“The Purpose of the Christian”Categories: M. W. Bassford, Sermons
To say the least, there are many advantages to being a Christian! Not least of these is that it gives meaning and purpose to our lives. Think about it. If you’re an atheist, you have to believe that life is meaningless and purposeless. Your existence represents nothing more than a chance combination of atoms, you don’t have free will any more than a dog does, and after you die, in a few hundred years, it will be as though you never had existed. There’s no point to any of it.
Of course, the lives of millions who aren’t conscious atheists aren’t any more meaningful. They go to work every morning to get the money to buy stuff that doesn’t make them happy. They distract themselves from the banality of their existence with a steady diet of TV, video games, and cat videos on YouTube. They spend their lives chasing a peace that is always out of reach.
We, by contrast, are blessed with lives that are meaningful, not because of our concentrated selfishness, but because we have given them over to someone else. To see how this works, let’s see what Peter says about the purpose of the Christian.
First, consider his words about GROWING INTO SALVATION. Here, let’s read 1 Peter 2:1-3. Like many passages of Scripture, this one is about spiritual renewal. It’s about getting rid of some things while pursuing others.
The get-rid-of list, though is really interesting. We might expect Peter to warn us to get rid of drunkenness, adultery, theft, and all the other sins we think are really terrible. That’s not where he goes, though. Instead, he highlights the dangers of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.
These are all subtle sins, sins that we could practice while sitting on a pew on Sunday morning for decades. And yet, they also are the ones that Peter singles out as most likely to hinder our purpose. He wants us to see that the sins that corrupt the heart are the most dangerous.
It’s also worth noting that these things are opposed to longing for the word. All my life, I’ve thought of this list as sins that originate in us. However, that’s not how the word works. Instead, it’s something that we take in. In the same way, I think, we need to beware of the malice, deceit, and slander that we also can take in that will corrupt us.
As the old computer-programming saying goes, garbage in, garbage out. In our politically charged era, it’s not hard for Christians to find malice and slander that accords with their political views. Brethren, those things will eat us up like rust on a backyard grill! If we spend our days drinking partisan venom rather than the pure milk of the word, that will make us useless in the kingdom.
I have a challenge for you, then, for the next week. You can keep it up for longer than you like, but try to keep it going at least for a week. For the next seven days, then, for every minute you spend on politics, reading or watching the news, worrying about the country, spend a minute reading your Bible. Drink deep. Grow spiritually. Taste that the Lord is good. I think that even after a week, it will give you a whole new perspective on life.
Second, Peter discusses our relationship with OUR CORNERSTONE. This discussion appears in 1 Peter 2:4-8. The imagery here is fascinating. Peter tells us that we come to God as living stones, precious to Him. However, He doesn’t want us so that we can sit around isolated like a rock garden. Instead, He wants to build us together into a spiritual house where we can offer sacrifices to Him through Jesus.
We don’t find meaning in life by ourselves. We find meaning in life as part of the church, and apart from one another, life can only be meaningless. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you’d be just fine without God’s people. The only purpose we can have is the purpose we share.
In this spiritual stonework, the cornerstone must be Jesus. Back in the day, apparently, the cornerstone was a stone with perfectly square edges, such that you could use those edges to line up the rest of the building. So too with Jesus.
If we want to be part of His spiritual temple, we have to line our lives up with Him. Our society is not the standard. Our friends are not the standard. Our Lord is the standard. What He says needs to go for us in everything.
Sadly, lining up with Jesus is not the alternative that most take. For us, he’s the cornerstone. Others, though, reject Him and find Him to be the stone that they stumble over. He says things and tells them to do things that they can’t accept.
As I said last week, if we think everything Jesus says is easy, we aren’t listening hard enough. However, whether we listen to the hard sayings of Jesus determines the course of our existence. If we hear Him, we are destined for everlasting glory. If we reject Him, we are destined for everlasting failure.
The first option is possible, though only because we have been PREPARED FOR GOD’S PURPOSE. Let’s finish our reading with 1 Peter 2:9-10. In this text, Peter contrasts Christians with the world. They are doomed, but even now, we have been glorified with Christ. We are the spiritual race of Israel. Every one of us is part of His royal priesthood. Our whole nation has been consecrated to His service. We, and we alone, are His own special people.
From time to time, I’ll talk with Christians who like to run down the church and other Christians. They zero in on the flaws and imperfections, sneering at congregations of the Lord’s people. Brethren, people like that are judging what God has consecrated, and that is a very dangerous thing to do! When we deny the glory of His spiritual creation, we indict Him as a failure.
Because of our spiritual position, we can do something that no one else can do. We can proclaim the excellencies of the One who saved us. Indeed, that is precisely what we ought to do. We ought to give our lives over to declaring the glories of God. If we truly understand what we have in our salvation, we won’t be able to be quiet about it!
However, our special status shouldn’t give us a big head. We can do these things not because we are intrinsically fit to do them, but because God chose us as His people and poured out His mercy on us.
Sometimes, I think we get this mixed up. We put the burden of our salvation on our own shoulders and spend our lives worrying about whether we’re good enough. That’s a silly thing to worry about! Of course we’re not good enough. I’m not, you’re not, none of us are.
Instead, it is Christ who is enough, now and forever, and rather than worrying about our own goodness, we need to trust in His. Without Him, we never could succeed in the work to which we are called. With Him, we cannot fail.