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The Kingdom of God Through the Church




       

PRINCETON CHRISTIAN CHURCH

 

1 PETER 2:1-12                                                                                        01 JUNE 2024

                     

 

When you hear the word “kingdom,” what comes to mind?

 

You may think of armies conquering everything in their path so they can plant flags and reshape maps – conquering desirable land for their own benefit.

 

Yet Jesus came to announce His own kingdom, and He created the church to display His Kingdom; He created His church to populate and grow His kingdom.

 

If we’re going to understand this heavenly kingdom He came to bring, we’re going to have to unlearn quite a few things about kingdoms.

 

What does it look like to display Jesus’ kingdom through the church?

 

It means that we live as if Jesus is our king.

 

Earthly kingdoms lack the positive elements of the heavenly kingdom inhabited by our Lord, Jesus Christ.

 

The story of the birth and growth of the heavenly kingdom is the best news the world has ever been given.

 

That news is this: JESUS IS KING!

 

The church is a bunch of kingdom people, and we invite others to connect with God and become kingdom people, too.

 

The New Testament phrase that best describes how we are kingdom people who work to connect others to God is “royal priesthood.”

 

“Royal” means we are related to the King. “Priesthood” means we connect people to God.

 

QUESTIONS: How did we become kingdom people who connect others with God?

How did the church become a “royal priesthood”?

 

It’s a fascinating story told by Peter in 1 Peter 2. The story involves 3 oxymorons:

 

 

Oxymorons

ILLUSTRATION: Oxymoron literally means “dull sharp.” An oxymoron is two words that contradict each other. For example: pretty ugly, act naturally, Civil War, plastic glasses, jumbo shrimp, Government Organization, nonstick glue, reality TV, Microsoft Works, and soft rock.

 

Again, in 1 Peter 2, Peter gives us 3 oxymorons, all of which help us understand the strangely inviting kingdom of Jesus, which we display through the church.


 

Oxymoron #1 – Living Stone

 

Stones are about as unliving as something can be. Yet Peter describes a “living stone.” It is “living” because it is a person (Jesus). It’s a “stone” because it is used to build with.

 

1 Peter 2:4-8 –…the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God…the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…”

 

Let’s say you’re a 7-year-old building a castle out of Legos, and your 3-year-old brother wants to help. He’s got some Duplo blocks (the big blocks for younger kids) he wants to use. Let’s say you reply angrily, “No, this is my castle! That doesn’t go on here!” You grab his Duplo blocks and throw them down on the floor.

 

Similarly, Jesus shows up in the Roman Empire. When he grows in popularity, the Roman Empire responds:

“No, that’s not going to work.

We’re trying to build an empire here.

You don't build an empire with grace and truth.

You don’t build an empire with “Love your neighbor.”

Because Jesus doesn’t fit what they’re building, the empire takes this “living stone” and throws him out. The empire crucifies him.

 

Think back to Duplos. Duplos are big enough that if you’re going to use them, you might as well start over, lay the Duplos down first, and then bring in Legos to fit around them.


Similarly,

Jesus is a really big living stone. If you’re going to bring Jesus into what you’re building, you might as well knock out the walls and start over.

 

You either throw Jesus aside or start over with Him as the foundation. He is the foundation. He is the Cornerstone.

 

If you’re already building something, it’s really hard to put in a new cornerstone because that would mess everything up.

 

If Jesus is part of your building, your life, your empire, or whatever, he’s got to be the cornerstone.

 

 

Oxymoron #2 – Discarded Deity

 

God comes in the flesh. The world looks at him. The world looks at what it’s building. And the world throws him away.

 

This is the “discarded deity.” God is in the garbage pile. Throwing away God.

 

This goes for the Pharisees who are building their religious resumes.

 

The Sadducees who are building their temple business.

 

The Romans who are building an empire.

 

In every case, Jesus either becomes the Cornerstone -- and you start over and rearrange what you’re building around Him), or you throw Him out.

 

That is what the world did then. That is what the world does today. The world chooses to reject the Cornerstone…He becomes the stone the builders rejected…”


1 Peter 2:4-5 READ

 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. 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. For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone,And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “The stone which the builders rejected,This became the very corner stone,” and, “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

John 1:11 – “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”

 

Jesus is rejected—just like the audience Peter is writing to! This string of small, seemingly insignificant churches in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) was made up of the following kinds of people:

 

  • Persecuted (1 Peter 1:6 ), “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.”

  • Foreign, exiled (1 Peter 1:1; 2:11) “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lust which wage war against the soul.”

  • Some are slaves (1 Peter 2:18)  “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.”

  • Some are women with unbelieving husbands (1 Peter 3:1) “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the Word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.”

 

That takes us to the third oxymoron we want to look at today:


 

Oxymoron #3 – Royal Priesthood

 

These churches Peter is writing to are basically full of people the world has rejected.

 

The world around them has said, “You don’t really fit in very well with what we’re trying to build.

 

You just don’t belong.” And they take these rejects and throw them aside.

 

This works well.

 

This is because, outside the mainstream, there’s a perfect place for them.

Something is being built that they can be a part of.

A few decades before, the world rejected a stone.

They killed it and cast it out.

But He came back alive, which is one reason He is called a “living stone.”

 

The rejects of the world might not feel like there’s much room in the world for people like them. But. There is a perfect place for people like them. Like all of us.

 

That place is being built to last much longer than anything the world has ever built or will build—because God is building it.

God looks at the kind of people the world doesn’t want and says, “I can totally use you.”

 

1 Peter 2:4-5 – “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

 

At times in our day and age, some equipment and materials necessary for building become scarce and have extremely high price tags. And we need them, so if we are going to accomplish what we hoped to accomplish, we pay the price, or we do without.

 

Well, the materials for this new building project we are looking at today aren’t hard for us to come by.

 

In fact, it’s a building made entirely of rejected materials.

 

How impressive could it really be? A building constructed of used materials.

 

The answer to that question is our third oxymoron. A Royal Priesthood

 

 

 

1 Peter 2:9-10 – “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

 

Priests were a special class that had special service to God.

They are not nobodies.

 

Royalty means you are related to the king.

If you’re royalty, you’re not a nobody.

You have worth.

 

If you are part of this building project, you have no idea how important it is. It’s like you’re a “royal priesthood.” You’re not nobody; that’s for sure.

 

QUESTION: Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in well?

Not talented enough? Not likable enough? Not beautiful enough? Not important enough?

 

All those descriptions should give us some confidence that we matter – that we DO fit in.

 

God’s building projects – US – are also known as:

  • the light of the world

  • the salt of the earth

  • a royal priesthood

  • a holy nation

  • and God’s own precious possession

 

There are a lot of labels this world will slap on you:

  • nobody

  • hopeless

  • alone

  • a lower class

  • you're too far gone

 

We need to be reminded of our real identity as part of God’s church:

the people of God, the light of the world, the salt of the earth, a holy nation, a royal priesthood. A beloved son or daughter of God. That’s your identity.

 

The Story of Ken McGarity

 A bazooka rocket had hit the chopper Ken McGarity was on in Vietnam, and he fell out, hit the ground, and lost consciousness. He woke up covered in blood and mud. One leg hung onto the rest of the body by a strip of skin. In the other leg, the femur protruded through the thigh. His arms were fractured, his eyesight was gone, and brain damage was likely. When he was recovered and brought back, the surgeon had a choice to save his life or acknowledge that he was too far gone. The surgeon made his choice and, the next day, got in trouble for it. His commanding officer explained to the surgeon, “Look. Why send blind double-amputees with significant brain damage back to their parents? What were you thinking?” But the surgeon was a Christian, and he felt he should do everything he possibly could to save the man’s life.

 

QUESTION: What call would you have made? It’s a good question—since you have to make similar calls every day.

There are all sorts of people in this world that the world has rejected and would just as soon throw away.

Do you leave them alone and leave them to an unfortunate fate—or do you do what you can to bring them back to life?

 

Whatever other people thought of him, God valued Ken’s life.

Let’s look at his story again back before the rocket hit him.

 

Ken was at home on leave, scared because he didn’t want to die in Vietnam.

He prayed, “God if you are there and will be with me, let me know. Give me a sign.”

He made a deal with God: “You can take my eyes, you can take my arms, my legs, my mind, but leave me my life.”

Fast forward to the explosion. He loses his eyes, breaks his arms, and loses his legs. Ken knew that God had heard his prayer. God wanted him to live.

 

If you know somebody the world has rejected, you can be sure of one thing: God cares about that person.

 

Fast forward 20 years. The surgeon who had saved Ken’s life was now a well-respected doctor.

During an interview, he was asked what the toughest case of his career was. And he recalled the double amputee in Vietnam.

He wondered what had happened to the man.

The interview sparked curiosity, and it turned out that the surgeon who had saved Ken’s life was actually able to contact Ken.

As it turns out, there was no brain damage.

Ken had gone back to high school, graduated, and went on to college.

He learned scuba diving.

He got married and had two daughters.

 

Now What?

 

There are people you know whom the world has rejected. The message they get from the world is that there’s no place they really belong. Do you know what they need?

 

They need you to tell them about this other building project.

They need to hear about the living stone the builders rejected—the Jesus who was rejected just like them.

He takes rejects and turns them into royalty. He takes unwanted stones and builds them into his church.

 

1 Peter 2:9-10 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

 

The church is an assembly of kingdom people who connect other people to God.

In other words, we’re a “royal priesthood”—people related to the king and actively connecting people to him.

 

We live as if Jesus is our king, and so when people see us, they see the kingdom being lived out in our lives.

 

As a royal priesthood, let’s never forget the high-value God has infused us with and the high-value God places on people who don’t know him yet.

 

Let’s live up to our high calling as people who point the world to the best news it’s ever heard: Jesus is king.

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