With this is mind, it is time for you to deep-clean the refuse from your heart: your crafty little half-truths, your disingenuous masks, your spiteful discontent and malicious backstabbing. If you want to grow stronger in your deliverance, you must crave the nutrients of God’s words like a nursing baby craves milk — assuming you have tasted the sweet kindness of the Master.
Getting close to Him is like finding a living stone — one that most people dismiss as worthless but in God’s eyes is a chosen and precious gem. And you are living stones as well — ones which God is using to construct His own home. He is erecting a temple in which you yourselves are sacred priests who present spiritual offerings to a smiling God because of Jesus the Messiah. For the sacred writings contain these words: “Pay close attention: I have chosen a priceless stone, and I am designating it as the principal foundation stone, and whoever places their confidence here will absolutely not be disappointed.” This stone is precious indeed to you who trust it, but for those who don’t: “The stone which the construction crew threw away turned out to be the most important stone in the entire building.” It became “a rock they smashed their foot against and a stone that tripped them up.” And because they stubbornly refuse to comply to God words, they find themselves smashed against that stone — a fate to which they were destined.
You, on the other hand, are a family hand-selected to serve as royal priests, a tribe set apart from all others, a people He can call His very own, in order that you might joyfully broadcast the boundless excellence of the One who enticed you out of the dark and beckoned you into His dazzling light. You once were just a crowd of strangers, but now you are the people of God; once you were helpless and pitiful, but now you have been happily pardoned.
My precious friends, please understand: you don’t belong here; don’t get comfortable here! The cravings that beset humanity will bombard your inner life like a barrage of artillery — you must stand clear! Maintain such first-class behavior among the residents of this land that, even if they bad-mouth you as a bunch of delinquents, they won’t fail to notice the beauty of your accomplishments — and then give God all the credit on the day He comes to inspect the troops!
You have one Master — but He expects you to surrender your rights to every human authority He established: from the Commander in Chief all the way down to the officers with the delegated authority to prosecute the guilty and exonerate the innocent. This is exactly what God wants: that by living honorably you will muzzle the mindlessness of obtuse critics. You have indeed been liberated, but do not cling to your freedom as some license for misconduct — live as slaves of God!
Give everyone what is due them: to your brothers, sacrificial love; to God, trembling reverence; to the king, honorable obedience. If you are slaves, accept the authority of your masters with reverential respect, not just if they are kind and fair, but even if they are unjust. For this is a picture of grace: willingly accepting the grief of undeserved suffering because your minds are fastened on God. Look, if you break the rules and are punished, and you “bravely endure” it, how is that noteworthy? But if you are doing what is good and wind up suffering, that is actually a demonstration of grace from God’s point of view.
This, after all, is the party that God invited you to: the Messiah blazed the trail by suffering for you, and He left footprints on the path so you can follow right along behind. He’s the One who never broke a single rule, who never let a falsehood escape His lips; He’s the One who was blistered with insults but did not retaliate, who suffered but made no snarling threats — He simply rested His case in the hands of a reliable Referee. And He’s the one who carried the weight of all our sin on His shoulders as He hung on the cross, so that we might permanently escape our sins and live lives of honor. It was His grievous injury