A Different Kind of Life

A Different Kind of Life

1 Peter 2:9-12


Well, it’s no secret that I am a HUGE college football fan. Actually, I’m a huge football fan. On Friday nights you’ll find me at Thirlby Field cheering on the Trojans. And on Saturday and Sunday afternoons I’m glued to the TV in our living room watching my beloved Buckeyes and Bengals.


Back in 2011, on Saturday November 5th, University of Tennessee freshman Derrick Brodus was lying on the couch at his fraternity on Saturday night, waiting for the Tennessee Volunteers college football game to start at 7 P.M. Less than an hour before kickoff, Derrick fumbled for his cell phone as it began to ring. Imagine his surprise as the voice on the other end told him the coach was sending a police escort to get him to the stadium immediately.


“I thought it was a dream,” Derrick said. “I was just lying on my couch relaxing, and I answer my phone, and they just tell me that I need to come to the stadium as soon as possible.” Just minutes before that call, Tennessee backup kicker Chip Rhome pulled a muscle during pregame warm-ups. Starting kicker Michael Pardy was already out, injured in Thursday’s practice. It was one hour before kickoff, and the Volunteers were out of kickers.


Derrick, a freshman, had tried out as a placekicker when he enrolled at Tennessee, but never made the team. But on that Saturday Derrick emerged as the Vols’ only option. Then coach Derek Dooley told the press, “I said, ‘Let’s get an APB out on Brodus. It’s a good thing he wasn’t [intoxicated]. Get him. Just get him here. Give him a Breathalyzer.’ Fortunately he didn’t do anything bad.” Minutes after Derrick hung up his phone, the police escort arrived at the fraternity to rush him to the stadium. The team’s trainer stretched him in the locker room while he put on his pads and a jersey that didn’t even have his name on the back.


Early in the game, Derrick was called into duty, and he quickly made the most of his opportunity. Derrick made all three of his extra points, and he kicked a 21-yard field goal at the end of the first half. His team won 24-0. Back in the locker room after the final whistle, the kicker who began the evening lying on the couch with a bag of chips was celebrated as the hero. The team cheered as Coach Dooley gave Derrick the game ball.


Talk about a change of scenery! To go, in a matter of less than 4 hours from being a college kicker wannabe sitting on the couch in the frat house waiting for the game to start to sitting in the locker room wearing a Tennessee uniform getting the game ball from the head coach, having made every kick asked of him that night. He probably didn’t even have time to get nervous! He walks out on the field and the coach says, here’s a tee, here’s a ball, go kickoff.[i]


That’s the kind of transformation that happens to us when we place our faith in Christ. We go from being eternal life wannabes, sitting on the couch waiting for the game to start, hoping that someday someone thinks we’re good enough, to full-fledged members of the winning team. The Bible uses lots of different images to paint a picture of that truth. We go from being dead in our sin to alive in Christ. From spiritual homeless vagrants to members of the family of God, the body of Christ. From citizens of darkness to citizens of light, citizens of the kingdom of God. But because this world, the entire cosmos really, is in chaotic rebellion against God, the new lives we begin to live when we become citizens of God’s kingdom here on earth look really different to everyone else. It’s like everyone is going one way, and all of a sudden we’re going the other way, going against the flow, swimming upstream, against the current. And that isn’t always an easy way to live. It can be really frustrating and annoying to other people. But the truth is, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, those who follow Christ are called by God into a different kind of life. Turn with me to 1 Peter 2.


The passage we’re looking at begins in V. 9, but right before that, in Vv. 7-8, Peter describes the condition of those who are going WITH the flow of this world. He’s quoting from Psalm 118 here, saying that the “stone that the builders rejected,” the stone the refused to look at, the stone they decided wasn’t good enough, is now the cornerstone of the building God is building. And that rejected stone is Jesus, the Christ. God is building his kingdom, on earth and in the one to come, on the foundation of Jesus Christ. But this world rejects him, and so to them he’s a rock they trip over. They’re offended by him.


And then he hints that everyone who follows Christ was once in the same boat. V. 9 begins with the words, “But you …” He’s drawing a distinction. He’s saying, but you aren’t like that. Not anymore. Once you were. You aren’t better. You aren’t more valuable. You aren’t more loved. God’s heart beats with passion for every person who goes WITH the flow of the world and AGAINST his design for his creation, for everyone who refuses a relationship with him, who denies he even exists. Once you were doing exactly the same thing. But not anymore. Not now. Now you have a new IDENTITY, and new HOME, and a new LIFE. Now, you are … READ Vv. 9-10.


Peter uses 3 images to describe our new identity. The first is “chosen people.” A few verses earlier, in V. 4, he describes Christ himself as being chosen by God. And now, as followers of Christ, so are we. To be chosen is to be precious. To be loved. To have a high value placed on you.


The words Peter uses are all plural words. He isn’t talking about us as individuals here. He’s talking about us joined together as the body of Christ. He’s talking about the church. We live in a time in which it is incredibly popular to criticize the church, the body of Christ. People love to point out the places where we’ve gotten things wrong, where we’ve made mistakes. Not just as individuals, but as the people of God. Criticism of the church has come from the outside since Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came in permanence and the church as the body of Christ was born. But now it’s becoming more and more popular to be incredibly, deeply critical of the church from the inside. We’ve been talking about how our area, the Traverse City – Cadillac corridor, this kind of northwest corner of lower Michigan, is among the nation’s leaders in the numbers of people who are “de-churched.” People who used to be a part of the church, but no longer are. Some have certainly turned their backs on God too, but many really haven’t. They’re trying to live spiritual lives, even godly lives, separated from the church, from the body of Christ. Some, because they’ve been hurt in the church, or by the church, and they need time to heal, and I get that.


But for others, the church is just a dusty old institution, irrelevant, unimportant, and very, very flawed. And yes, we are flawed. The church is a flawed body of Christ, because every member of that body, every part, every cell, is flawed. Is marked by sin. Of course we’re flawed. But every cell is also flowing with the life of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Right now, my finger is alive. There is blood flowing through it, carrying oxygen to the muscles in it, enabling it to move. It is alive because it is connected to my body. If I pull out my pocket knife and cut it off, what will happen to it? It will keep living for a while, and then it will die. Right now, my kidneys are alive. If you take them out and leave them on a table for a year, what will happen? They’ll die, right? But connected to the body, they live.


In Colossians 1:18, St. Paul says, “And he (Christ) is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” We are alive in Christ because we are connected to Christ AS A PART OF THE BODY OF CHRIST. He is the head, and we are the body. So does that mean we cannot worship God away from the church? Of course not!! What it means is that as flawed as the church is, we as followers of Christ cannot maintain our spiritual life and effectiveness apart from the body of Christ. Can you worship God in the woods? Of course. Go for it. But don’t let it replace your time here.


Are we flawed? Yes. Do we make mistakes? Of course. Should we admit our mistakes and seek forgiveness AS THE PEOPLE OF GOD when we mess up. Absolutely. But lets stop all of the church bashing. The Bible uses three primary images of the church – the building of God, the body of Christ, and the bride of Christ. All three communicate the value that God places on his people. He loves the church. He died for her. She is his bride, and he cherishes her. He has chosen her.


The second word Peter uses is “royal priesthood.” We live in a world that has very little royalty and very few priests, so lets unpack this image a little. Royalty is something that cannot be earned, isn’t it. It is something you are either born into or you are not. It is inherited, beyond our natural abilities to attain. You can’t earn royalty. And priests were those who stood between God and humanity. They, and they alone, had special access to God. They could go into places in the temple that others couldn’t. When you place your faith in Christ, you undergo an immediate transformation from common peasant to royal priest. And that isn’t meant to inflate your ego, to make you arrogant, but to provide comfort, because what it really means is that you, now, as a follower of Christ, a citizen of the kingdom of God, have the privilege of direct access to God.


Thirdly, Peter says we are a holy nation. And the emphasis here isn’t on moral holiness, although that is an included concept. The emphasis is on holiness in the sense of being set apart. We are God’s own people. Look at V. 10. All three of these images – chosen people, royal priesthood, and holy nation, are Old Testament titles for Israel. In Exodus 19:5-6 God through Moses says to the people of Israel, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” And in Isaiah 43:20-21 God through the prophet Isaiah says “The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.” Now Peter applies these images not to those who are by ancestry or adoption Jewish, but to those who follow Christ and have placed their faith, their trust, in him. Pretty incredible words from the heart of Peter, a passionate, uneducated Jew by birth, a fisherman who couldn’t bring himself to eat with non-Jewish Christians after being criticized for trying to do it. But then again, he’s growing into his new identity and living a different kind of life, and it’s showing.


And our job as a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation is what? To proclaim the excellencies of God. To announce God’s glorious deeds – his divine power and mighty acts. The might of God as creator, the love of God as redeemer. Do other people look at us and say, “Wow, they worship a loving God?” Do they look at us and say, “Wow, they worship a MIGHTY God?” We LIVE as people of God in the world. We TALK about what God is doing in our lives. But we DON’T force other people to agree us. Our job is not to change our culture, our environment. Our job is to live differently than the world, not to insist that others do the same. Our job is to live lives that serve as an invitation to others to join us on the journey. Our job is to be faithful wherever we find ourselves. That is who we are as the people of God. That is our identity.


We also have a new home. Look at V. 11. We are now sojourners and exiles in this world. In other words, we don’t belong here anymore. Our homeland, our home culture, is now somewhere else. The Kingdom of God has become our home culture, and our life is to fit that place, the place we are headed to. But in this world, we do not fit in. That doesn’t mean our styles of worship and being the body of Christ don’t have cultural expression. That doesn’t mean that the form of our worship isn’t culturally appropriate. This isn’t about forms and structures. It’s about the content, the focus. For those of us who are now citizens of the Kingdom of God, our focus is no longer the ego, the self and self-centeredness. It is no longer in attaining wealth for the sake of attaining wealth. Our focus is no longer attaining power and influence, making a name for ourselves. Our focus has become Christ, and making a name for him.


We have a new identity, a new home, and a new life. Look at the rest of V. 11 and V. 12. Abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. A lot of people focus on the words passion and flesh and think that Peter is talking about sexual sin and sexual self-control. There was a group of Christians in Kentucky called the Shakers. They were in many ways very similar to Mennonites, even the Amish, but they also forbade sex. So the only way they could grow was through conversion. And “Come with us and never have sex again, even with your spouse” isn’t a great motto. They didn’t last long, but you can still go to Shakertown south of Lexington and see how they lived. Peter is actually talking about the self-centeredness of humanity here. He’s talking about the control sin has over us and the role it plays in our lives. He’s talking about sin fighting to take control of the self, and the power of Christ flowing through you as a follower of Christ to resist that. He’s talking about living a good life. A moral life. Not in order to be saved but BECAUSE YOU ARE SAVED. But he also recognizes our inability to completely overcome sin in this life. His point is that we should live in such a way that even those who oppose us have to say “They do a lot of really good things.”


In our generation movie theater lobbies are plain but necessary entrances. They are a place where you deposit your ticket or purchase your popcorn, candy, and beverage.


But in the hard days of the Great Depression, the lobbies of show palaces were places of awe-inspiring beauty. (See the images for The Los Angeles Theater, built between 1911-1931 and the Paramount Theater in Seattle, Washington, built in 1928.) The typical lobby was a feast for the eyes because it was designed to offer a transition from the grind of daily life. Theater architects wanted moviegoers to feel a sense of anticipation for what was coming next. Vaulted ceilings, museum-worthy art, lush tapestries, beautiful fixtures, and uniformed ushers gave customers a sneak-peak at what they could expect once they entered the theater itself. During the Depression era movie tickets cost about 27 cents apiece. That wasn’t cheap for those times, but movies offered Americans a chance to escape loneliness and fear, bringing strangers together for a moment of beauty and hope.


The body of Christ [or our worship services, or works of art and beauty] is a lot like those classic theaters. God has called us to give the world a preliminary picture of another world—not an imaginary film world, but a real world filled with God’s glory. We help people get excited about God’s kingdom and our heavenly home. Even in our sin and brokenness, we’re called to model a way of life that is different from the world around us. Our love, our hope, our forgiveness should offer the world the beautiful alternative of life with Christ.[ii] As followers of Christ, we are called to a different kind of life, and upside down life, an overcoming life. We have been given a new identity. We have a new home. And we are to live new lives as citizens of the kingdom of God.





[i] Graham Watson, “Tennessee grabs last-second kicker off his frat house couch,” Yahoo Sports (11-8-11)

[ii] Greg Asimakoupoulos, Mercer Island, Washington