprentice monk and wanted to support him, so they shook their heads yes. He said, “Good. Receive the benediction. Go in peace.” He walked out.
At this point the senior abbot was furious, and told him that he still had to preach and that next week he had better get it right. The following Sunday everyone wondered what would happen. The nervous monk got up. “Do you know what I’m going to say?” The other monks didn’t know how to respond this time. Some shook their heads yes. Some shook their heads no. He said, “Good. Will those of you who know please tell those who don’t know. Receive the benediction. Go in peace.”
Will those of you who know the good news of Jesus Christ please tell those who don’t know. As those who know Jesus, we are called to tell others about God’s love in Jesus. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
My friends, I pray that we will all grow into our salvation by coming to Jesus, by living out your identity as God’s beloved children, and by seeking to be obedient to God’s call on your life. Amen.