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Shepherds Hill Homestead » Messages » Sponges and Stones

Sponges and Stones

          This week we are looking at an interesting topic mentioned in the Bible. I want to look at the Lord’s blueprint for His church. For this message today I want you to do something different. If you have a sponge in your kitchen or bathroom go get it. Also, go outside and find the largest rock that you can bring in. Have them ready for comparison

          In 1st Peter chapter two we can find references of the building blocks that God will use in the Body of Christ. Peter begins this chapter by speaking of first steps. He points his letter to babes in Christ and says to lay aside the old life (malice, guile, hypocrisies, envies and evil speaking) and to desire the sincere milk of the Word. When we begin life we cannot survive on anything except milk. Peter’s reference is the milk of the word-the most basic elements of what God says. This indicates that he is talking about elementary things that should be understood by all from the beginning of their walk.

          If I was teaching about foundations of a house I would emphasize a level and strong footing, the trueness of its layout, and the importance of strength of the structure. Peter gives us these elements because they are so important to the building of the building of God’s Church from the ground up. We have an old building on our property that we refer to as the cabin. It is built of rough sawn lumber and once sat on untreated posts. By the time we bought the place the posts had been eaten up by termites. We have since replaced them with concrete blocks. Foundations are important to any building. Without good foundations buildings can start out level and safe and end up crooked and falling in.

          Next Peter begins to talk about Jesus. After all, anything that is not built on Christ will fail. This morning I listened to a reverend who was an adviser to President Obama. This man made the statement that religion did not have a monopoly on morality, I can see why we have some of the problems that we have. If we don’t follow what God says are morals we will never have a standard. Going by the standard of situation ethics will create a society where everyone does what seems good in their own eyes (Judges 17:6). Jesus is compared to a living stone in verse four. If you look at references that God gives building altars in the Old Testament it is always using stones that are unhewn by human hands(Deut. 27:5-6). This indicates that Jesus was not the creation of any man. He is revealed to each man by God’s grace. If you are looking for God in a certain shape He is probably not going to be found. Jesus did not fit the “look” of what the Jews expected Messiah to be and was thus overlooked. We’ll get to that in a few verses.

          In the following verses Peter refers to us, God’s people, as lively stones. I want to point out that the Bible never refers to us as bricks. This word is found in passages such as where Pharaoh made the Israelites make bricks without straw. Stones are always different shapes, aren’t they? Go ahead and examine the one you have.  If you pick up a stone you will first notice the weight of it. Real stones are heavy.Hollywoodhas foam fakes that look like the real thing. Movies that have people with stones falling on them are, of course, fake. Boulders on films are often just fake balls of foam (mostly air).

          Following more of Peter’s writing we see that Jesus was the “Stone that the Builders rejected”. The builders looked for a Messiah that fit the pattern that they thought was needed. A strong military king and one who would leadIsraelinto battle against their enemies was probably the pattern here. Our Lord certainly doesn’t appear in that manner, although He will someday come back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Verse eight says he was a stumbling stone. I always get the image of a man who looks to climb up into a tree to get an apple. He walks by looking up and trips over a rock. He gets angry and then leaves. Another man comes by after looking up at the fruit. He sees the rock and wisely uses it as a stepping stone to get up to where he needs to be. This is how different people view the same Jesus and get different opinions. To some He is a stumbling block. To others He is a stepping stone.

          Now I want to look at the sponges. Please follow me to 2nd Thessalonians chapter three. I must first point out that the letter Paul wrote known as second Thessalonians was written because of a misunderstanding of the first letter. The church at Thessalonica was enduring terrible persecution. Paul first wrote to them to remind them of our Lord’s soon return. It was a letter to encourage them to remain faithful to God and not give up the good fight. There are indications that this group misunderstood the nature of our Lord’s soon return meaning that any minute He would be back. Paul wrote the church again to remind them that there were things that must take place first and then Jesus would be back. If you read between the lines you can quickly see that there were those who relaxed their efforts at Paul’s first letter. They settled into a life where they just waited.

          Imagine you are speaking to someone of your pain and they tell you that it would be over soon. You might get the impression that they meant any second it would be over. If this person saw that you misunderstood their statement they would restate their point. In Paul’s writings of chapter three we discover something interesting. Some church members had stopped working. Pick up in verse six. Paul says that we must withdraw ourselves from the brother who is disobedient. Now, as I said above, we could all make a judgment as to what disobedient (morally wrong) means. But God didn’t leave any question as to what He meant.

          The next verse begins with the word “for”. This means that verse seven is a continuation of Paul’s theme of disobedience. He says that he did not act disorderly when he was with this church. In other words, his example was one of Godliness and right living. The following two verses state that he didn’t eat food for free but worked day and night to pay for it. Then he said that it was because he wanted to give them an example of how to live. Now read down through verse thirteen. Paul restates a command that he had given them on his visit to Thessalonica. This was that if a man didn’t work he also shouldn’t eat. He further explains that there are some who aren’t working but are busybodies. I did a search on the Greek root of the word “busybodies”. It is explained as:

       1) to bustle about uselessly, to busy one’s self about trifling, needless, useless matters

       a) used apparently of a person officiously inquisitive about other’s affairs

              Have you ever know someone who had bad work ethics? I’m not talking about someone who just won’t get a job. Hopefully we all know that this is wrong. I am speaking about those who sponge off of others. That’s right- go ahead and get your sponge out. Those who call themselves Christians and then don’t pull their weight are just the people that Paul was speaking of. I have worked for many companies down through the years. In that time I have seen hard working men and women. Some claimed to be Christians and some didn’t. An unsaved person can have a good work ethic. This standard is one of God’s though, even if they do use it. Look at Colossians 3:23-24.

          Here Paul says to do everything heartily as unto the Lord. I am disappointed at Christians who do not pull their load. There are many I have met through the years who seem to participate in something, just to the point where they appear to be working. Their work is minimal and they do just enough to get by. In their lack they cause their co-workers to have to work harder. They literally “sponge” off of others. The sponge that you have is certainly not a building material. It would never hold up a wall. If you stacked up sponge on top of sponge you would have a wall that would blow over in a slight wind. A sponge will absorb things around it and then later when it’s wrung out it will soak it up again.

                    I know people even today who have a terrible witness because of their work ethics. They go around proclaiming Christ as their Savior. But the people they work with don’t view them favorably. They are NOT working heartily as unto the Lord. The unsaved workers around them are getting a wrong impression of Christians. They are a reproach to the Body of Christ with their terrible habits.

          Listen to me Church-Christians should have such a reputation of hard work that employers would hire us above the unsaved just because of our reputation. We should be diligent in our jobs and known as hard workers and people who go the extra mile.

          If you own your own business and make it known that you are a Christian plumber, carpenter, or such you must go out of your way to serve. If you put a chrome fish on your company’s logo you set a high mark. People are looking to you to provide a service.

          Let me touch on another point about Christians in work from something that I have observed. Perhaps you spend time at your job talking about the Gospel. You feel that it is your mission field and that you are primarily there to tell others about Jesus. Witnessing is wonderful but you are possibly giving a false witness by skipping your duties and “fellowshipping”. Your supervisor (even if he is a Christian) may frown on your skipping of work. Don’t get me wrong here-When doors are open tell someone about Jesus! I am just giving examples of things I have seen Christians do in the past where I have worked. Men who sit around with their feet on the desk and having personal calls that eat into their day are bad witnesses, even if they are talking about Jesus.

                   Sponges are not building blocks. Stones are the examples God gave for His church to be built with. Men who are solid in their lives are what we need. Their work ethics should be second to none. Their moral values should outshine those around them. This is no place for mediocrity. God’s Kingdom is one with solidity to it. Sponges are unstable blocks that use others to make their lives easier. They sit on pews each week telling the Pastor to feed them. They never do any personal Bible studies or have spiritual moments with their families. They may attend for years in a church without ever participating in anything.

          Friends, what are you today? If others described you would you be considered a hard working person or a sponge? Would people say that you were lazy or diligent? Do you expect others to help you make your way in life or are you dependant only on God? There is a subversive way that people sometimes get others to help them. They go for years without paying their bills. They claim Christ just because they know that Christian Brothers are obliged to help those in need. but their work patterns display what is in their hearts.

          You alone can change your life in this area. You need to decide to live above the level of mediocrity today. God is looking for lively stones today!

 

Prayer-Father, I lift up each man and woman today who may need a new outlook on their work habits. If any of us are not doing our best may You open our eyes so that we might see ourselves the way that others see us. May we always be an example of Christ- Who gave all. May we be known as people who have a reputation of hard work.

                                                In Jesus’ Name-Amen

paul

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Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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One Response to "Sponges and Stones"

  1. Shellie says:

    I appreciate this sermon, as I do the others as well. Its always wonderful to learn from Gods word. :) Thank you for sharing it!
    Blessings
    Shellie

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