You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you will declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his most wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are a people. Once you hadn't been shown mercy, but now you have been shown mercy."
-- 1 Peter 2:9-10
The beginning of a New Year is often a time for reflection and self-realization:
“I'm out of shape.” “I'm a work-a-holic.” “I'm addicted to my iPhone.” “I'm in love.” “I'm not in love.” "I'm watching way too many reruns of Friends on Hulu." We take stock. We count our blessings. We plan for the New Year accordingly.
Today God's Word is going to help you with some self-realization. It reveals something about believers that is totally incredible about who we are and what God wants us to do!
The lesson is from the book of 1 Peter, a letter written by the Apostle Peter to “believers everywhere.” In the ancient world, yes, but as the letter has been preserved by God's grace...it is a letter that speaks directly to our group of believers here in Raleigh, NC.
In other words, it's a letter to us.
Listen to what Peter calls us first: “You are a chosen people.” This is huge for anyone anyone who was ever chosen last in kickball, anyone who was ever left unchosen at the prom's final dance, to anyone who wasn't chosen for that raise, to anyone who was not chosen to go to the sleepover.
When others in the world have rejected you, what an awesome truth to realize that God has chosen you!
Now watch out. This isn't anything to be prideful about. It's easy to start thinking, “Of course, Jesus chose me! He must have known how awesome I am at singing hymns. And he probably knows my commitment to upholding good morals. Obviously, he'd choose me over my tattooed neighbor.”
Before your ego outgrows the size of your head, look at verse 10 and remember: “Once,” Peter reminds us, "you were not a people!" Hear that again. “Once you were not a people.” Singularly: You were not a person. You were lost. You were nothing. Nothing to God.
It makes sense. Because honestly, what do you have to offer Jesus-- the Almighty Lord of heaven and earth? A substance addiction? An out of control temper? Laziness? The colorful language you use at work? The ability to gossip faster and more often than any other person in Raleigh?
Brother and sisters, know this: God chose you! But it wasn't because of you. It was in spite of you and your sinful self. God chose you simply because of him. Because of his love.
Let this change your attitude. Don't go around with that selfish vocabulary that a lot of Christians use: “I chose Jesus!” “I made a choice for him. And he's happy I did that.” As if we were the ones who did Jesus a favor by letting him be a part of our gang.
We are the ones to be honored! God is incredible. He is Almighty! He is holy. He has no reason to even be near sinners!
Yet in Jesus he has chosen us to be his people. And that's not without incredible benefits:
Look at what this choosing means for us in the next thing Peter tell calls us: A Royal Priesthood.
Just about every little girl's dream is to be a princess! To live in a Disney castle. To wear Disney jewels and Disney rings and go to a Disney dance.
But the idea of a royal treatment isn't just a kid thing. We live in a economic turmoil. Adults can feel as far away from riches as possible. We dream of owning five cars fully paid, as opposed to the one jaloppy that we can barely make the payment on. We dream of eating at a five star restaurant, not slurping the third bowl of ramen in the same week. We dream of living in a mansion, not moving from small apartment to smaller apartment in hopes that we'll save money.
If you are feeling like less than royalty because of your financial situation, then hear this: God has called you royalty!
This means more than taking a trip to Sleeping Beauty's castle. By faith in Jesus, you have the royal riches of God himself. The crown of life. The jewels of God's love. You are an heir to his royal palace in the ethereal streets of heaven itself.
Of course, princes and princesses act a certain way. They have a royal air about them. They lift their chin up as they walk and drink tea with their pinky lifted into the air.
Call it royal. Call it pompous. But they certainly act a certain way.
The royalty of heaven have a way about them too. In fact, it's the only way of heaven. It's the way of holiness.
Which leads to the third thing God reminds us that we are. “A holy people.”
This is so hard to grasp so hard to belive, because of what holy really means. It means that God is declaring you to be without sin.
Even for Christians, it is hard to believe this. The devil tells us the opposite. “You're unholy!” The world tells us the same, “You're imperfect.” Even our own memories betray us: “ How can you be holy? Remember that one sin you can't seem to wash off? And that other sin you can't seem to conquer? And that other sin that is so awful that if anyone else in this church ever found out then they wouldn't hesitate to kick you out! You're phony. You're pathetic. You're anything but holy.”
Certainly those voices in our head are loud.
But God's voice is louder.
And so was his cry on Calvary: "It is finished!" Equally loud was his cry as he conquered the grave on Easter Sunday.
In other Words, God has called you holy through faith in Jesus! Believe it. Don't question your Lord.
It's true because it isn't about you. Look at verse 10. This is not from us! It is from Jesus. His holy blood covers us. His holy life was exchanged for us. His holy sacrifice purifies us. His holy baptism seals us as God's holy people!
What's it like to hear that God has declared you to be without sin and not deserving of punishment?
It's akin to a cancer patient who has been dealing with the pain and fear of knowing that there is something unholy in his body, being told by the doctor that the cancer is gone.
This is us! We know our sin. We know what it deserves. And in Jesus, we hear God say: The sin is gone! You have been cured. You are pure! Through faith in Jesus, you are holy!
IV. A People Belonging to God.
God loves things that are holy. So we shouldn't be surprised but to hear what Peter reminds us of next, you are a people belonging to God.
I think of a child who loves his action figures. Spiderman. Superman. Batman. He loves them so much that he tells other kids they can't play with them. He wants them. He doesn't want them to get hurt. He doesn't want them to get broken.
That's why God warns us of sin! He is telling our sinful natures to back off! He is warning us of the pain sin causes. He is warning us of the devil's deceptions and the doubts that they cause.
God doesn't want anything else to have control of you. Not addictions. Not immorality. Not anything.
Again. Think back to the action figures. Kids may write their names on the bottom of them with permanent marker forever claiming the toys as their own.
God has written his name on you in Baptism. Through it, God sends his Holy Spirit into your heart to claim you as his own. To mark you as his. To say “You belong to me.”
God has a reason for all of this. He has a reason for making you his own. Peter tells us that reason. Follow along with verse 9 again: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God to declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."
God has given us a purpose. This is a great purpose for our church – for you as an individual in 2014: Declare God's praises! There's' two ways to do this:
First with your actions. Live differently. Fight addiction. Have morals. Have Biblical morals. Live by them. Live by them fearlessly. Speak boldly. Pray constantly. Raise Christian children. Worship regularly.
Declare God's praises by the way that you live. By living in accordance to his will.
Secondly, with your words.
There are some awesome restaurants in Raleigh. What I've noticed is that when people go to a good one, they are super excited. They pass it on. They tell their friends. They put it on Facebook. They suggest it to anyone who is asking.
Why not do the same with Jesus? This is what God is calling us to do! It is Jesus himself speaking to you in this passage: Telling you. You! To tell others about himself!
I know we've worked a lot last year inviting people to church last year. And by God's blessing we had all kinds of people to share the Gospel with. Even a few Sundays where we surpassed the apparent firecode.
But this year God is ready to challenge us in a new way. God wants us to continue to invite people to come, but now I think it is time we focus on going. Bringing the message of the Gospel to those who need to hear it.
I want you to take a moment and think. Think of someone who needs to hear about Jesus. We all know someone. Don't even try to suggest that you don't. The greater Raleigh area is over 1 million people strong. And, as we found out in our community surveys this summer, the greatest numer of households identify as “NOTHING”...not followers of Jesus.
Think about that person and write his name down. Do it right now. It could be a guy you work out with. A lady you drink coffee with. A coworker. A buddy. A neighbor. A cousin. A long lost friend on Facebook. Even your spouse!
Think about that name. Write it down. Now, I want you to do three simple things:
1. PRAY. Pray about that person pray that God would work in their lives to bring them to faith. Pray that God would give you opportunities to share the Gospel with that person.
2. LOOK. Look for opportunities to share the Gospel with them. It could be an inquisitive quesiton. Or a difficult time they are going through. Pay attention and look for chance to tell them about Jesus.
3. SHARE. Don't forget to share. Share about your all powerful God. Share your Savior. Share with others whom God loves that God loves them! Share that he sent his Son to die for them. Share that through faith in Him they too will be God's chosen people, royalty. Holy. Belonging to God.
Why should I do this? Don't do it to grow this church. Don't do it because I said so. Don't do it because it will make you feel good or because you might find a new friend.
Do it because it's who you are. You are a person chosen for God's Work. You are God's royalty with all the riches of his kingdom at your disposal. You are holy in his sight without fear of punishment. You are belong to your loving Lord and he will watch out for you.
May this self-realization empower you this week as you look to do the Lord's work.
This day. This week. This year.