Sermons

June 28, 2020

A New People

Dave Zuleger (South Campus) | 1 Peter 2:4-5

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.—1 Peter 2:4–5

Introduction: A New Foundation

Well, South family, here we are some of us in-person and some of us at home in our living rooms because of the shaken times that we’re in. Most of us have felt a sense of being unsettled during these days. Unsettled in our routines. Unsettled in thinking about the future. Unsettled by graphic images of violence. Unsettled in what we think should happen.

This season of pandemic has caused all sorts of questions. The death of George Floyd and riots close to home, and how we should respond have caused lots of questions. It has shaken some foundations. And we’ve seen around us, among us, and inside ourselves a kind of desperation for firm footing in these uncertain days. And 1 Peter 2:4 tells that those in Christ have a new, firm foundation. We have Jesus Christ as the cornerstone of the work that God is doing among us and in the world. 

Last week, we saw that we are to long for Jesus like new infants long for food. He’s the only place we can run for solid food that will give rest to our weary souls. So, let’s just say it clearly and consistently as a people—the person and work of Jesus Christ is what defines us, unites us, and provides a firm foundation for us as the people of God. What do we find as we come to him? 

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.—1 Peter 2:4 

Notice that as we come to Jesus, the One that we’ve tasted is so good, is a living stone. Where is our foundation for hope? That our Savior is alive. He’s a living stone. He entered into our mess to live the perfect life that we could not live and died the death we deserved to die for our sins—but he didn’t stay dead. He rose again. Our Savior is alive. This means, according to 1 Peter 1:3, that we have a living hope. It would be bad news if our King was dead. But because Jesus lives, we can be sure that God’s purposes and plans have not been thwarted no matter what the world looks like out there. 

And notice, that although we celebrate that Jesus is alive, it didn’t always look so good and doesn’t always look so good. Jesus, who is the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world was and is rejected by men. But again, this was predicted and part of God’s plan!

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:22, cf. Isaiah 28:16). 

Notice two things from this quotation: 1) There are builders who reject Jesus. That is still happening. The kingdom of this world is always building things that oppose the Kingdom of God. This shouldn’t surprise us! This is why Jesus is rejected. 2) The rejection by the world does not thwart the plan of God or the preciousness of the Cornerstone.

As we come to Jesus, we come to one rejected by the world and yet chosen and precious in God’s sight. While the crowd eventually screamed, “Crucify him,” the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

We can begin to find a lot of peace when we realize that the supposed victories in the world that oppose the kingdom of God and his righteousness cannot ultimately thwart God’s purposes. When Jesus died on the cross, it certainly could have looked as if the was Father distant, evil was winning, and all hope was lost. But, that just wasn’t true. The Son was chosen and precious in God’s sight, and his going to the cross was carrying out and fulfilling the purpose of redemption that was planned before the foundation of the world!

Family, there will always be builders that reject the true Cornerstone. There will always be evil events, godless solutions, and systems of the world that stand against Jesus Christ. 

If you seek your firm footing and foundation on the false cornerstones of comfort, or convenience, or government policies, or political parties, or presidents, or health, or money, or anything else—you will always be only as steady as the current news cycle and the current circumstances of your life. 

But, if you realize that while there are always builders opposed to Jesus building their kingdom, God is always building his kingdom on the foundation of the person and work of the cornerstone of Jesus Christ—then there is no news and no circumstances that can steal your joy. Jesus will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it—even though it seems sometimes like evil is winning. One of my favorite song lyrics says, “Though the wrong seems oft so strong, he is the ruler yet!” Jesus was rejected by men and crucified, but he is a living stone—alive, chosen, and precious in God’s sight. With that in mind, let’s look at 1) a new person, and 2) a new people.

A New Person

Notice how your identity is so wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ. 

You yourselves like living stones.—1 Peter 2:5

Remember, we have a living hope because we have been made alive in Jesus Christ. Not only can we remember that Jesus is alive and so our hope is in intact, but we can remember that we have been made alive with him. Jesus is the living cornerstone—and we are living stones.

Peter means for his readers to begin to grasp how wrapped up their identity and life is in Jesus. As a Christian in this world, will there be times when you are completely countercultural? Yes. There are all sorts of ways that the people of God should find themselves out of step with the culture they live in when it comes to our motivations, our hopes, and therefore our lives. This is the hard part of identity with Jesus, right? He was rejected by men, but when people don’t understand our worldview or our lives—we act surprised. I preached through First Corinthians back in Albert Lea and said in that sermon series that we need to get used to being seen as foolish and weak just as the cross was seen by the world. 

Our identity is not found in a political party—in conservative or liberal policies—our identity is found in Jesus Christ. Therefore, we will often be out of step with the Fox and CNN news cycles.

Our identity is not found in the general culture at large who wants to define itself by whatever it thinks will make it happy in the moment rather than the people of God who should define themselves by glad obedience to and fellowship with King Jesus. We should be nervous if we begin to feel too at home in our culture or a particular party. As we identify with Jesus we need to be ready to be rejected—seen as weak and foolish in how we spend our time, energy, and resources. 

We are still getting used to this in America. But, you can imagine how Peter wanted his audience to understand this in the shadow of the mighty Roman empire that was about to persecute, punish, imprison, and kill them. They needed to know that just as Jesus was rejected, they too would be rejected as exiles who did not go with the cultural tide around them or hope in a political hero to save them.

And yet, what amazing news it is that just as we identify with the rejection Jesus faces, we can also identify with Jesus in his life and in his being chosen and precious to God. The people Peter writes to are not left with ultimate rejection at all. No, they are left with hope for eternal life that starts right now and the promise that they are chosen and precious to God.

They are living stones. The ultimate rejection these people would face could cost them their homes, freedom, possessions, and even lives. But, it couldn’t take their ultimate life from them. To live is Christ—to die is gain. Peter wanted them to know that no temporary loss of stuff or even life could steal their eternal life as they prepared for persecution.

They are chosen and precious by God. The ultimate rejection people could face could have alienated them from friends and family. They could have been the object of mocking and shaming. But, it couldn’t take away that they were chosen by God and precious to him. Peter wanted them to know that no temporary human rejection could change their eternal acceptance by the Almighty God.

Do you feel the reality of who you are when you come to Christ by faith? You are alive! The Holy Spirit has caused you to be born again and you’ve been raised from death to life and no rejection or persecution or loss of comforts can change that. 

You are chosen and precious to God. Not just on your best days. Not just on the days when you feel like you’re knocking it out of the park. You are chosen and precious by God because you’ve trusted in the Cornerstone who was rejected by men so that you could be accepted by God!

You are a new person because of the person and work of Jesus.

A New People 

But, we’re not only new people individually, we’re new people together. In fact, in America one of the things we can underemphasize because of our emphasis on the individual is the community nature of what God is doing. God is not just saving individual people through Jesus Christ—he’s saving a people. He’s creating a blood-bought family. It’s not just cute phrase—it’s what God is doing in the world right now. 

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.—1 Peter 2:5

This passage is full of Old Testament imagery that would have been stunning to the people Peter was writing to. The idea of a spiritual house is the idea of the temple. Well, what was the temple at the core? The temple was the place where the presence of God made its home in the Old Testament and where the people of God would worship.

Peter is saying, wherever you are, wherever persecution drives you, you are the new temple of God and the presence of God will be with you. God is saving sinners, making them alive, and then arranging them into a spiritual house—a place where God’s presence dwells and God’s people worship. Listen to how Paul talks about this in Ephesians 2:20-22:

Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

In Jesus, with Jesus as the cornerstone, we are being joined together, arranged by God into a holy temple where God dwells by his Spirit. The blood of Jesus purchases a people that are arranged together in local expressions and filled with the Spirit of God. God purchases his people, places his people exactly where he wants them, and promises his empowering presence among them.

And not only does he use this imagery of living stones becoming a place for his living presence to dwell, but he also uses the imagery of a holy priesthood.

The priests were the folks in the Old Testament set apart to have access to God. The good news of the New Covenant people of God is that amazingly we now all have direct access to God because of Jesus! Not only is he with us, but he promises us access to him! 

For through him [Jesus!] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.—Ephesians 2:18

In the Old Testament, the priesthood was a special group with special access. In the New Covenant, through Jesus, all of us—the living stones—have access to the holy of holies.

As the Lord’s presence is with us as the new temple and as we approach him for help as a priesthood, he makes us holy. We become a holy priesthood. If the presence of God is near you—if the Holy Spirit is in you—you must become more holy. The other aspect of the priesthood besides access to God was the role of mediation. The priests were a go-between for the people and God.

We serve that same purpose in the world that so quickly rejects us. As they reject us, we know they are really rejecting Jesus. And our job—as the people of God where God’s presence dwells and the holy priesthood of God—is to be ambassadors for the goodness and gospel of God to the world. We are mediators to the world as we show the world the goodness of God with our works and the gospel of God with our words.

God makes people alive, makes a new people, and arranges them into a spiritual house with complete access to God. Then he sanctifies them and makes them holy so that they can be ambassadors for Christ in word and deed. We are not content to be a “holy huddle.” We are not content to be a blood-bought family that simply seeks to protect itself from all the messiness out there.

Rather, we are a people who know we are chosen and precious, alive by the Spirit, arranged as living stones to a new temple, and who long for other people to join our family to taste and see that the Lord is good with us as a holy priesthood scattered across these south suburbs.

You are a mediator of the gospel of Christ as you show your hope in Jesus at your workplace, at your co-op, on your PTA board, on your soccer teams, in your extended family, in your political office, and even on your social media pages! 

And you can do this courageously in the midst of a broken world knowing that many may reject you, but it is worth it if God might use you to help them come to see Jesus—and they can never steal your life or identity in the Cornerstone. 

Application: A New Purpose

So, we have a new foundation and we are a new people. We also have a new purpose.

… to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Now, when Peter brings up sacrifice, the picture he’s bringing here is worship. The priests were the ones who were responsible for the liturgy—for the worship—in the temple. He’s saying that as the new temple of God where God’s presence dwells—and as priests with access to him—we live lives of worship. Notice just two things with me as we close.

First, as reformed Christians, we often cite the fact that all of our works are as filthy rags. That’s true in one sense when it comes to our ability to earn our salvation. However, notice here that it says our lives of worship—our spiritual sacrifices—are acceptable to God. Why? Because we’re so awesome? No. Because of Jesus Christ. 

So, will we ever live a perfect life? No. But, can we live lives of worship where we can actually do things that please God and bring glory to his name? Yes! God accepts our lives of worship. Rejoice that God has made you alive, has brought you into a people, and has promised his presence and access so that you can actually do things that advance his kingdom and bring glory to his Name. Yes, there is a lot of false building going on in the world, but we have the privilege of being a part of the advance of the kingdom of God with lives of worship. We have the privilege of being part of the greatest story ever told.

Second, notice how all-encompassing this is. When are we not priests? Never. When are we not living stones that have been arranged by God to be a spiritual house of worship individually and together? Never. Who arranged the living stones into a house and placed them where they are? God. So, if you’ve trusted in Jesus, if he is your new foundation and your new longing, then you’ve been brought into a new people with the sole purpose of worship in his presence. 

We are a holy priesthood meant to show that we hope most in the return of our Savior. We are a holy priesthood meant to grow by the Spirit in displaying the holy character of God. We are a holy priesthood meant to show that we fear God more than we fear anything else. We are a holy priesthood meant to show that we are part of a new family by the way we love one another, even when we have differences. We are a holy priesthood meant to show mercy because we are a people that has received mercy. We are a holy priesthood meant to proclaim the excellencies of God in the way we love each other, parent our kids, live out our marriages, live out our singleness, do all of our work, spend all of our money, use all of our time, and walk through all of our suffering. 

All of life is liturgy. Every moment of the Christian life has infinite purpose and significance in enjoying and reflecting the goodness of Jesus Christ. Your life should feel thrilling. 

All of life is meant to display the worth of God. None of us can do it on our own—we’re being arranged into this spiritual house. None of us can do it in our own power—God’s presence is with us, and we access to him in prayer. None of is more or less important—you have a place in this house and a sphere of influence to display the worth of Jesus.

What will unite us as a people in all of our differences, whether that be ethnicity or economics or politics or whatever? Jesus. What is our foundation in these uncertain times? Jesus. What is our purpose in all of life? To live lives that make Jesus look as precious as he really is and to pray that others would see him, come to him with us, and be brought into this spiritual house as living stones reconciled to God—living lives of worship to God themselves.

Sermon Discussion Questions

Outline

Introduction: A New Foundation

  1. A New Person
  2. A New People

Application: A New Purpose

Discussion Questions

  • What does it mean that Jesus is the cornerstone? How should that encourage our shaky hearts? 
  • How is our identity defined by our relationship to Jesus? How does God view us? How will the world view us? 
  • How is our identity defined by our relationship to our blood-bought family? How is God arranging us? 
  • What is our new purpose individually and as a people?
  • How is Jesus the beginning and the end of all that God is doing in us and through us as a blood-bought people? 
  • What is one step of obedience this word is calling you to take? 
  • What is one area of sin that you can repent of? 
  • What is one truth that your heart can rest in? 

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