I have been been teaching recently on "church" and what God means by that. I believe that too often we attempt to conform ourselves (or we draw our expectations from) the traditions of men, rather then the Word of God. Hence, we set up a system that we think is "proper" because others do it that way, or we have expectations unmet, or we flounder, because we are not in His way, but man's, and at that point we are in trouble. I hope to finish the series this Sunday, but you can get the mp3s of the first three by clicking HERE if you are interested. I'd love your feedback!
One of the things that has struck me in my study has been the living, intertwined nature of Christ and the church (the body of Christ). According to God's Word the body is being built up into a living building, as living stones built together, for Christ. He is the cornerstone—the foundation and anchor and starting point and measuring point of it all. Interestingly, He is also another kind of stone. He is a stumbling block.
1 Peter 2:6-8 says: For it stands in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
So, for those who believe and obey He is the cornerstone, the foundational strength and the leveling point which we can rejoice in and always stay anchored to and supported by and kept on track with. But, to those who don't believe and who don't obey, He is another kind of stone—a stumbling block. To those who would seek any other way to God, or to a right life, He is in their path declaring, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
There is no way around it. He is a stumbling block to any other path to righteousness before God or even true purposeful living. But, more than that, WE (believers) are linked together with Him in such a union that we, too, take on this dual aspect (provided, I believe, that we have let the Holy Spirit fully occupy us and live through us).2 Cor 2:14-16 says: But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
Through us God spreads the fragrance (isn't that a beautiful picture to want to have describe our life?!) of Christ. If we are yielded and allowing, we become the very aroma of Christ among the world—and to the one we are the fragrance of life, and to the other the fragrance of death! What a picture of the union and identify we share with Christ! And what a powerful example, again, of that dual aspect of the Gospel: a cornerstone to some, a stumbling block to others; a fragrance of life to some, a fragrance of death to others.
Isn't this the way of so many things in life? Just this morning I was telling someone how I feel a little sad around December 20th when the shortest daylight day arrives because I know that the daylight is getting longer. The friend laughed and said, basically, that I am one of very few who feel that way. I recognize that—because I am blessed to do so much of my study and email and administration from my home, the cold, dark, winter days and nights and (hopefully!) rain mean to mean a crackling fire, a hot drink, and a cozy home. But, I don't have to go out every day driving in it, or working in it. To so many others that same weather is hard, brutal, and miserable.
What, I wonder, is before us in life that we can go either way with? What opportunity or situation are we in, or do we have, that we might choose to go two different ways with in how we utilize it or respond in it? For Paul, prison became a place to praise God and evangelize . . for others it was simply misery to endure. For one leper his healing became a chance to thank and praise God . . . for the others it became something entirely different and much more self focused. For David the ark arriving in Jerusalem was a time of exuberant joy . . . for his wife it was a time of mocking her husband's praise and dance. What are the situations facing you and I? How might we use them? How are we responding in them? The exact same situation can, to two different people, be two entirely different things!
Note: While I believe that God can, and does, work through all things, I do not subscribe to all things being from God at the operational, daily level of our life. I believe we have an active enemy who steals, kills, and destroys. I struggle to understand people thanking God for giving them some sickness or pain and then rushing to the doctor or medicine to try and take it away. I believe in praising God through all things, and knowing He will work in all things, but I also believe that some of the things He is "blamed" for are truly the work of an active enemy and we need to be combating those things instead of thanking God for them. I know that some don't agree with this, but I needed to clarify it because some could take what I was saying above to mean I was saying we should praise God for all things. I'd love to hear your prayerful thoughts and dialogue on it. For instance, if resisting the devil makes him flee (James 4:7), then it would seem not resisting him would mean he won't. Both options are so polar opposite of each other I don't believe both can be God's desire for a person—which would seem to me to mean that the consequences of both options can't both be God's desire for us. Thoughts? Just, as the foundation for my comments, know that I believe the Bible clearly teaches that our choices matter, and if they matter it implies different outcomes are possible by them, and if different outcomes are possible by them then I don't see how all could be His desire for us.