Nests and Stones and Comfort Zones

by Andy Wood on October 18, 2010

in Tense Truths

On the Steps of the Temple

Have you ever felt as though you had been shoved out of your nest, or your comfort zone?

And that God was doing the shoving?

Have you ever been forced to move, had some people removed from your life that you depended on, or taken away from a comfortable church or home situation?

Maybe He was teaching you something you may not have learned any other way.  Maybe He was placing you in a strategic spot to be greatly used by Him – as improbable as that might feel. Maybe, just maybe, He was taking something dead and bringing it to life… or putting something to death that needed to die.

Maybe He was taking you from “living stoned” to “living stone.”

One of my favorite places in Israel is the steps of the Temple, where Peter most likely preached on the Day of Pentecost.  There behind the cleansing pools and in front of what was then the main entrance to this massive building, Peter declared that the stone had been rolled away, and that Jesus Christ was alive.  Thousands of people responded to his message.

That was then.

“Now” was a lot uglier.

Those new believers, so changed by God’s grace, so alive with His Spirit, would gather daily in places behind those steps in the Temple.  There they would worship God, preach the gospel, and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

Then the persecution came, and many of them lost everything as they scattered.  They lost homes, property, careers, businesses, sometimes freedom, and sometimes even their lives.

Oh – and they lost the Temple.  Even that had been taken away from them.  They had nowhere to go to preach and celebrate, to fellowship and worship.

For many people this could be a defeating blow.  But the same man who stood on those steps below those cherished stone walls had something else to say about stones.

A New Definition of Worship

You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor (1 Peter 2:4, NLT).

“How can we worship since we can’t go to the temple?” the people wondered.   Peter’s answer – by going to the Living Cornerstone, the Lord Jesus.

It’s the simplest definition of New Testament worship I know.  Worship means coming to Jesus.

(Language lesson:  “Coming” is present tense, continuous action.  Worship means “continuing to come to Christ.”)

Peter quotes a prophecy from Isaiah 26:18 that Jesus fulfilled:

“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,

A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation;

Whoever believes will not act hastily. (NKJV)

Who are you coming to when you worship?

One who was tried.  He was tested repeatedly, tempted by the devil and pressed in on by the world.  Each time, He passed the test and was found pure.

A precious cornerstone.  In stone masonry, the value of the cornerstone is that it sets the direction for the placement of every other stone in the building.  He is priceless because He determines your place.

A sure foundation. You can build your life upon Him in peace.  You can reorder, realign, reposition, and most of all rest on Him as your life’s foundation.

Peter goes a step further than Isaiah 28:16, however.  Jesus is not just a stone in theory.  He is a living cornerstone.  It’s possible to build our lives on an image, a memory of a dead Christ and a set of teachings on stone.  But this relationship is no image, memory, or set of teachings.  This stone lives.  He communicates.  Feels.  Thinks.  Directs.  Gives life – in much the same way that the vine gives life to its branches.

So when we continue to come to Him, we are coming to a living Vine as His branch, or a living cornerstone who will reposition, realign , refill, and renew us.

A New Definition of “Temple”

“And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple” (1 Peter 2:5).

“Where is the temple?” the people wondered.  “YOU are the temple,” Peter replied.  “You are living stones.”

Get this:  If you are a follower of a living Christ, then you are what He is!  He is a living cornerstone.  You are a living stone in the same building.

You are what no temple or church building ever was.  You are the altar of worship.  You are the holy of holies.  You are the priest who can offer up spiritual sacrifices because you have a living cornerstone, Jesus Christ.

This imagery of stone was familiar to first-century people with Jewish roots.  But new life in Christ had changed their meaning.

  • The original law of God was written on tablets of stone.  But in the new covenant, the Bible goes to great lengths to show that the law once written on stone is now written in your heartYou are a living version of the law of God.
  • Stones were used as altars of remembrance, as in Joshua’s dayYou are now a living testimony of remembrance to all that God has done for me.
  • Jesus talked about stones to the Pharisees.  He said that if the people weren’t praising Him, the very rocks would cry out in praise to God.  You are a living, breathing praise generation device.

So What Does All This Mean?

Two things.  First, you’d better have an answer to this question:  How will I worship Jesus if somehow I lose all the things I depend on now to do it?

Could you still worship Jesus if you no longer had your favorite worship building to do it?

How about that praise and worship leader or band?  (Or YouTube or Web site?)

How about your pastor, or your congregation?

How about your printed Bible?

Worship may involve some or all of those things.  But coming to a living Cornerstone means that it doesn’t require any of them.  And the day may come when you don’t have any of them.

Second, it’s time to live up to our identity as living stones.  Whatever else that means, it means we come continually to Jesus to be realigned and reset – sometimes even to be repositioned or (gasp!) replaced.

It means we live as expressions of the law of God.  As living testimonies to the works of God.  As vibrant expressions of praise to God.

The same Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead now lives in you.  He has turned what once was stone – our hearts – into something that is alive.  And He is making you part of something much bigger than you – a living, global, eternal connecting point to God.

So if the Lord needs to shove you out of your nest in order to discover that, don’t you think it’s worth it?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ivy October 18, 2010 at 11:21 am

I can answer in the affirmative to the questions you have posed at the outset of your post, Andy. Sat. night I was on call for the ER as chaplain. The last time I was on call, I received no calls. After all, it’s a very small regional hospital in a rural area. Sat. night around 12:30, the phone rang and I was told there was a woman who was not doing well. When I got there, she had already passed away and her grieving family was there. She was elderly. This was outside my comfort zone. It was the first time I’d been called to the ER. Unlike many of my peers, my Clinical Pastoral Education was not spent at a hospital. I felt so green and wet behind the ears. Other aspects of ministry, I feel quite experienced and capable, but not this one. I prayed and tried to listen. Thankfully, there was a wonderful nurse who was willing to coach this green intern.

I struggle when I’ve had a lack of sleep. Sunday was to be and was a big day. God had pushed me beyond my comfort level in several areas,yet all went well and Sunday was a blessing. By God’s grace, I was up to all the responsibilities I had before, during, and after worship.

Blessings.

Andy Wood October 18, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Ivy,
Don’t you just love it (after the fact!) when God “takes the training wheels off?” And yet even in those high-risk, high-anxiety times,we are never outside His hand or apart from His presence.

Great to hear from you!

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