Post Author: Tim Chilvers

Tim Chilvers is the Senior Pastor at Riverside Church.
September 20, 2020
Strange New World – Session 3: Being Strange

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 3

Title: Being Strange
By: Tim Chilvers
Date: 20 September 2020 (Online Service)
Bible Passages:

1 Peter (Chapter 1, verses 13 to Chapter 2, verse 3)


Because there is always hope for followers of Jesus, it changes our attitude to life. We live differently…not settling for the same patterns & ambitions as everyone. Instead, we’re set apart to live for, and love, others.

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I’m here in the cellar of Riverside house. It’s a fascinating place with a lot of cobwebs. All sorts of bits of kit, old tents, things that we haven’t used for a few years, other things that we still use, a mixture of different things that no doubt we’ve all got in our lives, whether we’ve got a cellar or a place in the attic or a box under our bed, things that point back to days gone by. I mean, here, there’s some fascinating things, some random sort of figures. Look at these, found these amazing shoes. Don’t know who these belong to or where they wore them. Quite impressive though. Or look at this, I even found a vintage edition of ‘Riverside Small Group Leaders Workbook’ that’s 20 years old! The Autumn 2000 edition. Or even look at this, a mannequin with a slightly patched-up head.

Life, gone by. And during lockdown, I think one of the questions that many of us have been asking is, is life going to go back to how it was or is there now going to be a new normal? And many of us, if we’re honest, long for life to be different from how it was, we don’t want to go back to how it was. We need there to be a new normal. And of course, what’s true during lockdown is really true of the even bigger questions of life. And that’s what Peter is talking about in the passage in the Bible that we’ve just heard read, as he writes to a group of Christians 2000 years ago in which he contrasts two kind of lives. The lives they used to live and the life they’re called to live. And he basically is posing a question for them and a question for us today, what kind of life do you want?

And there’s two particular things he focuses on. Firstly, do we want the life that is same old, same old or a life that is daringly different? Listen to how Peter describes their old life. This is what he says in verse 18. He calls it an empty life that you inherited from your ancestors. Not great words, they used to live in an empty way. What was it that would’ve made them so empty then? Well he says in verse 14, because they were living to satisfy your own desires. There was something about the way they were living, which was just for themselves, doing what they wanted to do whenever they wanted to do it with whoever they wanted to do it. Living for their own desires, that they thought would be fulfilling but actually was just an empty life. And it was the kind of life that they’d lived and their parents and their parents and their grandparents and so on had lived handed down without questioning, just carried on doing it, leading to emptiness.

And I guess many of us know that to be true, that there’s times in our lives, where we’ve lived for ourselves, and after a temporary fix, deep down, just leaves us empty. I’ve got a good friend of mine who used to have it all. He had the Porsche, he had the swimming pool, he had quite a lot of money, had a beautiful partner and yet he knew deep down, there was an emptiness despite having all that the world wanted to offer him. And so one day, he had his life totally changed upside down and he had never looked back. Why, `because he had an encounter with God.

Because that’s the contrast. There’s the same old, same old, the same kind of life that everyone lives of living just for themselves that leads to emptiness or there’s a different life. Let me write it, describe it to you as Peter says. He says, live as God’s obedient children. There’s a relationship on offer as children with your heavenly father, that intimate, beautiful relationship with a good, perfect father. And so therefore, they want to live for him. And what does that life look like? Well he describes it, living in reverent fear of him during your time as temporary residents. In other words, not living for this world, but living for your father.

That’s the first offer. The kind of life that just leads to emptiness or a life that is daringly different living for God, who is your father, who knows what you need, knows you, created you, has good things in store for you. And he calls these followers of Jesus to live Holy lives. Now that word, Holy is a bit of a rap, bad rep. It sort of seems holier than thou. All it means is set apart, different being like your father in a world that is not daringly different so that people see your life and notice a difference. Do you want your life just to fit in like everybody else or do you want to be daringly different? That’s the opportunity. Same old, same old leading to emptiness or daringly different?

But it’s not just life now that is the contrast that Peter says, because this friend of mine who had this encounter with God, he wouldn’t give up everything he had for what he’s now got. Because now what he’s got is not just peace, not just grace in his life, but he’s now got hope for the future. Whatever the circumstances he’s full of hope because he knows he has a father that has a future for him that will last. And that’s the contrast that Peter says is basically a contrast between a future that just fades away or a future that really lasts. Listen to how Peter describes the future that fades away, he reminds us, he says, in verse 24, people are like grass their beauty is like a flower in the field, the grass withers and the flower fades.

It’s a vivid picture isn’t it of flowers and grass that’s there. And then the next minute it’s just died and gone. And he says, human life is like that. And of course, during lockdown don’t we know that to be true as our frail bodies, some still grappling with the effects of coronavirus, some still grieving a future that is not permanent. I was reminded of this recently as a friend texted me out of the blue and he texted me a photo. It was his wedding anniversary, 21st wedding anniversary and he and his wife were watching their wedding video. And on this wedding video, I was on it because I was one of the ushers and so he took a little screenshot on his phone and texted it through to me and there in front of me on my phone was this picture of a 22 year old, 21 years ago, young man. Here is the picture. Now, that’s quite a difference I think you’ll agree. I don’t know how skinny I was.

And I guess we all have had that experience or if we haven’t yet, one day we will, where we look in the mirror and we realize, boy, I’ve changed. And that’s the human experience. Youth does not last. Our bodies do fade. Our beauty does change. As Peter says, the grass withers and the flower fades. And Peter’s laying up a contrast, do we want a life living for ourself that just leads to emptiness and eventually just withering and fading away? Or, there is an amazing alternative. Let me read to you. He says, verse 23, for you’ve been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end your new life will last forever. Wow!

Not a future that fades, but a life forever with our father. That’s incredible. And of course the question is, how do we know that’s true? How do we know this is not just some wishful thinking to make us feel better in tricky times? Or how do we know this is not some religion to try and control us to live good lives? Well, he says how we know, it’s not because this is a belief system it’s because something’s happened that’s changed everything. Verse 21, through Christ you’ve come to trust in God and you’ve placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. There’s an event in history where Jesus died and then beat death. And because he beat death, those who trust in him to get them through death, have that same hope for us, not a future that will fade away like the grass in the field, but a future forever with our heavenly father. That’s good news.

So friends, what kind of life do we want? A life just for ourselves that we know leads to emptiness and eventually just fades away or a life with our father, living for him in the way he’s called us to live with a future that is glorious and full of hope. And I guess for some of us right now watching this, we don’t know God is our father. And there’s an opportunity even today for you to say, yes, I want that. I trust in you, Lord Jesus. And for others of us, we would say, yes, we are able to call him father. We are a follower of Jesus and yet we look back to that kind of living that old way and with sort of rose tinted glasses and we kind of flirt with it and long to go back. And there’s just that reminder, as Peter says, don’t slip back into your old ways because that’s a life that just leads to emptiness. Come, walk with your father into a future of great glory and real hope. That’s good news.

So I’m going to pray for us. And as we pray, wherever you are, you may find it helpful to close your eyes and be still. And I’m going to pray that God by his spirit would give us that sense of him as our father, knowing us, loving us, calling us onwards with him to that glorious future. Let’s pray together.

And in the stillness, if you’re somebody that you know, you’ve never thought of God as your father and yet, you’ve this morning had this awareness that Jesus died for you and there is hope beyond that. You may like to simply say, God, I’m sorry. I trust in you, Jesus. I want to cling onto you for my future. And for others of us right now, you might like to simply say, God, I don’t want to slip back, I don’t want to just live for myself. I want to be Holy as you are Holy. I want to be daringly different, stepping forward into this future that lasts forever.

Father. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your hope. Right now, would you help us. Help us to see how good you are, that you our father. You a good father and that there’s hope ahead for those who cling on to Jesus. Help us to do just that we pray in Jesus Name. Amen.

Study Questions

  1. Do you want life to go back to ’normal’ after Coronavirus? Why/why not?

  2. Read 1 Peter 1:13-2:3. Peter is urging these Christians not to return to their old way of life (v14). Throughout these verses, how does he describe their former way of life? Do Peters words shock you?

  3. In comparison with this old way of life, how does Peter describe their new life? How do the costs and benefits of the two lives compare?

  4. When you think of the word ‘holy’, what images does it evoke for you? What does it mean according to this passage do you think?

  5. According to v22-2:3, what are the consequences of what Jesus has achieved in verses 18-21? Why do you think that is?

  6. Take some time praying for each other, that God would help you to live in the light of what he has done for you.
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