February 15, 2023
EMBRACING OUR IDENTITY AND PURPOSE AS GOD’S AMBASSADORS IN A BROKEN WORLD – 1 Peter 2:9-12
Listen to last week’s sermon on:
Embracing our identity and purpose as God’s Ambassadors in a broken World found in 1 Peter 2:9-12.
Pastor Eric began his sermon on February 12, 2023, by asking how many people present were happy to be in the House of the Lord. The congregation responded with thunderous applause. He then asked the new attendees if they were curious as to why our congregation was so enthusiastic and excited. “This is a direct result of our love for Jesus”, he explained. All of us are different; some of us are introverts, while others are extroverts, but it is immaterial in light of the fact that Christ deserves our praise regardless of our personal traits.
Pastor Eric then directed our attention to 1 Peter 2. As we turned to this chapter in our Bibles, he provided a brief overview of who wrote it, why he wrote it, and why it remains relevant to us today. He explained that the chapter was written by the apostle Peter, who had experienced firsthand the power and mercy of God, and who, under pressure and fear of persecution, had denied Christ three times. In spite of this, Jesus forgave him, restored him, and made him one of the most influential and bold leaders of the Church. Therefore, if we feel that we have failed Jesus once, twice, or even three times, Pastor Eric is here to offer us hope. If we repent of our sins and turn to Him, he will forgive us, restore us, and transform us. We need not let the past dictate our future. Peter is a testament to this.
Having been transformed into a bold and influential leader, Peter was now writing to early Christian communities that consisted predominantly of Gentiles (non-Jewish people) living throughout Asia Minor, which his modern-day Turkey. Despite facing a variety of social and cultural pressures, these believers also experienced significant persecution for their faith in Christ. As a result of their decision to follow Jesus and stand on the Word of God, they have endured hardship and trials of various kinds. They also faced some of the same difficulties Peter encountered when Jesus was about to be crucified and he denied him three times.
The apostle Peter wrote to people who were regarded as outcasts. They were subjected to suffering and discrimination by their neighbours and the Roman government. In writing this book, Peter intended to encourage and show them how believers can live out their faith in spite of their hostile environment. We, too, live in a hostile environment. Natural disasters are prevalent in our world today. The recent earthquake in Turkey-Syria caused the death of over 33,000 people. Famine is rife throughout the world. Pandemic conditions continue to prevail globally. Every day, there is a report of a new virus in the news. Cosmological events abound, and violence is on the rise. Children were injured and killed this week when a bus was deliberately rammed into a daycare centre. Nuclear war has never been more imminent. In today’s world, good is viewed as evil and evil as good. The 2023 Grammy Awards even featured devil worship. There is no longer any attempt to conceal it. It is right there in front of us.
Read 2 Timothy 3:2
We live in difficult and dangerous times. Today, more than ever, Christians around the world recognize that we are living in the End Times. A number of the calamities mentioned by Pastor Eric have been prophesied in Scripture. It is stated in 2 Timothy 3:2 that in the End Times,
people will love only themselves and their money; they will be proud and boastful, sneering at God, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful to them, and thoroughly bad.
As we approach the Lord’s return, it is important to understand how to live our faith in Christ. The wait for that day is an exciting one, and we should remain hopeful and expectant; however, how should we live our faith in the midst of this most difficult and dangerous time in history? When believers in Peter’s day were facing trial and persecution, he urged them to remember their identity in Christ as well as their role, purpose, and mission as His disciples. The significance of our new identity cannot be underestimated, since being exposed to stressful circumstances can easily cause us to lose sight of who we are in Christ. The difficult and dangerous times we live in present an opportunity for the Church to shine brighter in a world that is becoming increasingly gloomy and dark. When sin abounds, grace abounds more. It is imperative that the Church embraces its role as ambassador for Christ and shines brightly in an age when such evangelism is urgently required.
Read 1 Peter 2:9-12
In the above passage, Peter states,
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people. You were shown no mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and exiles to keep away from fleshly desires that do battle against the soul, and maintain good conduct among the non-Christians, so that though they now malign you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God when he appears.
During times of stress, we Christians who are not adequately rooted in Christ may find it difficult to maintain a strong sense of purpose and identity. Our lives will be marked by confusion, purposelessness, guilt, shame, condemnation, and sin unless we have a clear understanding of who we are in Christ. Besides hindering our spiritual growth, a lack of knowledge of our God-given authority can also impede our ability to pray and allow Satan to control our personal, professional, and spiritual lives. As a result, we will fail to realize the potential and lives that God has given us. The struggle with our identity in Christ will also result in us succumbing to others’ demands rather than pleasing God.
One of the most pressing problems facing the Church today is the lack of its identity in Christ. It is evident everywhere. An example of this would be a husband requesting that his wife act more like his mother, and a wife requesting that her husband act more like her father. It appears that many people are dissatisfied with the person God has placed in their lives. Attempts are made to change an individual into someone other than who he or she is. Our struggles with our identity will ultimately lead us to become someone other than whom we were intended to be. Pastors are no exception. It is common for congregants to attempt to mold their new pastor after his predecessor. We are all unique. To improve, it is essential that we learn what we need to learn and allow our brothers and sisters to sharpen us as iron sharpens iron. While we should maintain a humble and teachable attitude, we should not be afraid to draw a line and refuse to comply with other people’s demands, since their requests are contrary to God’s design. Given the fact that we all possess different gifts and we are not all endowed with the ability to carry out the demands placed upon us by others, our identity in Christ enables us to refuse to conform to their demands.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Bible was written by a number of authors with a variety of writing styles. These individuals were not all alike.
The role of worship leaders, elders, pastors, and teachers within the Church can also take many forms. Similarly, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to ministry.
The Kingdom of God is rich with diversity, but when people place their demands on a par with Scripture and expect us to fulfill them with the same dedication and obedience that we give to the Word of God, they are repeating what the Pharisees did. The Pharisees raised their traditions to the same level as God’s Word and imposed this burden on people. It was for this reason that Jesus called them out. Unless we are confident in who we are in Christ, we will always yield to the demands of others and fail to become who Christ called us to be. We will place people’s needs above those of the Almighty. If we do not know our God-given identity, the work we believe we are doing for the Kingdom may be in vain. There is no doubt that we are busy, but are we busy doing what God has called us to do?
In order for us to respond effectively to trials and pressures, we must have a strong sense of identity and purpose. Let us, therefore, consider what Peter had to say to the people of God:
Our Identity in Christ
1 – We are a chosen people.
Read 1 Peter 2:9a and Deuteronomy 7:6
In 1 Peter 2:9a, Peter addresses Christian believers, mainly Gentiles, who had been exiled and faced persecution. He refers to them as God’s chosen people. As we see in Deuteronomy 7:6, this terminology is normally reserved for the people of Israel. Isn’t it wonderful that it is now also applicable to the Church, Gentiles like us? We have been chosen by God to be His own treasured possession. Our Creator chose us, not because He needs us, but because He loves us. As stated in Deuteronomy 7, God chose the people of Israel as His own, not because they were more intelligent or more numerous than other nations, but because He loved them and because of the oath He made with their forefathers. In the same way, God chose us to be a part of His family not because we are spiritually or morally excellent, but because He loves us. This realization can only leave us humbled.
Read Genesis 22:18 and Romans 4:7
All believers in Jesus Christ, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity, are included in the terminology that was once reserved for the Jewish people. The promise God made to Abraham was fulfilled through Christ when He said,
Through your descendants, all the nations of the earth will be blessed because you obeyed me.
(Genesis 22:18) And,
Blessed are they whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned.
(Romans 4:7) Therefore, we do not have to feel shame or guilt for our past sins. We are blessed, not condemned.
Many people today have been told that they were the result of an accident. They were not planned. In the event that this describes you today, rest assured that the Lord planned you. You are not the result of chance. You were selected to be part of God’s family prior to the foundation of the world. You were made on purpose for a purpose. You were chosen. Upon realizing that God has chosen us, loves us, and cares for each of us individually, we are freed from slavery.
2 – We are a royal priesthood.
Read 1 Peter 2:9b and John 18:36
According to 1 Peter 2:9b, we are a royal priesthood. The word royal refers to royalty. Given that God is King and we are His children, we are royalty. It may not be apparent to the world, but we are members of a heavenly kingdom. We are the sons and daughters of a king. As Christians in the modern world, we may not appear to be members of a royal family because we are not treated as such. In John 18:36, Jesus said,
My kingdom does not belong to this world… My kingdom is not an earthly one.
Therefore, we are not to expect people to bow down to us and treat us in an imperial manner. Considering how Jesus was treated upon His arrival on earth, we should not be surprised if the world does not recognize us as royals. Rather than receiving a lavish welcome, as a newborn, Jesus was laid in a manger. As we continue our spiritual journey, we should remember that we have not yet reached our final destination. First Peter 2:11 states that “…we are like visitors and strangers in this world”. Therefore, this is not our eternal home. A life lived for the sake of this world is pointless, since we are only passing through. In comparison to eternity, our time here on earth is quite brief.
Have you heard of Hudson Taylor? In 1854, he served as a British Christian missionary in China and eventually became the father of Christian missions there. One of the most famous stories about Hudson Taylor took place when he and his wife were travelling on a ship to China during which time, they were experiencing significant financial difficulties. Many people were concerned about their well-being. During their voyage, Taylor’s wife became very concerned about their financial situation. She told him that she was afraid that once they arrived in China, they would be unable to make ends meet. In response to her concerns, Taylor stated, “Don’t worry honey, we are not home yet.”
The realities of our financial accounts and the way people treat us may not make us feel like royalty, but Pastor Eric reminded us today that our earthly journey is not yet over. In spite of the absence of affirmation from the world, it is vital that we understand who we are in Christ.
The word ‘royal’ in 1 Peter 2:9 conveys a sense of dignity, honour, and privilege. The term also implies that Christians are citizens of God’s Kingdom and have been afforded a high status and position therein. We will one day rule and reign with Christ. There is no doubt that we are royalty – maybe not in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of God, because we belong to a kingdom and our lives are entrusted to a king.
In this verse, the word ‘royal’ is immediately followed by the word ‘priesthood’. We are a royal priesthood. In the Old Testament, there is a clear distinction between the monarchy and the priesthood. The descendants of the tribe of Judah served as kings and the descendants of Aaron served as priests. The priest served as a mediator between God and the people of Israel. He was the person to whom one went to speak to God, to request prayer, and to receive forgiveness of sins. He was also responsible for connecting people with God and offering sacrifices on their behalf. The priest had the sole authority to offer sacrifices to God in the Temple. Only he could serve God in that capacity. The Holy of Holies within the Temple and Tabernacle, however, was restricted to the High Priest once a year.
In his letter, Peter referred to us as a priesthood; therefore, it is now possible for us to approach God directly through Jesus Christ, rather than having to wait for the High Priest to enter the Holy of Holies to pray for our sins once a year. Apart from granting us the privilege of serving Him and seeking His forgiveness, God has provided us with the means to discern His will through His Word.
Read Ephesians 4:11-12
The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11-12 that, “…Christ gave these gifts to people: He made some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to go and tell the Good News, and some to care for and teach God’s people. Christ gave these gifts to prepare God’s holy people for the work of serving, to make the body of Christ stronger.” Some members of the church are privileged to serve God by assisting, equipping, and edifying the Body of Christ. It is not for them to do all the work, but rather to guide us in the right direction. We must, however, read the Bible for ourselves. An effective leader is one who does not attempt to gain our dependence on him or her, but rather leads us to Jesus.
In Ephesians 4, pastors, evangelists, apostles, prophets, and teachers are commissioned to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, which means that every member of the congregation is called to serve. Regardless of whether they serve within the church or in another setting, all members are called to engage in ministry work. Some people are equipped and gifted in ways that others are not, meaning that if we are gifted in something, we are to serve in that area. Understanding that we are priests leads us to realize that we have been called to do our part.
3 – We are a holy nation.
There are many instances in the Old Testament in which the words ‘holy nation’ are used to describe Israel, and Peter now applies them to New Testament Christians. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is depicted as a nation distinct from other nations and dedicated to serving God. Israel was meant to differentiate itself from all other nations, but instead, this nation adopted their evil practices. At times, their reprehensible acts surpassed those of their counterparts.
Read 1 Peter 2:11
In 1 Peter 2:11, we read, “Dear friends, you are like visitors and strangers to this world. So, I beg you to keep your lives free from the evil things you want to do, those desires that fight against your true selves.” Peter describes us as a holy nation; we should therefore distinguish ourselves from unbelievers by our conduct and speech and resist the sinful desires of unbelievers, such as greed, jealousy, pornography, pride, and drunkenness. We must walk in holiness.
Read Ephesians 4:29
Many Christians have a loose tongue. People who speak with a loose tongue do so habitually and without considering the consequences and impact of their words. Their remarks are impulsive and careless. They gossip. They spread rumours without knowing all the facts. They discuss topics about which they are uninformed. As recorded in Ephesians 4:29,
When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need – words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you.
The Bible condemns the use of harmful language. It is our duty as Christians to honour and reflect the character of God through our words, and to build people up according to their needs, so that they may benefit from them.
4 – He calls us a people for His own possession.
Read Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 7:6, and 1 Corinthians 6:19
Having been purchased by Jesus for a price, we have been set apart for God’s purposes. We are not our own.
5 – We are ambassadors of Christ.
Read 1 Peter 2:9
The Bible calls us to be Christ’s ambassadors. The role of ambassadors is to represent God, evangelize, guide people toward obedience, and live a life that exemplifies faith and commitment to God. It is our duty to speak of His mighty deeds and to share with others the mercy we have received. There was a time when we were not a people, but now we are. We did not experience mercy, but now we do. The Lord now calls us to share the gospel with others and point them to the Truth. As the world grows darker, the Church is to shine brighter.
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