Good morning church! Earlier this week I received some really sad news about one of my clients. He passed away due to lung cancer at the age of 36. Professionally he was doing great – had a Senior Management role in a Top MNC, had a great pay package and many years of work experience. He was also a very knowledgeable client – way ahead of his contemporaries in terms of knowing what’s the latest in technology.
He had a nice sweet family – wife and a little daughter. People would’ve envied his life. No one would’ve imagined that he would be diagnosed with an advanced stage of lung cancer in May last year. On December 31st when everyone around the world prepared to party into the new year, he breathed his last and passed away. I was obviously shocked by this news but what saddened me even more was to think that he died without knowing Jesus & failed to live out his life with eternity in mind. All of his accomplishments didn’t matter in the end.
All the money didn’t matter in the end. The picture – perfect life didn’t matter in the end. This made me once again think about what should our purpose in life be. If today is our last day on this earth, can we look back and say that we lived life with an eternal purpose? Or was it lived only to make money or a name for ourselves? As a church what should our purpose be – is it just meeting on Sundays or are we called as a church for something more? As I thought about this question about purpose, my mind moved toward a passage from 1 Peter 2:9-10
I believe this passage reminds us about two things: Identity and Activity!
What we mean by identity is trying to answer the question “Who am I?”. “At the core of my being, who am I really?” In the world people try to answer this question by doing more stuff assuming that more stuff and more accomplishments will create a better identity. However, if you are a believer in Christ you are given an identity – not earned but gifted to you – and it’s the best identity ever! So let’s see what are the different aspects of our identity in Christ:
a. Chosen race (v9)
We have been chosen by God – it literally means handpicked and selected. Wow! The thought of God personally selecting us to be his people. And this takes it to another level when we realize that God chose us in Christ even before the foundations of the world. (Eph 1:3) Now just before we pat our backs and think that we had to do something with it, let’s remember that God’s choice was not based on our talents or works.
And that’s radically different from the way the world works. I remember giving my name for the cricket tournament that was being organized in my building. If it were left up to my skill level, I would for sure not get selected. Fortunately, they had some kind of auction and I was added to one of the teams. We know how it works in the world. We only get selected for something if we have the ability or skill for it. But in God’s kingdom, it’s the opposite.
He comes not for the righteous but for the sinners. (Mk 2:17) God doesn’t choose the qualified, rather He qualifies those whom He chooses. You’ll actually find God’s chosen race look very different than what the world would expect. It will contain the worst, the least, the unlikely and the unexpected. Why? So that the world will see and know how good and great is our God!
b. Royal Priesthood (v9)
The word priest actually means a minister appointed to serve God. The priests also represented the people when they came before God. They would offer sacrifices on behalf of the people before God. Their role was a very important part of God relating with His people. This was all foreshadowing the true High Priest – Jesus Christ. As a result of believing in Christ, we have now been given a role of royal priests.
If someone came up to you and asked you to show them to a priest, what comes to your mind? You’ll automatically think about the pastors of your church or the church leaders or the priest from the Catholic church. But it’s an astonishing statement that all of us who believe in Jesus are “royal priests” called to serve the Most High God. But what’s our job description? It’s obviously not sacrificing bulls and goats but rather giving thanks to God and producing works of love and generosity. (Heb 13:15-16)
c. Holy Nation (v9)
This is something that I find it difficult to grapple with. How is it possible that unholy people are called to form a Holy Nation? I understand that because He is Holy, His nation would also need to be Holy. I know that God is an impartial Father who will judge every deed that has been done on the earth. (1 Pet 1:15-17) but I don’t understand why would He chose unholy people like us to be a part of it.
I mean even our good works and our best works are like filthy rags!!! (Isa 64:6) I know my thoughts and my words and my action – I can’t possibly be asked to be a part of a Holy Nation. If I enter a Holy Nation, I would make it unholy!!! And that’s where the amazing truth of Jesus Christ comes in. He who knew no sin became sin so that in Him we could be the righteousness of God! (2 Cor 5:21) We are unholy but because of Christ, His pure and Holy life has been placed upon us. It’s like Jesus exchanged His pure robe with us for our dirty laundry. That’s how we become a Holy Nation. – because of Him.
d. People for His own Possession (v9)
We are God’s treasured possession! We belong to Him only! We are His. I think this idea of belonging to each other has made more sense through marriage. In my marriage with Angie, by God’s grace there is this amazing joy and security in the fact that we belong to each other. We treasure each others lives. And that also causes us to be protective of each other. If someone tries to attack either spouse, we are going to stand up and protect each other because we belong to each other. Attacking my wife means attacking me personally.
And in our relationship with God, because we are God’s treasured possession He also stands up for us when we are attacked by accusations and condemning words. Romans 8 says “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that who was raised – who is at the right hand of God who indeed is interceding for us”. Every thing that needed to be done to protect Jesus’ bride – the church from condemnation and accusation was done on the cross. And now we can rest knowing that we are His and His only.
Isn’t this amazing?? What a wonderful identity! But this identity of being a chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation is not an end in itself. It leads us to activity!
We’ve been given this wonderful identity so that we can declare and celebrate the character and works of a gracious God! For people who have been saved – our hearts, our focus & our conversations change. Christ changes our desires, He changes our goals and He changes our language. Now you might say…Jinson you’ve said the big broad statement, but what does this actually mean? How can I proclaim the excellencies of God? How can I declare and celebrate the character and works of a gracious God in my daily life? Peter uses 3 ways to express this:-
a. Darkness to light
Just imagine being in a dark room. No window and so there’s no reflection of light. You are literally blinded. And that’s what being in sin looks like. We live a life ignorant of God, showing Him no respect and also not paying attention to how it affects us and others. All of this is accompanied with ungodliness and immorality results in us taking the highway to hell.
Now think about someone switching on a really bright light in that room. So bright that now you are blinded by this radiant light. And that’s what being saved by Christ and brought into God’s presence is like – pure, extraordinary, brilliance way beyond our mind and comprehension.
What a privilege to now be in the presence of God! All of this begins to change the way we live every day. So we get plenty of opportunities to testify to our neighbors, colleagues at work, friends and family – telling them about the great change that God has brought about in our lives. As a church this year we want to focus on having Gospel Communities based out of neighbourhoods.
We encourage each of you to think about your society, your building, your home and pray for opportunities to tell them about this wonderful God who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. It’ll be so exciting to see a few GC’s start in new areas where there was no gospel before.
b. Not a people but now God’s people
At one time we were separated from God and each other but now in Christ we have been accepted by God and joined to each other. At one time we were lost and abandoned but now we are found and added to God’s family. The language throughout this passage is clear. When God saves you, He joins you to His family – the church. We live in culture that is highly non-committal – it’s always telling you to run away from commitment.
Culture says don’t marry – just live in together. Culture says you don’t need to marry one person your whole life – just have a string of relationships. And we know how this can be really destructive to lives and families but I want to tell you how this mentality can also hurt the church.
When believers don’t commit to each other but only meet and hang around as long as it’s convenient and comfortable, they end up hurting the other each other than caring for them. The moment things get difficult and complicated, they hop to another church and this hurts their own spiritual lives the most. Knowing this, we as a church we will be moving towards covenant membership and we’ll invite you to formally covenant with this church. We see this as God’s design to care and grow the church keeping your best interests in mind.
c. Had not received mercy to receiving mercy
Have you ever thought what it means for God to show mercy? Remember God is not stingy when He shows mercy…He pays the highest cost to show mercy! We see the depth of His mercy when He sends His precious Son to die on the cross so that we could be protected from the wrath that comes upon sinners & receive all the spiritual blessings graciously. God delights in showing us mercy!!! God does that so that we would know Him and love Him even more as we witness His mercy.
Some of us till now have only experienced an intellectual understanding of mercy. We know what the gospel is intellectually but it’s not causing us to love Jesus more. It’s not causing us to know Him more. You still view God’s mercy as though someone was showing compassion on a stranger. No, God shows you mercy so that you would grow in an intimate relationship with Him. He is your Father and He desires for you to know Him that way. And experiencing God’s mercy causes us to bend that mercy outwards.
You cannot say that you are experiencing the grace of God and yet be greedy! If you are truly experiencing God’s grace in your life, how can you be satisfied without investing into someone else? If you are truly experiencing God’s grace in your life, how can you not help someone else know and obey Christ? We know how God has called us to be disciple-makers & we want to focus on 1 on 1 discipleship this year. I’d encourage you to find someone in church or in your life whom you can chose to walk with closely with, study Scripture with and model how to obey Christ.
As elders we really desire that you love and obey Christ as you’ve never done before in this coming year. We want you to live out the amazing identity that leads to spiritual activity! And whenever it is our last day on this earth, we want all of us to be confident that our lives were lived with eternity in mind.