Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Us in Him

I wrote at P31 about Jesus being "dissed" by the people of his hometown region - and the fact that though He felt the sting, He didn't let it permanently paralyze Him. He kept His mind on His true identity. So let's think through exactly what our true identity is. I don't know that I can explain it much better than John Piper does in his break down of 1 Peter 2:9-10.  I could probably say it quicker but not better, so I'll let Piper do the talking: 

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." ~ 2 Peter 2:9-10

"To be alive as a human being with indescribable mysteries at every turn, and to have in front of us an eternal destiny of spectacular glory or inexpressible horror is a weight that can either press you down with fear and trembling, or bear you up with joy unspeakable full of glory.

Whether it does the one or the other depends in large measure on whether you know the answer to the big basic human questions or not. Who are you? How did you get that identity? What are you here for? No dog or turtle or squirrel or bird or dolphin or chimpanzee ever lost one night's sleep pondering those questions. Only humans ask these questions.

Not often do we find such resoundingly clear answers to all three questions in such a small space as we do in this text [1 Peter 2: 9-10]. Who am I? How did I get this identity? What's it for—Why am I here?

So let's take a deep breath this morning and go back to the beginning as it were—or go down to the rock bottom foundational questions of life, and listen to the Word of God, and wonder and stand in awe of what he has to say about these three things.

Who Are You?

Keep in mind that Peter is identifying Christians. This is who you are if you are a Christian. This is how you got your identity as a Christian. This is what you are here for as a Christian.

First, he gives five ways of describing your identity, answering the question of who you are.

1. You Are a Chosen Race

Verse 9: "You are a chosen race."

I know that this is a corporate identity, he's talking about the church—the true Israel. But the implication is individual, because this race is not racial. The chosen race is not black or white or red or yellow or brown. The chosen race is a new people from all the peoples—all the colors and cultures—who are now aliens and strangers among in the world. See verse 11, "Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers . . . "

What gives us our identity is not color or culture. But chosenness. Christians are not the white race; they are the chosen race. Christians are not the black race; they are the chosen race. We are the black chosen and the white chosen and the yellow chosen and the red chosen. Out from all the races we have been chosen—one at a time, not on the basis of belonging to any group.

That's why this amazing phrase is individually crucial for you; you are part of the "chosen race" because the race is made up of individuals who were chosen—from all the races. So your first identity is that you are chosen. God chose you. Not because of your race—or for any other qualification—God chose you. Who am I? I am chosen. I do not know why. It was nothing in me of value above other humans. I did not earn it or merit it, or meet any conditions to get it. It happened before I was born. I stand in awe of it. I tremble with joy at it. I bow and accept it. I long to be faithful to its purpose. I am chosen.

2. You Are Pitied

Verse 10b: " . . . you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."

I choose the word "pitied" because the word for mercy in Greek here is a verb and the closest word we have in English like "mercied" is "pitied." It's not a bad translation. When God chose us, he then saw us in our sin and guilt and condemnation and he pitied us. We are not just chosen. We are pitied. We are the not just the objects of his choice, but the objects of his mercy.

I am chosen and I am pitied—or you could say I am "graced." I am "loved." God did not just choose me and stand aloof. He chose me and then drew near in mercy to help me and save me. My identity is fundamentally this: I have been shown mercy. I am a "mercied" person. I get my identity not first from my actions, but from being acted upon—with pity. I am a pitied one.

3. You Are God's Possession

This is expressed twice. Verse 9: "You are . . . a people for God's own possession." Verse 10a: "You once were not a people, but now you are the people of God."

You are chosen by God; you are pitied by God; and the effect of that pity—that mercy—is that God takes you to be his own possession. Now God owns everything. So in one sense everyone is God's possession. So this must mean something special. And, of course, it does. You are God's inheritance. You are the ones he aims to spend eternity with. When God says (in 2 Corinthians 6:16), "I will be their God and they will be my people [my possession]," what he means is that "I will dwell in them and walk among them."

You are chosen; you are pitied; you are God's possession—the ones he will walk among and reveal himself to in a personal relation forever.

4. You Are Holy

Verse 9: "You are a . . . holy nation."

You have been chosen and pitied and possessed by God; and therefore you are not merely part of the world anymore. You are set apart for God. You exist for God. And since God is holy, you are holy. You share his character, because he chose you, pitied you, possessed you. You are holy. If you do not act in a holy way, you act out of character. You contradict your essence as a Christian. For your identity is holiness to the Lord: you are holy.

And finally,

5. You Are a Royal Priest

Verse 9: "You are a . . . royal priesthood."

You are chosen by God and pitied by God and possessed by God and holy like God and royal priests to God. The point here is first that you have immediate access to God—you don't need another human priest as a mediator. God himself provided the one Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ. You have direct access to God, through God. And, second, you have an exalted, active role in God's presence. You are not chosen, pitied, possessed, and holy just to fritter away your time doing nothing. You are called now to minister in the presence of God. All your life is priestly service. You are never out of God's presence. You are never in a neutral zone. You are always in the court of the temple. And your life is either a spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1–2), or it is out of character.

So you can see that your identity—the question, "Who are you?"—leads directly to the question, "What are you here for?" Your identity leads to your destiny. You are chosen, pitied, possessed, and holy—all for a purpose—to minister as priests. And the heart of that ministry Peter describes for us very clearly.

How Did You Get This Identity?

But before we answer the question what we are here for, let's pause just a moment and answer the middle question: How did I get this identity?

The answer is almost too obvious. We got our identity from God. In fact our identity is our relation to God. We are chosen by GOD. We are pitied by GOD. We are possessed by GOD. We are set apart as holy by GOD. We are invested as royal priests by GOD.

Peter says this in a summary statement at the end of verse 9. He refers to God like this: "Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." The light we live in is the light of our being chosen and pitied and possessed and holy and priestly. And the way we got there is that God called us. He called us out of darkness into this marvelous light.

So the answer to the question: How did we get this identity is that God gave it to us. He gave it to us by virtue of his irresistible call ... God gave us the identity we have.

What Are You Here For?

What we saw was that our identity led directly to our destiny: we are chosen, pitied, possessed, and holy all for the sake of being a royal priesthood. But Peter is more specific when he tells us the precise reason for our existence. He says in verse 9:b that we exist for this reason: "that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." This is the full-time destiny of a royal priest—to make the glories of the king known.

Our Identity and Its Purpose

There is a lot of discussion in our day of self-concept or self-identity. How do we view ourselves? It is an important question. And what I hope you hear this morning is that the specifically biblical angle on this question is that Christian selfhood is not defined in terms of who we are in and of ourselves ... The biblical understanding of human self-identity is radically God-centered.

God made us who we are so that we might proclaim the excellency of his freedom in choosing us. The excellency of his grace in pitying us. The excellencies of his authority and power in possessing us. The excellencies of his worth and purity in making us holy.

Therefore being a Christian and making the greatness of God known are almost identical. We can do it in church services with preaching and singing and praying and reading. We can do it in our small groups as we tell each other what God has been for us, or what we need him to be for us. We can do it at work as we tell people what we love about God and why we think he is great. And we can do it in a thousand different ways of love that suit our situation and personality."

I hope that preached to you this morning - it sure did me.  Have a glorious day my God-chosen, God-pitied, God-possessed, God-sanctified friend who exists to please and serve the Holy God regardless of where she comes from or what she's done.


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  2. Amen! Once again, I am in awe of my God. We tend to make our relationship with him so complicated, but He has made it simple!

    Grace, mercy, purpose....incredible love!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this with us... with ME! It goes along with some things I am pondering this week as our church just began a study of "Radical" by David Platt(have you heard of it?) Good stuff!


  4. Hi 5SKIS, I have heard of Platt's book "Radical." I'd like to read it - let me know if you write a summary or review of it!

    Blessings ~ Rachel

  5. Rachel,

    My notebook is full of notes from this post and my Bible is underlined. I will come back to these words over and over. The one line that stood out for me is-

    And your life is either a spiritual service of worship or it is out of character.

    As a working mom and educator, there are many days where I am out of character. I grumble as I stuff one more load of laundry into the wash, grade one more paper, or wipe up one more spill. Instead of grumbling, I will change my perspective and realize I am performing acts of service in His name. I am impacting eternity in my everyday, mundane tasks. Nothing is mundane to God...no task is too small if I do it for Him.



  6. Thank you so much for allowing God to speak to me through the words of today's devotion. Yesterday I was certainly feeling misunderstood and most definitely attacked, but your words remind me of many truths, most of all that I am made complete in the Lord, not the hurtful words of others. God never ceases to amaze me with His timely comfort & love. Again, thanks for sharing!

  7. Kendra - I loved that line too!

    On Monday I was talking with my pastor who told me that when his kids act "unbecommingly" (which I'm sure is rare knowing them), he tells them: "This is not who you are. This is out of character for you. You are ___fill in the godly character trait__, so what happened in this instance that you acted differently?"

    If only we could treat ourselves that way, huh?

  8. An epiphany...

  9. I needed your message today about not being understood. Big challenges at work and I am so discouraged. Not even sure anyone else cares--even Jesus.

  10. Vivian - I see you. I care. And I'm praying to Jesus for you, knowing He cares as well.

    Fill your heart and mind with His Words of truth, dear one.

  11. I loved this devotion. I needed that! thanks.


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