1 Peter 2:4-12

If someone were to evaluate your life at this moment, under the harsh spotlight of reality, in what would they say you have put your trust?

Let me ask this question another way. The phone rings, and a cosmic voice declares that you have just a few more minutes to live. Already your tombstone is being prepared. You are being given a choice as to what epitaph will be chiseled on that stone. You are welcome to fill in the blank, “He put his trust in …” “She put her trust in …” How would you fill in the blanks? On what are you basing your life? In what are you putting your trust? Whether it ever will appear chiseled in stone is questionable. But I can assure you that in an eternal sense you and I, right now, are chiseling into the very granite of eternity the reality of putting our trust in something or someone.
Please don’t give a quick superficial, pious answer. Be honest. No one has to hear your answer but you and God. You can’t fool Him. I doubt that you really want to con yourself. Are you placing your trust in your intelligence? Are you placing your trust in your talent? Are you placing your trust in your reputation? Are you placing your trust in your money? Are you placing your trust in your family name? Are you placing your trust in your right connections? Are you placing your trust in your good looks? Are you placing your trust in your good works? The list could go on. Be honest with yourself. Be honest with God.
There is an alternative answer to this question. You can imagine what it is. But please don’t give it unless it’s true. I, myself, must be very honest that I do not too quickly jump to my feet with the “right answer” if it isn’t existentially the authentic answer for me. Can you have chiseled on your tombstone this: “She put her trust in Jesus Christ!” “He put his trust in Jesus Christ!”
For 24 hours this week, eighteen evangelical leaders, coming from every part of the United States and many different denominations, came together to discuss the balkanization of American Christianity. Everybody seems to be doing his or her own thing, with individual leaders championing their own causes. We asked ourselves these questions: What distinct, central, clarion call could all genuine followers of Jesus hear and rally around, dropping momentarily their pet projects and dominant issues, to declare their oneness? Is there anything that could draw all believers together?
We concluded that the rallying call would be that declaration of Peter after his arrest before the Jewish Sanhedrin. He declared the centrality of Jesus Christ in these words: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). At the same time, looking the Jewish leaders directly in the eyes, he paraphrased Psalms 118:22, declaring, “He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.'”
Years later Peter, writing to the believers in northwestern Turkey, stated similar words, describing Jesus Christ in words taken from other places in the Scriptures, stating, “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'” (1 Peter 2:6).
The Bible has many phrases and much imagery with which it talks about Jesus Christ. He is described as “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” He is called “the Good Shepherd” and “the Living Water.” He is described as “the Lord” and as “the Savior.” He is described as “the High Priest” and “the Head of the Body.” The imagery goes on and on. Every one of these images, and many more, connote the centrality of Jesus.
This is what Peter was saying in the clearest terms when he declared the pivotal, crucial, central nature of Jesus Christ using the image of the cornerstone.
I commend to you that in this world, and in the world to come, the name of Jesus Christ is above every name. I commend to you, as well as to myself, the importance of putting our trust in Jesus Christ alone, thanking him for all these other good gifts He has given to us, but realizing that we have the privilege of being Christ-centered men and women who are part of a community that is endeavoring to be a Christ-centered church. How privileged we are to sing with confidence those words from that old hymn, “The Solid Rock.”
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.
This is a graphic picture, that of Jesus being the cornerstone.
To fully understand this imagery, one almost has to visit the Middle East. It doesn’t take you long to see the importance of stone. Carefully chiseled, huge rocks of stone were transported at great cost, engineering genius, and with the input of horrendous human energy to build the pyramids of Egypt. Visit the Acropolis in Athens, and you will observe just one more of multiple, ancient statements of the importance of huge granite foundation stones and of carefully chiseled marble building blocks with which superb architectural skill formed such esthetically pleasing and centuries-lasting buildings as the Parthenon. And, on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, one can observe the ancient Roman aqueducts running for miles, complemented hundreds of years later by the Crusader aqueducts. These ancient arteries carried priceless fresh water from Mt. Carmel to the north down to the ancient port city of Caesarea. They stand today as reminders of the importance of carefully assembled building blocks and capstones for Roman arches. Most of all, picture the temple in Jerusalem, so carefully built by Solomon and hundreds of years later rebuilt by Herod, and this imagery makes all the more sense. Buildings of the highest quality were carefully crafted.
When God chose to build His living community on the church, He chose Jesus to be “the living Stone,” around which He placed people like you and me, “living stone ” to be His “spiritual house.” His temple, His church. God’s true temple is not on a mountain top in Jerusalem but is a Christ community — past, present and future. It is people like you and me who are put in place around Jesus Christ, the living foundation, the cornerstone, and the very capstone that holds all of this in place. We are a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices.
This is a graphic picture, isn’t it? All this is very good but it is not the end of the story. This picture calls for a choice.
As Peter describes this spiritual house, he notes that there are those who rejected Jesus then and those who do now. There are those who trusted Jesus then and those who do now. He describes Jesus as one who was “… rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him” (1 Peter 2:4). He goes on to declare that those of us who believe also see Jesus, the cornerstone, as precious — as central to everything we are. But noting the ways that some had rejected Jesus, he refers to Him as “the stone the builders rejected” and “a stone that causes men to stumble,” the one who is chief cornerstone.
This passage graphically pictures Jesus to be the cornerstone, and it alerts us to the seriousness of our choice to reject or to accept Him as central to our existence.
The question is, Do you put your trust in Jesus Christ and allow everything else that is important to you to fit around Him at the center? Or have you rejected Him, thrown Him to the side or, in a more subtle way, allowed Him to simply be one of the smaller building blocks in the life in which you are the cornerstone? Are you stumbling over Him in your endeavor to build an edifice of your own construction? Or are you standing firmly, declaring, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand?”
Are you part of a church in which you, along with your brothers and sister in Christ, are focusing on Him instead of on the good programs that we have, the wonderful music, the lovely facilities, the fine staff, and great people?
Listen to these words that describe us as living stones set in place around the cornerstone:
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. 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.” (1 Peter 2:4-6).
Now Peter describes who you are if you have chosen Him as your cornerstone. He states it graphically in 1 Peter 2:9-10.
First, you are a chosen person who is part of a chosen people. You see, the covenant has been expanded from that which God entered into with the Jews as described in Exodus 19. The covenant of law has been expanded to become a covenant of grace. We are His people, chosen for obedience.
Second, you are a priest, part of a royal priesthood. No longer do you have to go through a priest to get to God. You have the right of access and approach to Jesus Christ. You, as a priest, have the privilege and responsibility to not only come directly to God yourself but to bring others to God. What in ancient times was the privilege of the few professional priests is now your opportunity and privilege. The Latin word for priest is pontifex which means a “bridge builder.” You and I are privileged to build bridges that enable others to come to God.
Third, you are a holy citizen who is part of a holy nation. We have already seen that the word holy means different. As an individual believer you are different from other people because you are committed to Jesus Christ. And you are part of a nation that is a different nation from any other nation of this world. It is a holy nation of all men and women — past, present and future — who have repented of sin and put their trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Never forget the high citizenship which is yours.
Fourth, you are a person belonging to God, part of a people who belong to God. You are God’s man. You are God’s woman. Never forget it. That gives you a new value, a new dignity, new greatness because you belong to God. Never forget that fact.
Peter says that you and I are privileged to declare the praises of this God who has called us out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once we were alone, not a people. Now we are a people. Once we didn’t have mercy, but now we have received the mercy of God through Jesus Christ.
Peter then concludes this passage:
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the 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 (1 Peter 2:11-12).
First, realize that we are different. We are aliens. We are strangers in this world.
For over a year, we were bombarded with mind-boggling images on the television screen throughout the O.J. Simpson trial. If you could make sense of all of it you are a brighter person than am I. At one moment I thought I understood it all, and at the next moment I was overwhelmed as I heard people declare guilt and innocence and give testimony that is simply dishonest and call each other liars. I have to admit that “this world is not my home. I am just passing through …”
We are different. We are aliens and strangers.
Second, abstain from sinful desires which do war against your soul. You and I are in a battle. We need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to fight this battle.
Third, live a life that will bring glory to Jesus Christ so that others who don’t know Him can be drawn to Him.
This reminds me of one of the last straightforward statements my daughter Suzanne shared with me before she died. Here she was a 23-year-old, knowing that in a few days she was going to die. She had all the churning struggles that anyone that age would have who saw the future being robbed by a malignancy called cancer. She had no power over anything — except the people closest to her. She turned to us, one by one, with words we’ll never forget. The words directed to me, her minister father, were at the same moment words of rebuke yet challenge, as she said, “Dad, I want you to be more like Jesus.”
I invite you to Jesus. Bring your sin. Bring your brokenness to Jesus. Realize that “Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin has left its crimson stain. He’s washed me white as snow.”
And realize that you are part of a living temple, part of a living building, whose living cornerstone is Jesus Christ, and you are a living stone built around Him.
There is a famous story from Sparta. A Spartan king boasted to a visiting monarch about the walls of Sparta. The visiting monarch looked around and could see no walls. He said to the Spartan king, “Where are these walls about which you speak and boast so much?” The Spartan king pointed at his body guard of magnificent Spartan troops and said, “These are the walls of Sparta, and every man of them a brick.”
As long as a brick lies by itself, it is useless. It only becomes of use when it is built into a building. You and I, as living stones, must not remain alone — but we are privileged to be built into the edifice of that living Temple, that Christ-centered church in which Jesus Christ is the living cornerstone!

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About The Author

Dr. John A. Huffman Jr. served many years as pastor of the St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, California. Early in his ministerial career, Huffman served as an assistant under Norman Vincent Peale, pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. He has published several books, including “The Family You Want,” “Forgive Us Our Prayers,” and his memoir, “A Most Amazing Call.” He has served on the boards of several influential evangelical organizations, including Christianity Today, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, World Vision and the National Association of Evangelicals.

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