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I Peter 2:1-5
Living Stones: “Sin – Watch for Varmints Hiding in the Cracks”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
We have a concrete driveway leading to our garage – and over this driveway’s 49 year history it has developed some cracks. Y’all know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Your driveway, or foundation, or retaining wall has cracks in it, too. What happens in those cracks? [Weeds grow from them, water gets in them and then freezes and expands and makes the cracks bigger; and ants make their homes in them!] It’s the ants that drive me crazy. It could be worse, they could be mice or spiders or snakes. But that’s the thing. If we don’t take care of the cracks that develop, critters move in. Varmints hide in those cracks.
Charles McRaven writes in his book called Building with Stone, “The cracks between the stones will invite every kind of inhabitant … be aware of the haven you are creating for snakes, spiders, wasps, scorpions, field mice, lizards, and even birds.”
During these couple of months following Easter we are listening to the Apostle Peter, and hearing some Biblical instruction that’s been around for nearly 2,000 years, and is based on totally true counsel, about “good masonry” with the Bible believed as God’s trustworthy Word for being built into God’s Cathedral.
Listen to these words from the Apostle Peter. This comes from a letter he wrote to the churches in Asia Minor, south Turkey, to people who faced death daily. Listen to how he says we find faith-filled integrity when we live like we believe what we say we believe. I Peter 2:1-5….—-
3 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 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.
3 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. What is Peter talking about? This counsel is about SIN. It’s about our choices to act in ways that are in direct defiance to what he calls “be[ing] holy, because [God] is holy.”
In Peter’s letters about being “living stones” that are built into the Cathedral of God, he says, watch the cracks! Varmints will move in and take over as soon as we ignore the little cracks in our rocky lives.
Sin weakens our spiritual structure; it creates “havens” for all sorts of self-destructive beliefs that result in self-destructive behaviors. These are our old self-centered ideas and ungodly passions; anything that makes us less than what God created us to be. Empty places in our hearts create “havens” within the cracks of our lives that harbor soul-destroying varmints like resentment, fear, self-condemnation, envy, unbelief, arrogance, gluttony, laziness.
Yet Peter does not instruct us to heroically overcome our human brokenness with moral striving, self-will, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-boot-straps determination, or a long list of dos and don’ts. Instead he shines the light of God’s healing love on our disordered desires and teaches us to surrender ourselves to the Lord with the confidence that Christ’s power and love will penetrate and remove the darkness, will make us whole and new human beings with an eternal perspective and purpose.
When we expose the dark cracks in our lives to the healing, cleansing work of God’s love, Christ can transform us into new people who flourish as “living stones”, in company with other “living stones” in God’s Cathedral of light!
But remember that we cannot fool God, and we rarely fool our neighbors – so don’t lie about those cracks. Find them, and fill them with God’s Holy Spirit before the critters of sin claim squatters’ rights.
OK, but Wheeler, what sins are you talking about? I mean, gossip isn’t as bad as stealing; and little white lies aren’t as bad as murder, right?
On Thursday as I was writing this part of this message my computer dinged, which meant I had a message to look at – and I got distracted by Facebook where one of my FB Friends posted a picture with the caption: “All animals want to live, where would you draw the line?” And the picture was a line-up of animals from pet dogs and cats to wild life (deer, moose, buffalo) to farm animals (cows and pigs and lambs) to fowls (ducks, geese and chickens). And someone had drawn their lines: before the pet cat (“if it was the apocalypse”), before the cow (“normal day”), after the chicken (“if I wanted to [score] with a [beautiful] vegan”).
It was kind of cute (and I mean no offense to vegans or vegetarians). But the timing was perfect for me! Where do we draw the line on sin?
Another Apostle, one of Peter’s good friends, John wrote in I John 3, “Everyone who sins breaks the law! In fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that [Jesus] appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin! No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him.”
Not to argue with John, but we all know that Paul has written, “All have sinned, and [all continue to] fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
So, what is John’s intent here? What does he mean “No one who lives in Jesus keeps on sinning”? What do you think? [Last week we read Peter telling us to “be holy, just as God is holy!” Any sin is repugnant to God. In His perfect-ness, our imperfectness is unacceptable! Therefore, when we can sin and be OK with it, when we can sin and just brush it off with a “well, boys will be boys” attitude, when we can sin and excuse it to our genes or our upbringing or say “it’s OK, God will forgive me” – then we are showing signs of NOT worshiping God and serving Him only, NOT abiding in Jesus, NOT following Him or obeying His commands, NOT loving Him!]
Where did John get this idea? Listen to him record the words of Jesus Himself: “842 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! … 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
Please. Hear me! No one can judge you about this but you yourself! And God! We are not given the freedom to judge each other as acceptable or not! But God is that judge! God has that authority! And God gives us the ability and the responsibility to judge ourselves (take the log out of our own eyes first)! That’s what John’s intention here is. That we would hold this up as a mirror and see ourselves in it! And repent. And receive the love God offers us in Jesus who takes away the sin of the world (to any/all who believe in His name!).
So how do we watch out for the varmints of sin that make their homes in the cracks of our faith? Last week, when we talked about being holy, living lives of holiness, because that is what God calls us to do, we talked about how the only way to even come close to that ideal is to be aware of the fact that we need Jesus, we need God’s Holy Spirit, we need to wake up in the morning and recommit our lives that day to worship God and serve Him only, and to go to bed at night wondering where we missed the mark so that the next day might be a little better.
It means, to use the Apostle John’s words, “abiding” in Christ. Abiding in Christ is a way of life that works itself out through the ups and downs of our spiritual journey. Even a simple longing for a new way of life, no matter how weak, is evidence of God already at work. We do not want more of God, we can’t want more of God, if the Holy Spirit wasn’t already at work.
Look again at today’s reading from I Peter 2:1-5. Is there anything in this passage which gives you hope of God’s love at work in you? Where do you see God transforming you into “living stones” full of God’s love and usable in His Perfect Cathedral?
- Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit – are we less mean and less dishonest this week than last week? That’s God’s grace at work!
- Rid yourself of hypocrisy – are we more sincere and honest today than yesterday? That’s God’s power in our lives!
- Rid yourself of envy – yes, even wishing we had it as “good” as our neighbor is a sinful varmint staking a claim on our heart – can we live with more generosity and less greed this year than we did last year? That’s God’s mercy revealing itself in us.
- Rid yourself of slander of every kind – are our words more in the arena of helpfulness this morning than they were last week? That’s a sign of God’s presence dwelling in us.
Peter says that as we come to Jesus, the living Stone, we become living stones, being built into a spiritual house.
And wherever we discover cracks in our lives, places where a sin has taken root and started to grow through – that doesn’t mean we’re all through, that we might as well just give up and give in. Just the opposite. This is when we best hear those words from the Apostle John, in I John 3:5, “You know that [Jesus] appeared so that He might take away our sins.” He does that through His life and death and resurrection – and through our simply believing in Him as the Son of God who died for us while we were still sinning that all who believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!
So, where are the “cracks” in this wing of the Cathedral of God – this wing being LPC, or even your particular place in His Holy Temple? What sins, both LPC corporate sins and personal sins in each of our own lives, need to be repented of?
How does God’s forgiveness of our sins repair the cracks?
And what “step toward holiness” is the step you will take today? In what ways will the world around us be blessed, maybe even be saved, by our “growing up in our salvation”?
This Easter Season, this Resurrection Season, this Pentecost Season, let’s watch for the sin that we let hide in the cracks of our faith!
If you heard God calling your name today, if you sense that Christ’s death and resurrection was meant for you today, if you want your life to withstand life’s storms today – drop a note in the Offering Plate, and I’ll get with you later this week. Let’s dedicate, rededicate, our rocky past into service as living stones today!
Let’s rid ourselves of the “varmints”, and become sturdy stones in God’s Cathedral! Amen!
Happy Pentecost Season! Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed!
Bettridge, Becce; Living Stones: The Making of an Eternal Fellowship; Presbyterians for Renewal; Louisville, KY; 2012; Pp. 49-56.
McRaven, Charles; Building with Stone; Storey Pub.; North Adams, MA; 1989.