Post Author: Tim Chilvers

Tim Chilvers is the Senior Pastor at Riverside Church.
September 6, 2020
Strange New World – Session 1: Strange New World

Teaching Series Introduction:

It’s a strange new world. When the world is all topsy-turvy, what difference does Jesus make in our lives? From the book of 1 Peter, we will rediscover the importance of being ‘strangers’ with purpose who make a difference in our world, all because Jesus first came to bring blessing and hope to us.

Session 1

Title: Strange New World
By: Tim Chilvers
Date: 6 September 2020 (Online Service)
Bible Passages:

1 Peter (Chapter 1, verses 1-2 & Chapter 2, verse 12)


How we see our purpose changes how we live. As we discover we’re ‘chosen’ by God & living as ‘foreigners’, we are able to see huge value in purpose in life, and live in a light way that helps us be a blessing to everyone.

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Hi there, it’s a really strange time at the moment, isn’t it? Certainly some things are beginning to get back to some sort of normality aren’t they? Schools are restarting. For some people are physically now gone back to their workplace. Others of course, still working from home. But others you’re able to begin to connect with people in a new way, whilst keeping socially distanced, you can have people in your garden or in your house in some degree. There’s a sense that things are beginning to get back to normal, but yet we all know it’s not. It’s still really strange when you bump into people in the streets. That’s the thing that people keep saying. Weird times aren’t they? Strange times. How do we live in a strange new world? Because it’s becoming pretty clear that this sort of reality is going to be the case for quite a while.

Yeah, things might change. But until a vaccine is around, we’re going to have a degree of social distancing and lockdowns and all of this. How do we live in a strange new world? Well, today we’re beginning a new series here at Riverside, where we’re going to think about a book of the Bible in the New Testament called 1 Peter. It’s a letter written by Peter to some Christians in what we now know as Greece and Turkey and their world was really strange too, for very different reasons, not because of a pandemic. But the letter is all about how do you live when things aren’t the kind of ideal circumstances? And there’s two really important things for us in the very opening words that we’ve just had read. Let me read them again. So 1 Peter 1:1, here it is. “To God’s elect exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatians.”

There’s two words there. God’s elect and exiles. Though I think if we can get our heads around those two words, it really changes how we live now. Because I think for many of us this time now has been a sort of paralyzing or crippling time when we’re not quite sure how to live, how to move forwards, what the future is going to look like. We’re sort of almost in limbo a bit. And those two words, God’s elect and exiles, change everything. So what do they mean? Well, the firstly Peter calls these followers of Jesus elect. Well, if you want to know what that means, just read on in verse two, who have been chosen. That’s all it means, isn’t it?

When we have an election, we choose who our Prime Minister will be. In America at the moment, of course, there’s this frantic crazy, bonkers it seems, election campaign, all about electing the new president. It’s choosing isn’t it? And so when this says God’s elect, what Peter is saying to these followers of Jesus, is that God has chosen you. And I think that is stunning because in this time where we’re not quite sure how to move forward and we’re not quite sure what life is going to look like, it can be a sort of time where we’re in limbo and we’re not quite sure if we can make a difference and if our lives really count, it shows us how God sees us. God’s chosen you. Now, that’s incredible.

I remember when I was a young child in primary school and the head teacher chose me to take a cup of tea to another teacher. Looking back now, it was pretty crazy. You shouldn’t ask a young child to take a boiling hot cup of tea. But I felt really special because the head teacher had chosen me, given me the task of doing something really important, taking this tea in a yellow mug to a teacher. Wow. And of course it’s a stupid example, but it gives us a little snapshot of when Peter says God’s elect that God has chosen his followers. It’s the reason why he’s chosen that’s really important.

Let me explain. Right at the beginning of the Bible, there’s a guy called Abraham. You may have heard of him. He was somebody who, God made a promise to him. Let me read to you the promise that God made to him. Genesis chapter 12, “I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you. I will make your name great.” That’s God’s chosen him, god’s taken this man Abraham and says he wants to bless him. I’ll make your name great. In other words, I’ll give you loads of descendants. Great. But it’s the next bit that changes everything. “I’ll make your name great. And you will be a blessing.” So God chooses is not to make Abraham feel all hunky-dory because yay. But it’s because God has chosen to bless, to give good things, so that he will then be a blessing. In fact, Genesis 12:3 says, makes it clear about who those will be blessed. “I will bless those who bless you, whoever curses you I’ll curse you. And all people on earth will be blessed through you.”

So when Peter calls these followers of Jesus elect, or God’s chosen people, they would have known instantly that when God chooses it’s for a purpose. And I think that changes how we see now, because in this crazy bonkers time, God’s got something for you and for me really important. He’s got the equivalent of a nice cup of tea to deliver to somebody. There’s a task. Even you with your world right now, unique you, God’s got something for you. And so therefore in your street, amongst your neighbors, maybe that WhatsApp group that you’ve got into over lockdown. In your workplace, as people begin to connect back at school with mates that you haven’t seen for a while, with family members, that you’ve been a bit fed up of those number of Zoom calls that you’ve had to do, there’s something, a unique role or unique place for you. You really matter. Your life counts. That’s the first really important thing.

But the second word that Peter uses is another word beginning with E he calls them exiles. It’s a strange word. It simply means foreigner, they’re not living at home. And it’s clear from these verses that they’re scattered at different places, Pontus, Galatia, and so on and so on. What Peter is saying is you might live in these places. You might live in Birmingham or wherever we live, but even there, that’s not your real home, your home now, where your heart is, is all tied up with what Jesus has done. Let me read to you verse 2. So after saying they’re elect and exhales and they’re scattered, he says, verse 2, “Who’ve been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” that’s what we’ve just said, “through the sanctifying work of the spirit.”

In other words, God is at work in you changing you. So your circumstances are not just your circumstances. God is at work even in them changing you. That’s what the word sanctifying means, making holy. Why? To be obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood. In other words, where you live right now matters because there’s an opportunity to follow Jesus there to be obedient to Jesus. But it’s not just about what you do. No. You’re sprinkled with his blood. It’s remembering what he has done for you. And so therefore in where we live right now, whether our circumstances are what we want them to be, where the home is where our heart is, or whether we’re feeling all topsy turvy, there is grace and peace in abundance for you.

And so therefore we don’t settle down in the same way that other people might settle down. This world is not my home. And it’s been a strange time, hasn’t it? That somebody likened this time in lockdown to be staying in a hotel, where we’re temporarily staying somewhere, but we know this is not our destination. But it seems that at the moment as we kind of pause here and restrictions stay fairly similar, maybe we need to begin to realize right now is we have an opportunity to make a difference. Yes, this is not where we belong. Yes, this is not where we want to be, but actually there’s a real opportunity to make a difference. God has called you now.

And so what might that look like? Well, he explains it in chapter 2. And this is if you like a key summary verse, a kind of verse that summarizes what Peter wants to say to them. Verse 12, “Live such good lives among the unbelievers that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” What he’s simply saying is where you are, whether your circumstances are what you would like them to be, live such good lives that really are noticeable. I remember a few years ago, there was this time where I was in the city center and there was this guy clearly had a bit too much to drink clearly struggling a bit and basically tripped up some steps and kind of hadn’t seriously hurt himself. It was just all a bit not sure kind of where he was and all of that. So I always simply went over and sat with them and said, “You all right, mate?” And he said, “I just feel a bit dazed.” And I said, “Do you want me, should I call an ambulance?”

“No, no, I’m fine. I’m just, I just need to sit down.” So I sat with him for a few minutes and then he said, “Why are you doing this?” And I was quite taken back by it. I said, “Oh,” I said, “I wanted to help you.” He said, “Yeah, but nobody else is.” And so I suddenly said, “Well, I’m a Christian. And so therefore I think it’s good to look after people.” And in that moment, what was interesting to me is I … What I did was nothing. Anyone would have done it, but what was noticeable is I had done something that he had noticed. And there’s an opportunity, therefore, for all of us in this time of limbo to make a difference. And I want to suggest we can do that in three ways, all beginning with the letter A like a AAA battery, we can give daily attention, do a weekly act, and a monthly ask. Daily attention, weekly act, monthly ask.

So daily attention. Who is there in your world, the relationships that you have, a colleague, a friend, a mate at school, a family member who is there, who in your world that you can give daily attention to that relationship? Maybe put a note in your phone every day at 10:00 to pray for that person or every day at 4:00 to send them a text or whatever it might be, but just to think about them. And then the other bit of daily attention is not just to that relationship, give daily attention to your relationship with God, spending time in the Bible, really getting to grips of what he’s done for you, and then praying to him about that person giving daily attention before God for that person. So that’s the first thing.

But then the second thing is then in a weekly act, having given that daily attention, maybe there’s an opportunity to do a weekly act of some sort, write a letter, send a card, give a gift, send some flowers, buy a pint. Whatever it is, a weekly act of some sort to bless that person, because you’re called to be a blessing. And weekly act.

As you give daily attention and you do a weekly act, then there’s an opportunity to then also have a monthly ask. An invitation of some sort, whether it be invite them out for a meal, invite them around your house or your garden, or invite them out for a walk or invite them to look in and watch church, or invite them to Alpha or some sort of conversation, a monthly ask. And the hope and prayer is that as we do those things, as we simply want to be a blessing to the person they might notice, and they might notice the good deeds that we’ve done. And as a result, want to know why, and maybe we’d have an opportunity therefore, to show something and explain something of what Jesus has done for us.

So I’m going to pray for us asking that as we begin a new term and as kind of life begins to change a bit, that God would use us and the good deeds we do to glorify him. Let’s pray.

Father, we thank you. Thank you that you have called us and chosen us. And we want to live as light footed as it were as foreign, as not settling down, but wanting to be used by you for your glory. So Lord, change us and use us we pray that others might see the good deeds we do. And praise you. And we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Study Questions

  1. One day a friend says to you, ‘Christians are a bit strange aren’t they?’ What would you say?

  2. Read 1 Peter 1:1-2. What strikes you about these verses? If you had to summarise it in a sentence, what would you say?

  3. Peter refers to these followers of Jesus as ‘elect’ (some translations use ‘chosen’). As you Read Genesis 12:1-3, you will see that whenever God ‘chooses’ someone, it is for a specific purpose. What is this purpose, and how does it change the way you see your life?

  4. Peter also calls them ‘exiles’ or ‘foreigners’. How does being a foreigner in a country change the way you life? What might Peter mean by referring to Christians as ‘exiles/foreigners’? How is that reflected in your life?

  5. 1 Peter 2:12 is a great summary of the kind of lives that Christians can live. Think of some examples of what that might look like in your life.

  6. Think of a particular person who isn’t a follower of Jesus, that you would love for them to experience God’s blessing in their lives. Why not commit to the following:
    • Daily Attention – to both God and praying for that person
    • Weekly Act – how can you actively do a ‘good deed’ for that person every week?
    • Monthly Ask – how can you invite them to something in such a way that they might experience Gods blessing?
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