Keep Your Rock

John 8: 3 – 11

And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” And they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no on condemn you?” And she said, “No one, Lord” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more.”

The moral of this story may be “Take care at whom you throw rocks.” This woman (and presumably her partner) was caught in sin. They violated one of the Ten Commandments. Borrowing a bit from David Letterman, I like to call the Commandments God’s Top Ten List. So, there was no gray area here. They had broken the letter and the spirit of the law. But Jesus’ coming ushered in a new way of thinking about sin and grace.

Take care when you begin to throw rocks at others. Be careful about judging them for you may find all too quickly that Jesus is taking you to task over your judgment. He gave us one commandment and that is to love. I doubt you can stand in judgment and love at the same time. Besides which, none of us has been called to sit on the throne of judgment. That is God’s job alone. So even if someone is in such an obvious sin as adultery, mind your attitude. Pray for them (not about them). Ask God to save them and rescue them. Ask for his grace and mercy to cover them at the same time. Before you cast the first stone remember the times that God’s mercy has covered you because you weren’t perfect either. Pray people into grace rather than condemning them to hell or you may find yourself in the same shoes as these Pharisees; standing in opposition to Jesus.

And finally, if you are the one in sin, there is great grace and mercy for you but take note. Jesus’ last comment to the woman was to “sin no more.” He didn’t just turn a blind eye towards her behavior. Don’t use God’s grace and mercy as an excuse to keep on in sin. Don’t kid yourself. Get yourself right and thank God for his everlasting mercy.

Edifice of God

Matthew 16: 18

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

We have been talking about this scripture in a group study I participate in and I have been giving it a lot of thought. Jesus said he would build his church. We use the word “church” interchangeably. When we say, “I am going to church,” the reference is usually to a church building. When we are not going to the church building we usually clarify by saying, “I am going to a church event.” Now, obviously, in this latter example the word “church” does not refer specifically to the church building but it may well be an event specific to our congregation even though it could involve other groups of believers too. Is this as clear as mud yet? Let’s go a step further. We also talk about THE church by which we mean the body of believers. In this case THE church is the nebulous group of people who call Christ Lord. We can divide this group into parts by saying the American Church or the Austrian Church, or whatever. Usually we use the word church in this capacity to describe how the masses of believers move, believe or think. It does not refer to any one denomination but rather the collection of us all.

So here is the question, when Jesus said, “I will build My church” what did he mean? It’s a little confusing, isn’t it? Does the word “church” refer to a building, a congregation or all of us en masse? Well, here are a few points to ponder. First, know that when you walk with Jesus, your mind and your thinking pattern have to become flexible. Thinking, “outside the box” most definitely describes Yahweh and Jesus. Let’s see, though, where we can get with this.

Note that Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter. The name Peter means “rock.” This is significant for the obvious reasons of stability and foundation but there is another insight implied here. Jesus is called the rock. He is also the corner stone but wait, it gets better. Look at 1 Peter 2: 5, “And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” The first mention of a living stone, rejected by men is, of course, about Jesus. So now we have Jesus the rock, cornerstone and a living stone. I didn’t even know stone was living, did you? There is a second mention of living stone in this verse. You, also, are living stones. I bet you didn’t know that. So if someone calls you hardheaded you can say you get it from Jesus. The even more fascinating bit of this scripture is the end. It says that we, the living stones, are being built into a spiritual house. Each of us is a brick in the house God is building through Jesus. Are you getting this? Can we go a bit further?

1 Corinthians 3: 9 reads, “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” There it is again. Collectively, we are the house of God. God is building us together into an edifice for Himself. We are the temple, His abiding place. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2: 19 – 22).

Picture this then. The foundation was laid by the apostles and the prophets. We are the brick and the mortar which has been laid upon that foundation and Jesus is the capstone and the cornerstone, the beginning and the end. The whole building rests upon and is dependent on the cornerstone and the capstone is the finisher. He is first and last, Alpha and Omega, the Aleph and the Tav but in him, we are all being fitted together as a holy building to the Father. We are the new temple. Solomon built the first temple but Jesus is building the eternal one in which the Father will take up permanent residence for all time. That is amazing!

So back to the original question – does the word “church” refer to the building or to the people. Now we know that the answer is “Yes!”

Stoned Again

John 8: 59

Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.

Yesterday I shared a very similar verse with you. Jesus drove the Jews crazy. He inspired murderous intent in them. What was it about him that aggravated them so? Think of it this way. Jesus told them the truth, the absolute truth. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that the truth inspired such malicious actions? Here is another point to ponder. The Jews actually thought they were doing good in their persecution of him. They were trying to protect the church and the faith. They accused Jesus of blaspheme when he told them the truth and they believed that blaspheme should be silenced because of its potential damage to the church.

Another problem with what Jesus preached was that it was new. Rather than taking into consideration what Jesus proclaimed, they rejected it out of hand. What was the source of their fear? Why does a person’s articulation and sometimes even just their existence rattle people so? The Pharisees should have known that truth wills out. It will survive no matter what you do. The false will fade and wither. They even admitted that others had come previously claiming to be the Messiah but, their testimony did not last.

Jesus was aware of their justification of their thoughts and acts. He warned us that we would face this same dynamic. “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God” (John 16: 2). There is no need to be so reactionary and persecute people for their beliefs. God is bigger than any false doctrine. Moreover, there may be truth in what is said. Perhaps, though, it is the truth which frightens people most of all. And to be honest, it is not really the church which we seek to protect by our vehement rebuttal of opposing thought. We are in truth seeking to protect our thoughts and our way of life and that is the case even if our belief is wrong. We will fight to the death for a philosophy which isn’t even truth because to entertain an opposing idea challenges us. Why are we so afraid? What can another’s opinion do to us? We don’t have to force our ideology and views down other people’s throats in order for Yahweh to be seen as the glorious God He is. He is bigger than any paradigm we have yet constructed. Furthermore, Jesus has told us that he is doing a “new thing” so we need to relax and trust him and trust that he is well able to reveal truth amongst an abundance of opinion. Believe me, the prophets God is sending into the world are going to shake us up. They are going to challenge us. That’s okay. Father is well able to care for us and lead us into all truth.

It is very easy to look back at the Pharisees and the Jews and criticize them for their shortsightedness but we have become the modern day Pharisees. We serve a form of religion rather than the truth. Our opinions and doctrines sit on the throne of our faith rather than the Word of God. We listen to old, worn out theology and never even question whether it is rooted in the Bible. So much of what we defend is from Christian culture rather than the heart of God. Jesus came sharing good news. He went about doing good, (Acts 10: 38) not beating people up with the law. The commission he gave us was to continue his mission, to spread the good news of the gospel. We don’t need to try to convince people they are wrong treat, them as outcasts or slay them with our words. We only need to share the love of God and allow them to do the same. Whatever is true will prevail and we will be a unified body walking in the glory of our Lord.