Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
1 Peter 2:9-12
Turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter 2. I am not a fisherman. I mean I did fish a bit as a kid, but not very much. When Anne and I moved to Blind River, where I started in full-time ministry, I felt a little compelled to do a little fishing, and we did go out with the church family every year on Family Day and went ice fishing. We did catch some whitefish, and though we are not much of fish eaters. It was okay, as long as it had lots of batter and butter. There was also a commercial fisherman in the church as well, and if you asked him his occupation he would humbly say, “I am a fisherman.” He worked extremely hard, he had to work in all kinds of weather and realized that some weeks would go well, and others would not.
And the writer of the book we are studying is Peter, a fisherman, who likely never considered himself a deep theologian. He himself mentions in 2 Peter 3:16 the wisdom that was given to Paul. And he said that some things that Paul writes are “hard to understand.” And we did begin this series saying that Peter’s Greek was like that of a high school dropout. Yet, in spite of his bad Greek, Peter thinks very deeply, teaching us that we do not have to consider ourselves theologians to think deeply about the things of God. I certainly do not consider myself a theologian, but I could not love more the task of taking a passage each week and working through it. And admittedly, when I first set out to do this series, I never appreciated how relevant Peter’s words are to us today, as his insight is outstanding! So listen to the deep words of Peter the fisherman this morning as I read the four verses we will cover.
“But you are a chosen family, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so 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. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul, by keeping your conduct excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good works, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
1 Pet 2:9-12 (LSB)
I notice in this passage the continued focus on the corporate body, as Peter often seems to consider the “one anothers” more than he does the individual. I noticed that when we studied the seven churches in Revelation, there were both those within those churches doing well and those who did not. Yet often the final comments were, now, this is what you need to do as a church. It was not good enough for a few to step up, but the responsibility of the church to step up. So as we study this passage, let us consider it together as a body of believers this morning at Elim. Let’s pray. Speak, O Lord, as we come to you, to receive the food of your Holy Word. Take your truth, plant it deep in us, we pray, for Jesus’ sake, amen.
This whole theme of the corporate church’s responsibility flows into next week’s sermon as well. Next week’s passage is helping the church to know how to live under the government, while this week is how the church lives within the culture. Nathan Wheeler wrote that the main theme here is, “Christian life in a non-Christian environment.” Now we need to understand that this has always been the challenge of the church, for there has never been a time when the culture is saved, though we could say that there have been less-hostile cultures for the church to live within. In Peter’s day, the culture he lived within was likely a great burden. I am sure in many respects it was “Rome’s way or the highway.”
Yet less-hostile cultures might be what we might describe as a number of years ago, when yes, many in society were not believers, yet there was great respect for the church and the Christian. In fact, it was common for people to wish that they could serve Christ. In other words, it was not they did not believe the Scriptures, it was that they were unwilling to make that kind of commitment. And many things were done within the culture by non-Christians because of the influence of Christianity. An example of this would be that most businesses were always closed on Sundays, as that was the day that the majority of people went to church. And for me growing up as a kid, it would be odd to ever see anyone even cut their lawn on a Sunday whether they ever went to church or not. And growing up for me, most friends I grew up with went to church, whether that was Catholic, United, Baptist, or whatever; though I would add, that even as a young guy, there seemed to be few who actually understood the gospel. Yet we know today that things have changed drastically, as the basis of our society is faltering greatly, and the influence of Christianity on the culture is waning.
So, let’s see what Peter writes this morning. Verse 9, “But you are a chosen family, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” What I notice about these three things is that Peter first states the group of people he is addressing, a chosen family, and then gives the two primary roles of those family members. He is addressing a chosen family. Certainly the Jew would understand this kind of language, as Israel was referred in the Old Testament as a chosen people. A human phrase that sometimes gets thrown around is, you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your family. Well I guess in a way, you cannot choose your church family, because it is God who does the choosing. I have said in the past that our decision to follow Christ is a real decision because the Bible teaches it this way. The Bible teaches that our decision to follow Jesus is a decision we are responsible for. Yet this truth cannot steal from the truth that we have been chosen by God, not based upon any goodness in us and not based upon the fact that God knew we would someday follow Christ. For sovereign election is based completely upon the grace, mercy, and the choosing of God and it leaves absolutely no room for human boasting. That you, you, and you are a Christian this morning, is only due to the power of God’s divine sovereign election. And not only did He call to Himself individuals, but He has called to Himself a “chosen family.” We are brothers and sisters in Christ, as Peter consistently emphasizes the corporate calling. And being part of a family of course means a great deal of responsibility.
When our boys were still home and they wanted to do something, there were times as any parent when you had to say no. As I have said before, we at times would say that there are advantages in being an Ottaway and disadvantages of being an Ottaway. And this is one of the disadvantages. So no. So as Anne and I might remind our boys that they were “Ottaways,” Peter here is reminding us that we are Christians, Christ-followers
This is like your little girl going off for the first time to a friend’s birthday party. As parents you say to her to be polite, don’t take more than one piece of cake. Make sure you say thank you when you leave, and then you let her go and you have absolutely no control of how she might act. This is going to be Peter’s thrust in these verses, as we are a people who are the Lord’s own possession, and He sends us off on our way, and the expectation is that we would behave in a way that is indicative of who we are.
Peter further describes us as a people for God’s own possession. This, as we said last week, emphasizes the “calling” of God. Yes, we came to Christ, but only because he called us for a purpose. I am not a big fan of much of what is written in the book by Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life, as it is very man-centred. But it is a good title because though the book does not really bring this out, this description emphasizes God’s ownership, His glory, and His work and purposes. This phase “a people for God’s own possession,” significantly highlights, what I would describe as the two major purposes we have because we are owned by God. Owned by God, we are called the people of God, for there is no greater compliment than we would be called a man or a woman of God, or as Peter often emphasizes the corporate, a church or family of God. So what are the purposes of this family that has been chosen by God? In other words, what is our mandate as a family of believers?
- To be a Biblical Representation of both Truth and Love
Verse 9, a royal priesthood. The nation of Israel was given both a priest, Aaron; and a king, David. A royal priesthood. Jesus came from the tribe of Judah following in the kingly line of David. So Jesus is the foretold King. Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. A royal priesthood, though He did not come from the priestly line of Aaron, nor from the tribe of Levi. The Bible teaches that Christ, as the writer of Hebrews tells us that He is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Briefly, Melchizedek, who was a man, was a precursor to the coming of Christ. And Christ is the chosen Priest of God, perfect and sinless, unlike the line of Aaron. In fact, the person of Melchizedek came before Aaron and even before the people of Israel. Therefore Christ is a universal Priest of all mankind. And we as His followers become part of His royal priesthood, as Christ is preparing “a people” whom He will someday present perfect before the heavenly Father.
So, this presents to us a unique role as His people, as the One we are connected with is both royal King and Mediator, Priest. This gives to us such a major responsibility in our interactions with the world, for we are the people that God has chosen to represent Him to a fallen world. Later in 2 Peter 3:9, Peter will say that God is not willing that any should perish. And therefore, God has set in place a means to accomplish His desire. One, God uses His Word; two, the work of the Holy Spirit; and three, He has chosen to use us His people. This is a purposeful job description isn’t it? This makes our wasteful choices seem just that, quite wasteful when we consider the job description He has given us. This would be like our boss at work giving us a major responsibility to perform and he walks into our office and we are playing video games or we are being consumed by meaningless talk on the internet. As the Lord has given us this task within the unbelieving world and we might be tempted to respond to the Lord: look what they are doing here, or Lord, I can’t do this, there is too much against me! And the Lord might say “Yes, I realize that, but I have chosen you as a priest to minister among them.”
This is our saving priestly role as Christians, as the Lord has strategically placed us among “unbelievers” to be used to reach “unbelievers” for Christ. How are we doing? And if I could list the two most important things that unbelievers need to see in us, it would be, truth and love, because this is exactly the priestly example given to us by Christ.
“And when Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.”
Jesus taught them the truth. When we do not tell the truth, we cower and fail in our priestly mission. Jesus was compassionate, He loved them. Our culture today says that we either affirm their lifestyle or we hate them. That is a lie, for we can disagree with their lifestyle and love them.
“And seeing the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’”
We are the workers. We are the priest to bring truth and love. And here is the exact purpose that the Lord has given us as priests.
“[S]o 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.
- Pet 2:9b-10
What is it? What is our purpose in the world? To proclaim His excellencies. In other words, to make out great God look good! And God has not left us without any kind of bearing in this, as He has not asked us to sell something to the world that we know nothing about. I sold kitchen cabinets for a number of years, and I would jokingly say to customers that it is every young couple’s dream to someday own a Merillat kitchen. Funny thing was, that it was only when I left sales that we moved to Blind River, that my last sale was to myself, as we took with us new kitchen cabinets to that house in Blind River. Yet imagine if the Lord had given us a job description that said, “Tell the world the glories of salvation,” without ever saving us first. In other words, I know you know nothing about this, but tell them anyway. No, God is saying, I have called you Christian from darkness to light; I have made you Christian to be My own people; and I have now lavished you Christian with mercy. Now what? Go and tell everyone else about how great I am. Ggo and tell of My excellencies.
“Be this, while life is mine, My canticle divine, May Jesus Christ be praised! Be this th’ eternal song, Through all the ages long, May Jesus Christ be praised!”
This proclamation of the excellencies of God, is a proclamation of both His eternal truth and His marvelous love. His excellencies! Our priestly duty to showcase, a biblical representation of both truth and love.
- To be a Biblical Representation of Holiness
Verse 9, a holy nation. You know the world can say what they want, and people in the world will be bombarded with false truth. But what the world is going to have to deal with, is not only what the culture says, or what the media is saying on the news, or the new curriculum in the schools. But what the world is going to have to deal with is the life of the Christian, and they will have to decide what to do with people who have been changed, a holy people.
On a sports talk show, a few guys were discussing Shane Doan. Now Shane Doan is an NHL hockey player who retired a few years ago with the Arizona Coyotes. Doan has always been upfront about his faith in Christ, a married Dad with four children. And as they were talking about him, one of them said that Shane was an incredible person. And the other said, “I don’t think Shane Doan has ever even swore in his life.” Now we need to take that for what it is worth, but I was just intrigued that these non-Christian hockey analysts would see some value in this kind of life. And though our society fails to acknowledge this kind of living, the truth is, that many Christ-honouring Christians still make a significant impact in the world among unbelieving people they rub shoulder to shoulder with in everyday life. And I say this to emphasize that what our unsaved neighbours say about us, what our children’s school teacher may think of us, or how our employee may view us, may not be the same way the media portrays us. Now they may say the same things about us, but what the media might view as a threat or a disadvantage to society, our unsaved next-door neighbour may view us as a valuable friend and asset to them
Another example is NHL goaltender James Reimer. He once played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and is now with the San Jose Sharks. Reimer, too, is a born-again believer and has a number of beliefs that would contradict our culture. A non-Christian NHL analyst said this about him the other day, “James Reimer is likely the kindest guy I know.” And my question would be, “How can this be?” How can someone who has views which would be considered harmful by the culture, society, and in the opinion of the media, be considered “kind” in the thinking of some unbelievers to whom Reimer interacts?
Here, I believe is the lesson. We will likely not change the culture, nor the government. In fact, I am not sure that is our mandate anyway. Our mandate is this. When the culture or the media states things about Christianity, some of them true and some of them false, the non-Christian is going to have to decide from all they hear about Christianity for themselves. Yet, when the non-believer rubs shoulders with the Christian, what they are going to experience now should be the real deal. It is not a tainted picture, like the media might portray, but a real picture of who the Christian truly is. And again, they are going to have to decide their response, but at least it is a response to the real thing. Because here is what we are forcing the non-believer to do: to see that yes, the Christian holds to certain ethical principles which yes, oppose the direction of the culture; yet they also must see that the Christian is striving to be pure, that he or she loves his spouse greatly, that he dearly loves his children. That the Christian works hard, that he or she truly cares about others, and that the Christian has a deep-seated love for Christ. So though the culture states things about Christianity both true and false, the non-Christian will see for himself what a Christian truly is by his personal interaction with the Christian. Do you understand what I am saying? That though the culture might place Christianity in a certain box, it is the Christian’s responsibility to either prove those things that are true or disprove those things that are false by the way in which the Christian lives.
So, Peter is going to give us a picture of what a true Christian is to be before the world. Look with me at verses 11-12, and this is so relevant. Look at your Bibles, don’t take my word for it. “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles.” Emphasizing that we are not part of the world. Teaching us the truth that the Lord has placed us on the earth for a temporary time for a specific purpose. Therefore, work hard, and fulfill your purpose, but don’t get too comfortable. “[T]o abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” Listen Christian, resist those things that would be in direct opposition with who we are in Christ, things such as greed, pride, pornography, jealousy, and anger. “[B]y keeping your conduct excellent among the Gentiles.” Excellent conduct. In other words, things that would be in harmony with our saved souls, generosity, humility, purity, contentment, and peace. Why? “[S]o that in the thing which they slander you as evildoers.”
Just like today where we as Christians may be viewed as the evil ones. Yes, this will happen, so we might as well get used to it. That we are the ones who are judgmental or unloving. But their view is going to change because of government mandates? Probably not. There view is going to change because schools are going to again teach Christian values? Probably not. No, it is because they, the person within society is going to be compelled by something else … what is it? look at your Bibles. “[That] they [unbelievers] may because of your good works, as they observe them [those who are living holy lives], glorify God in the day of visitation.” Unbelievers will observe Christians that are living holy lives. Our purpose is to be a biblical representation of holiness.
Let’s pray. Father, You have placed us in a world that is so uncertain, yet our pathway is clear, our directives are straightforward. We have a responsibility to showcase before the world both truth and love, that in the midst of lies and despair, the non-believer is confronted by the Christian. So help us Lord with this great task, the task to live a life of holiness. So give us a burden to share with others the great salvation You have given to us. For we ask these things in our Saviour’s name, amen.
“I bow before Your cross, This broken life made new, Amazed at all You are, And who I am in You.” Chosen by God, a chosen family. And for each of us to go home today and think that I need to take this passage to heart is good. Yet I believe it misses part of what Peter is teaching. For it is not enough that we would live as Peter has stated without considering the corporate challenge.
One of the things which I teach in marriage counseling is a trust with each other (later in chapter 3), that I would uphold my spouse greatly before others. As I never worry about anything that Anne would say about me and Anne never worries about what I would say about her. Now it does not mean that I do not have faults, for Anne would know my faults more than anyone else. But there is the responsibility of a trusted union between us, which should determine the way in which I live and the way in which Anne lives and our trust with each other. So too, is our connectedness with each other as a body of believers, as we have a responsibility to live in a way as Peter has described. Firstly, because of our relationship with Jesus Christ. But secondly, because of our connection with each other, because we are a chosen family, a body of believers here in this place.
Remember the little girl that was sent off to the birthday party, who had received the instruction for her Mom and Dad. And the hope was that she would represent her family well at the party. Well, we have received instruction here this morning, and the hope is that we would represent both Jesus Christ and this family of believers well. Elim Bible Chapel, we are a family. Therefore, display both truth and love to the world and live holy. And all God’s people said, amen.