A People and a Purpose

You belong to a people, and you were designed for purpose.

Well, hello and good morning. The greatest sports organization in American history, the Green Bay Packers. Hey, hey, I'm preaching up here. How rude. How rude of you. The greatest franchise in American sports. The Green Bay Packers have had success at the highest levels. They have won more NFL championship titles, 13, than any other team. That is nine NFL championships and four Super Bowls. That's right. It's very good. They're the only NFL team to also in the AFL NFL championship. If you didn't know their second all time in pro bowlers. And they've even had some recent success with two trips to the NFC championship game. For a photo comparison, here's a slide of all the Vikings championships. Hey, I might get fired for that. It's fun. Thankfully, the board president's a Bears fan. OK, so this past year, though, they had a motto and the motto was one 11th. And when I heard that for the first time, it really struck me as very poetic. There's an economy of language in this little phrase, this idea of one 11th, you know, you're only one of 11. So stay humble. You're one of 11. So stay connected. You're responsible for this part of the play. If you do your job, it's probably going to be successful. You have a role that's specific to you. You need to do that role. People are counting on you. We need each other. All of that is wrapped up in this this very tight little phrase, this idea of 1 11th.

There's responsibility, there's connection, there's team, there's oneness. Have you ever been a part of a great team? You know, maybe it was a team at work that just really crushed it on a project or, you know, maybe it was a sports team that you were a part of, that you feel this real strong connection or maybe it was a choir or a band or a group of sorority sisters or whatever it was. If you've been a part of a team, you know the thrill of that, you know, the feeling of accomplishing something that you couldn't do on your own, that you needed others to help you accomplish that was beyond you. And so today, what I want to examine is this idea that, you know, you are already if you are a follower of Jesus, you are a part of a people, you're a part of a team, a family, a nation. And there's something supernatural that happens among the people of God. And maybe it doesn't always feel like that. Maybe we need to increase our sensitivity and understanding to what this really means in reality. But I think, I think we should feel the weight of that one 11th mentality that we are a part of a whole as the people of God. And if we do, we'll begin to understand as well our purpose. And so you are if you are a follower of Jesus, you are a people and you were built for a purpose.

And that is exactly our bottom line today. You belong to people and you were designed for a purpose. And that is a beautiful and a wonderful thing. So let's explore that together. We heard this passage read, but I'm going to review it in a little bit shorter format. 1 Peter 2, first Peter Chapter two, and I'll be reading from the ESV here. You can follow along on the screen. So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander like newborn infants long for the pure spiritual milk that by it you may grow up into salvation. If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good and then skipping to verse eight - others stumble because they disobey the word as they were destined to do. But you are chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light once you were not a people, but now you are God's people. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. What a passage there's so much to dig into here. It's so exciting to see God speak to us in this way. So let's focus in on verse one. We need to put away malice, deceit, hypocrisy envy and slander. What are these things? You know, these are sicknesses of the heart.

That's what they are at their core. I mean, if you really think about what these things are and further, when Jesus was asked, what's the most important thing, he said, love, loving action. And if we look at this list, we can see very clearly this is the opposite of loving action. So what exactly are these things? Well, malice is this idea kind of tied up with bitterness, resentment, hate. And so the question that we should ask ourselves is, do you feel yourself feeling anger, resentment toward individuals or groups of people? Bitterness maybe? Do you do you feel that in your heart or have you become numb to it? Do you watch the news and it triggers you and makes you angry with a certain group of people or certain individuals? If that's the case, there's a chance that that malice is festering in your heart or maybe deceit. I really like the word deceit because I think sometimes we think that honesty is simply not telling lies. I think it's more than that. I think deceit speaks to not only speaking truth, but making sure that if we don't want to be deceitful, then we want to be the truest version of who we are. We want to be honest in what we present to the world. And a world of social media makes it pretty easy to create deceit, doesn't it? But it's not like that's a new thing either, is it? That's not just a social media problem.

That's a people problem. We try to put forward a version of ourselves that isn't the true, authentic version of ourselves at times. And so I think we try to deceive each other in lots of ways. Maybe that's just one of them. Hypocrisy. You think the church has a problem with hypocrisy ever? I think we might. In fact, landmark study done by the Barna Group in 2007 said that 85 percent of non church people see the church as hypocritical. And it's one of the top three reasons why they're not interested in engaging with the church. I've always wondered if we could do the opposite study, though, like what would Church people think about non church people? I wonder what that percentage would be, because I think there's hypocrisy across the board. I don't think that's a Christian thing. I think that's just a thing thing. I think that's a humanity thing. But I would also agree the church has a hypocrisy problem, too. We see it in ourselves, don't we? I'm a hypocrite. Sometimes you probably are, too. I think hypocrisy is a real heart issue and we need to think deeply about whether or not that's taken root in our heart and in our soul. What about envy? You ever find yourself jealous of what other people have? How about slander? You ever find yourself exaggerating other people's failures just to try to feel better about yourself? If you're a follower of Jesus, these things have no place in your heart.

They have no place in your life. And if indeed we belong to a people and we're built for a purpose, then I think what Peter's trying to declare to us here is he's saying this isn't the way it's supposed to be. This is not the way the family of God is to behave. This is not the way the people of God are supposed to behave. And I agree. It reminds me of my basketball coach growing up. Sometimes he would get so mad, he would know what to do and then he would just yell, that's not Pirate basketball. We were the Bayport Pirates. That's not Pirate basketball, you would say. And it was this idea that there's a standard that we're supposed to be living. There's a way we're supposed to be doing this. Why aren't we doing it that way? And so this is what I think Peter is writing about here. He's saying, look, if you're a follower of Jesus, none of this has a place in your life. That's not the way that it's supposed to be. This isn't the loving action that Jesus was talking about. And so you belong to people and you were designed for a purpose. And these things aren't the way you're supposed to do them. And that's what Peter's reminding us. So I'd actually like to do something a little bit different right now, which is this. I'd like us to take a moment and I'm going to pray and I'm going to let there be a moment of silence here.

And I would like you to personally reflect on these words and ask God to speak to you whether any of these things have taken root in your heart and whether you need to identify that sin and begin to repent for it. So I'm going to pray right now for that. Father God, we pause here in this moment as we are studying your word to ask that you would use your word to work on us, work on our hearts, every single one of us in this room. And Lord, there's a list of things here that in your word, you are declaring to us this is not the way that it's supposed to be. And so, God, in the silence of the next few moments, would you speak to any of us about the sickness of our own heart and whether there's a sin we need to identify and turn away from now?

Amen. OK. So, maybe God spoke to you in that moment, maybe he's going to speak to you later. I don't know, maybe there's something you need to turn from. But here's the beautiful thing about God and his plans. Whenever he identifies a problem, he also helps with a solution. And I think this passage speaks directly to that. If we've revealed a problem, then then we have to know how we're going to fix it. What are we going to do about this? And it's not a it's not a formula.

It's not a simple solution. But I do think there's something here for us. And I think it's right here in verse two. Like newborn infants long for the pure spiritual milk that by it you may grow up into salvation if indeed you've tasted that the Lord is good. Look, if you've tasted what it means to have a relationship with God, then you know, that's the good stuff, isn't it? If you felt that closeness in the spirit with Jesus, then you know what this is talking about. In the metaphor, this is an interesting metaphor, right? Because Paul writes about, you know, don't be immature like a child in your faith or you'll be tossed around by the wind. Right. So it's like, oh, wait, I thought we weren't supposed to be like babies. I didn't think we were supposed to be like children. No, no, no. This is a different metaphor altogether. Don't confuse the two. If you've ever cared for an infant, you know that, you know, babies can't talk, but they can make their opinions known, you know. Right. They can express themselves. And when a baby's hungry and just wants to eat, whether they're using a bottle of their nursing or whatever it is like, they they get the ravenously hungry and they're like, I need food right now. Get me some food. And then and then what you get is this just like ravenous is drinking.

Right? Where they're just like slurping it down with all of their might. And then as parents or as caregivers, we do this thing where we're like, oh, she was so hungry. And we like get excited because she gets it. She gets that she has a problem and it needs a solution in the milk is the answer. And that's how we're supposed to be with God. We're supposed to desire deeply a relationship with him. We're supposed to drink deeply from our time with him in worship and study in prayer, whatever it might look like. We need to crave that relationship with God. Now, babies, I don't think, have to acquire a taste for milk, but maybe we have to acquire a taste for the word. Maybe we have to acquire a taste for worshipping on our own, things like that. You know, there's a lot of things that people can acquire a taste to and maybe that's what's going on here. Maybe that's what Peter's calling us to. He's saying, look, you have this problem. I think what you need is you need to crave a relationship with God more. And I think he's right because you belong to a people and you were designed for a purpose. And part of that purpose is to want a deeper intimacy with Jesus. So maybe, maybe practically for you, that looks like you need to read a verse a day, maybe it means you need to read a chapter a day.

And even sometimes when you don't feel like it, you work on that practice so that you are like an infant who just wants to guzzle that milk down. OK, so skipping down to verse eight, not that the ones in between aren't great. They are. Time is a factor. Others stumble because they disobey the word as they were destined to do so. Part of being a people is that a people is distinct and different from other people. That's part of what it means to be a people. There's a cultural distinction between, you know, us and them or between that group and that group, and that's what it's supposed to be like. The best metaphor I can come up with is this. We have a lot in common with our Canadian neighbors. Like we both have a regional love of hockey. We're both known for over-the-top niceness. You know, we both live in places too cold for humans to actually live, but we do it anyway, you know, I mean, there's a lot of similarities between us and our Canadian neighbors so much that there's a campaign to make Minnesota the 11th province of Canada. I don't know that I would vote for that. But I'm just saying, you know, we have a lot of similarities, but we're not the same, are we? I mean, there are distinct cultural differences between Canadians and Minnesotans. There are differences, to be sure, you know, Tim Hortons versus Dunkin Donuts alone.

I mean, there are different things going on here. Part of what it means to be a people is that we are different. We're different from the others. My pastor growing up used to say something a lot that I thought was very profound. He would say something along the lines of don't carry tension that isn't yours to carry. And I think this verse speaks to that in an interesting way to followers of Jesus. It says that, you know, people are going to stumble and disobey the word because they were destined to do that. And sometimes sometimes I think as followers of Christ, we begin to carry tension that isn't ours to carry because we look at the world and we say, why are they following Jesus? Why aren't they behaving the way that we know Jesus has called us to live? Why are they doing that? Because they were destined not to and because their culture is different than our culture as followers of Jesus. Those are different things they have to be. And so should you, you know, stand up and say that something is false when it's false or say that something is wrong when it's wrong? You should. But should you carry the tension that other people aren't behaving the way that the people of God are supposed to behave if they're not people of God? No, that's not our intention to carry. The people of God are meant to be different, and that's part of what it means to be a part of his people.

And be clear, though, behavior isn't at the core of the cultural difference. It's not just about behavior. It's something deeper. It's about a deeper identity. And that's what verse nine speaks to and it speaks so eloquently to. It says, But you are chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into marvelous light. One of the things I love about this passage is that it doesn't say this is a kind of suggestion I am making for you. No, no, no. It says this is who you are. You already are these things, you are a chosen people. You're a royal priesthood. You are a holy nation. You are God's special possession. OK, so what does that mean? So let's start with chosen people. Followers of Jesus were made for a purpose and they were chosen to fulfill it. So, yeah, again, it means that we're not the same as others. But I think this this form of choosing indicates value. I grew up on the playground playing kickball. You know, the whole class would play - the boys, the girls. It was awesome. I love kickball. One time, Nate Thompson kicked it all the way to the to the swing set. It was amazing. OK, that's a whole other story for another time. But we would line up and pick teams.

And part of what you're doing when you pick somebody is you're saying, I think you bring value to the team. I think you can help me win. If you have been chosen as part of the people of God. God thinks you have value until he calls you home. You still have a purpose. And there are specific things that maybe to you that are specific and there's general things to the people of God. And if you don't know what your purpose is, I've said this to teenagers for years. If you don't know what your specific God ordained purpose is then care for orphans and widows, because we know that that is pure religion. So if you're like, I don't know what God wants me to do, find an orphan, find a widow and take care of them, because we know for sure that that is a good thing to do. So while you're trying to figure out the rest, do that. OK, you got me on my soapbox on that one. Sorry. All right. Next, royal priesthood now. And there's a lot of ways we could think about this. But, you know, the first thing we maybe have to do is deconstruct for a moment. I grew up in a very Catholic community. And so when I hear priest, I automatically think of the guy with the white collar who's a Catholic minister. That is not what this is. So let's remove that from our brains. This is about the temple priests.

And they had a very different kind of role. And in the passage even says that their job was to offer sacrifices. You remember reading about this, that was part of their job, that the people would bring their sin offerings and their their wave offerings and all the different things that they would bring and that the priests would create this important function. They were the bridge, the go between between God and his people. And so if you are a part of the royal priesthood, your job is sort of twofold. It means, number one, you are to serve God ministered to God, serve God. And secondly, you are to minister to to serve people. I mean, that lines up with a lot of things. Jesus said, doesn't it? You serve God and serve people. But you also get the beautiful job of being that go-between, of being that ambassador of Christ to a world that may not know him. What a privilege it is to serve God by telling other people the truth about who he is. It is a beautiful and a wonderful thing, but it's also a big responsibility to be the representative of the kingdom. So we can find joy in that. But we also have to find responsibility in that. You're also a holy nation, that a nation is not just a bunch of individuals, it's a nation. It's connected with a shared identity. And God's people are distinct partially because they're part of a whole that is connected in unity in Christ.

See, nations are typically connected by other factors, by geopolitical factors, by racial factors, by rivers, by linguistic factors, by socioeconomic reasons. These are typically the things that determine a nation. But God's nation of people is a different determination. It has a different kind of border and it transcends all of those categories. The thing that makes the people of God, the people of God, is that they follow the same leader and that leader is Jesus. That's the thing that makes the people of God, the people of God, and friends I hope that allegiance to this nation, the nation of God's people, I hope your allegiance to that nation is greater than the one you live in. I hope you feel more of an affinity with Christ followers who live on a different continent and look different than you and speak a different language with you than you. I hope you feel a greater connection with them than just somebody who happens to live down the road from you because your primary identity is in Christ Jesus and it needs to be more important than your citizenship of any country. Secondly, a holy nation does not mean a perfect one. And praise God for that because I don't know about y'all. I would not qualify for a perfect nation. Right? We all make mistakes sometimes. It can't possibly mean that. Most of the Old Testament is telling us stories about how the nation of Israel failed.

I mean, that's pretty much what the Old Testament is. And most of the New Testament is warnings against how bad the early church was failing. So, you know, it can't it just can't mean that it can't mean perfect people. But I do think that the nation has a holy purpose to serve God and to serve others. And because it's led by a holy leader, Jesus himself. It's not a president or a prime minister or anything else. It's led by God himself. And that's why it's holy. Fifth. Fourth? One two three. Fourth, God's special possession. You're also God's special possession. What does that mean? Well, for one, I think animals are great. I think you should love your dogs and cats and parrots and hamsters and things. They're wonderful. But it's very clear in Genesis, when God created the animals, he was like, those are good. And then he created people. He's like, those are very good. People are more important than animals. I know. I'm sorry. That was a scandalous thing to say, perhaps in some circles circles. But to God you were special among creation, and that's part of what it means to be God's special possession. But further, it means his people, his nation is special to him as well, and if they're special to him, they should be special to you too, shouldn't they? The things that God gets excited about are things that we should get excited about. It has become pretty popular to say things like, oh, I love Jesus, just not the church.

That could be said a lot. And look, if you want to compare church scars at any time, like I'd be happy to, I find that conversation fascinating. I've been hurt very deeply by churches, you know, over time. I mean, the capital C Church, by the people of God, by the organizations that are local churches have been cut pretty deep. And you probably have too at times. It's OK to be hurt. It's OK to have issues, it's OK to critique. It's not OK to not find special, important - as special and important what God finds special and important. We can't reject his people if he says that they're important, so this is who you are: you're a chosen people, you're a royal priesthood, you're a holy nation, you are God's special possession. If you are a follower of Christ, this is who you are. So what I mean, so what? Oh, that's nice. It makes me feel good. I get to leave church feeling better now because somebody said nice things. No, there's a responsibility. It goes deeper, doesn't it? And it's right there in the passage. This is who you are, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Yeah, that's so what? We get to proclaim the Excellencies, all right. So that's kind of a strange phrase we don't use in normal vernacular.

What does that mean? It basically says we should praise him for his goodness. And there's some practical ways that I think we can do that. First, worship, worship. I mean, spend time with God. You can do it individually. You can do it as a family or a small group. You can do it corporately like we've been doing here this morning. Those are all valid and beautiful expressions of worship. In fact, I would recommend having all three in your life at any given time. We should worship. We should make that beautiful holy waste of time where all we're doing - we're not trying to accomplish anything else - all we're doing is basking in our relationship with God and exalting his name and thanking him for what he has done. That's worship. And what we pay attention to is what we worship, isn't it? So we should pay attention to God. The second thing I would say is serve and teach by serving not out of a sense of duty or guilt, but out of a love for your creator or proclaiming his excellencies. And so I just want to make this point. I appreciate movements in the church that have helped us understand our spiritual gifts. I think that's a good thing. Don't hear me wrong, but is one of my spiritual mentors used to say a lot. It's not about your ability. It's about your availability. You know, there's a lot of things people don't feel called to that need to be done in the Kingdom of God.

And maybe it's more important that you show up than that. You're perfectly aligned with your giftings. I think this is especially true in areas of teaching. If there's a void of teaching, somebody better step into that, even if you don't think that's your gifting, because it's extremely important, especially with children. Okay, look, I know, and when I make a case that we need to teach children, it might sound self-serving because of my role, but I would say two things to you. One, because I'm so passionate about this is why I have that role. But two, I don't care where you do it. I mean, sure, we need help in AWANA, Sunday school and all those things. Yeah, fine. I don't care. Proclaim the excellencies, teach children about Jesus, because the best research we have right now says if they don't get it by 12, there's a very small percentage of chance that they will get it at all. It's exceedingly important that we speak the truth about Jesus to our children in a way that they can understand in a way that they can appreciate. We need to proclaim the excellencies. So if you want to serve and teach to children at the same time, you get like a double gold star. I think in proclaiming the excellencies, it's not a commercial, it's a real conviction. Go serve somewhere else if you need to. I don't care.

OK, third share. I don't need to say a lot about this one. If the good news is actually good, wouldn't we want to share it? I contend that yes indeed we would. We should share the gospel. We should tell people the truth about Jesus and why. Because it's the way the people of God behave. And you belong to a people and you were designed for a purpose. So I want to land the plane here if I can. God cares about your life. Really, you, personally. He actually cares about you. He loves you. He wants a relationship with you. He has called you to himself. And I could say a lot of reasons why I believe that's true. But verse ten says it beautifully and succinctly. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. You know, in a spiritual sense, there's no silver spoons in the family of God. Nobody is just born into the family of God. That's not how it works; you're not born into his grace and mercy. He chooses who he chooses. One of the things that has profoundly impacted me and my family is being a part of this church family and its high value of an appreciation of adoption. There's a lot of people in this room whose families have been touched by adoption. And when adoptive parents make the choice to adopt, it's very similar to what's being said here, you know, there was a point where not literally, but sort of metaphorically, I was able to say to my adopted kids, once you are not a Martin and now you're a Martin.

And that's a beautiful thing to be able to say. And there's a unique thing even about, as I was thinking about this in our story, you know, older child adoption is a little bit unique because there's this person who they already exist. You know, they have a name and they have a history and they have a life and they have memories. And you just, you just decide to love them and make them yours. And it's this really unique thing. You just decide and you make the decision completely disregarding anything having to do with their behavior. It doesn't matter. You don't even know about it. Yet you just decide to. And I think that's God's heart towards you. You know, God's not surprised by your shortcomings and your sin. He's not unaware of all the ways you've rejected him in the past or spoke against him. He's not blind to your baggage. God knows all these things. And he loves you anyway because your sin and failure is not even factored into it. He just chooses who he chooses. His love is perfect. So, OK, so now what? Now, what do we do with that? Well, there's kind of two ways we can go here. I mean, some of you listening today, maybe you're not in the family of God and you know it.

You're not a part of the people of God. You've not crossed over from death to life. And that's OK. We're so glad you're here. Your next step looks like this. You need to receive it. I mean, if nobody's ever said it to you this way before, just know this. God knows exactly who you are, exactly where you're coming from. He knows everything about you and he loves you. And he wants you in his family. And the beautiful thing about the family of God is that there's always room for more. And so he is inviting you into his family right here and now in this space. And you can choose to receive it. You can choose to trust Jesus and join his family. On the other side of it, maybe you are a part of God's family, maybe you are a part of that one 11th already, and if you are, then you have an opportunity and a responsibility. So you need to do maybe one of three things. I would argue you either need to remember, repent or respond. If you're part of the family of God and you're sitting on this truth today about your identity, then you either need to remember, repent or respond. If you need to remember, maybe your operative question is this. Do you believe that you belong to the people of God? I mean, do you just believe that it maybe it starts there? Maybe you need to remember that God declared over you.

This is who you are. You are special to me. And you matter. If you've been having a lot of hateful self talk, for example, if that's part of the way that you've been operating in your life, maybe you need to remember. This is what we do at Passover. We remember the goodness of God and we remember how it applies to our life. We remember his faithfulness. So maybe your next step is remembering. Maybe your next step is repenting. Are you living outside God's design for your purpose? Did God speak to you that you have one of those heart sicknesses going on and you need to turn from that and you need to take some next steps. You need to be digging into the word more. You need to pursue spiritual milk. Maybe there's a repentance thing that needs to happen and you need to come before God with that. Or maybe you need to respond. Maybe you need to think about practically how you're proclaiming the excellencies, not just like waiting for that perfect God ordained opportunity to hit you, but to actually go seek out a chance to preach the gospel, to teach the good news, to serve somebody actively. So the worst team is going to come back out and we're going to have a chance to sing in response here. And I would encourage you to think about which of these things it might be received. Remember, repent or respond.


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