Do you ever feel like God is hanging you out to dry or leaving you in the lurch? When you are honest in reporting your taxes and others aren’t, do you feel like you are cheating yourself out of hundreds or thousands of dollars that you could really use because you follow God’s commands? When you stop drinking at a certain point in the night or don’t drink at all when out with friends because you don’t want to get drunk and first it leads to a joke or two, maybe some friendly peer pressure and then ends in being treated as though you are turning your back on your friends, do you feel like you are missing out? When you turn the channel on the TV because the show has gone to the gutter even though you really liked that series or you turn the station on the radio even though the beat is really catchy because the lyrics demean women (and men for that matter) or what God says man-woman relationships and intimacy only for marriage should be, is it worth the outcry because everybody loves that song or your sinful nature wants to finish the episode? When you skip a practice or even a game because it’s more important to get your kid and family to church or confirmation class even though the other parents don’t join you, and the result is that your kids might get less playing time, is it worth it especially considering the money you’ve spent on it? And there are more serious situations too, when your husband isn’t a church-goer and you get guff or apathy for being faithful in attendance or your ex-wife isn’t on board with sending your kids to a school where they’ll learn about Jesus, don’t you feel like giving up even trying? If you can identify with any of this, or you want to do better in these situations, then listen to the apostle Peter.
Peter wrote to believers of Northern Asia Minor – lots of churches with lots of members who were feeling this pressure. They convert to Christianity from unbelief and pagan practices and “boom,” all of the sudden their friends are looking at them like they turned purple or green or something. These Christians did things like go to worship services and praise a God guy that died a shameful death on a cross and then supposedly rose from the grave. They prayed like somebody actually hears them and can actually do something. They cleaned up their language. They didn’t engage in drunkenness like they used to or the promiscuity that was common. They weren’t perfect, but they tried to live according to a standard God gave them. And their friends didn’t like it, their spouses were confused by it, and their home life was a bit more difficult now. Their businesses seemed to be losing customers. Their networks were filling with gaps. They were part of their families, citizens in their country, but living as a Christian meant they were quickly made to feel like outsiders and unwanted foreigners in their own homes, their own city, in their own country. It’s like they were having an identity crisis that was making them really reconsider being a Christian or living for Christ at all. So Peter wrote to them to remind them who they really are. Open your eyes and see who God has made you, where your true identity is found!
“You be You in Christ.”
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Remember who you are, or better yet, who God has made you. First off, He chose you. You were hand-selected by God. Better than being picked first in kickball, being the one chosen for the promotion or the hire, or even getting into that college, you were chosen by God and you are a card carrying member of His “chosen people.” Secondly, you rule. God considers you a king, a queen and not only that, but a priest as well. In the OT the King was God’s anointed, and you were a steward of God’s kingdom. What power and what responsibility. Priests spoke to God for the people and approached his altar. As a priest and because of the blood of Jesus, you can approach God’s altar. Nothing separates you from him now. And thirdly, what the Pharisees and hypocrites could never be, God has made you – his holy nation. You can say with me that Jesus “has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death. All this he did that I should be his own…” You are holy in God’s sight. And so fourthly, that is what we are, “God’s special possession.” (Box of special things reference from children’s message). The word can carry the picture of something you wrap your hand around and it belongs to you. You belong. Nobody else can have you. God sees you as his special possession regardless of what others may think of you. You are a sinner redeemed by the blood of Jesus and his own special possession. That’s who you are.
It’s as if you are walking through the park with your wife and a lady comes up and tells you that you’re ugly. What? Ok. I’m not the greatest looking, but that is rude. And then she says it again, “You’re ugly.” Finally you realize the problem isn’t with you, it’s with her. Because you have someone by your side who thinks that you are pretty good looking or at least decent enough to marry. It doesn’t matter what others think. People are crazy. It matters what your God thinks of you.
What does God think? “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” A few months ago we looked at the prophet Hosea in a sermon and Mr. Steenbock led the Sunday Morning “Couples Bible Study” through the book of Hosea. God had his prophet Hosea marry a prostitute. Two of his children born in unfaithfulness were given the names Lo-Ammi – “not my people” and Lo-Ruhammah – “not loved.” This was all to strikingly display how God’s people had left him and wanted to be like the other nations around them and followed all the other gods offered rather than stay with the true God. So after reaching out and reaching out, God had to finally call it like it was. But not you. Because of Jesus’s life death and resurrection for us, and the Spirit’s work on our hearts by the Word of God, God has brought us of many backgrounds into his family and to be his people. You bear the name, “Ammi” – my people. You bear the name, “Ruhammah” – Loved. #mypeople #loved.
You be you in Christ. Revel in who are you, who God has made you. That makes you beautifully different. But don’t just sit on it. Put it into action freely, confidently, knowing that it is worth it- to be who God has made you. “Declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Don’t go back to the darkness of the ways of this world. Don’t long to be included on the basis of sin the lowest common denominator of sin. Live in the light and declare your Savior’s praises. Let that light illumine others even if at first they don’t like it.
“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” Start with small changes or big. Renew your efforts to live godly lives in a pagan country that is having a huge identity crisis politically, morally, sexually and spiritually. Live in the light and let it shine in your words, in your actions, in the way you control you tongue. Quit damning things and quit calling on God as your reaction to the latest bit of gossip. Call upon him in the day of trouble. Pray, praise and give thanks. Spend more time in the study of God’s Word or in service to him and your fellow mankind or your children rather than zoned in the net of Netflix or imprisoned by Prime. (Entertainment has its place, but too often we worship it or see it as a daily right). Why? Is it worth it? Remember who you are! Chosen, made holy in God’s sight by the costly blood of the lamb, a people of the greatest country which is not on earth in which you have complete access to God, God’s special possession. And the beauty of this – people will notice. By your quiet witness and the love you reflect from your Savior and your prayers, your spouse may come around. Your workplace might just be a better environment because of your quiet confidence that there is a God who cares about honest actions and clean words that build up rather than tear down. Your home, though its own brand of crazy might be one that is model because the name of Jesus is praised there and parents forgive their children and children forgive their parents.
You be you in Christ. Our country needs you now more than ever. Your workplace needs someone who reflects Jesus so badly. Your home is not truly a home unless Jesus is welcome at every meal, present by the entertainment center, and watching over those heads as they lay on their pillows and utter a sweet prayer before slumber. Yes, people may look at you like you’re purple or green, but God tells us that by your witness and your words and actions and that Spirit worked care, concern and patience, they may want to be purple and green too and look to their Savior and “glorify God on the day he visits us.” So remember who you are, where your true identity is found. You be you in Christ. Amen.