The church’s identity as God’s people causes them to live differently than the world!
While exercise and eating right are key to staying healthy, professional football players take their workouts to another level. They must train in speed, agility, strength, and power. It’s not even unusual for NFL players to be at their team’s facility from 6 am until 7 pm. Not only do they have these intense workouts, but they also spend hours watching film, participating in team meetings, and attending community or charity events. These athletes live their lives differently – with strict diets, workouts, and team requirements – because of their identity as football players.
Because of our identity as Christ-followers, believers should also look different from the world, especially in the way we train for our future. We should be constantly training in righteousness through the reading of God’s Word, in order to do His work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that God’s Word teaches us what is right, what is not right, how to get it right, and how to stay right. We are to look different from the world when we live out our identity as God’s people in that we need to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, and understanding our identity by being in the Word.
God has a great purpose for each of our lives. We’ve not only been saved from our sin, we’ve been saved to live out the mission. We must stand firm on the foundation of righteousness provided for us in Jesus and remember our new identity and true home is in Christ, so that we live out this mission, being set apart for the work of the gospel and the glory of God.
We the believers are a part of the body of Christ and play an important role. As those who are chosen by God and received great mercy, we have been given a new identity and all we do must flow out of this new identity. We’ve also been given a new purpose and calling to be set apart for the working and glory of God, with Christ as our foundation and example. God has provided a solid foundation for us to experience His goodness for eternity.
Through Christ’s obedient life, sinless sacrifice, and powerful resurrection, by faith we can stand firm on this foundation provided for us. One of these foundational truth Peter presents for us, is that we are on this earth to be living stones who declare the salvation of our glorious Lord to all who will hear.
Read 1 Peter 2:1-8
The first thing Peter said was for us to aggressively and urgently fight our sinful flesh. Yet all too often we find ourselves complacent, even comfortable, with our sinful patterns. Though we have been given right-standing with God through Jesus’ sacrifices, we still have much work to do as we wait on the completion of God’s work in us. Though we are in the process of being made more like Jesus as God works in us both to will and for His good purpose, we have sin in our lives that clings closely to us, and scripture continually commands us to take it down.
Next, Peter will use a metaphor to make his point. But first, Peter encouraged the church to desire the Word in order to grow into Christian maturity. The expectation of a true Christ follower is steady maturity, which comes primarily through a healthy diet of the Bible. And a desire for the Bible stems from a deep need to be closer to God, because God’s Word is the primary way we can learn more about Him and hear from Him. If we’ve truly tasted and experienced God’s goodness, we will naturally want more and more of Him. What Peter was proclaiming in this passage was that every believer is a living stone – rejected by people – but chosen and honored by God for His purposes. We are a spiritual house for the presence of God who is building each of us into a holy priesthood.
Ephesians 2:19-22 tells us that we are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God – we are the body of Christ having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone. This foundation is Christ, on which we as believers are being built together as living stones for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. We are these living temples of God (in which the Spirit dwells in us) by which we offer up these spiritual sacrifices for the kingdom of God.
We are to be a living sacrifice (Rom.12:2) in that we live for God by being a reflection of Christ-likeness that is Holy and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. We are God’s fellow workers and God’s building who is built on the foundation of Christ who is the Chief Cornerstone in whom the whole building being built together grows into a holy temple in which each one of us play an important role.
Read 1 Corn. 3:10-11
So each one of us must consider or take into account how we build on this foundation. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. If we lay any other foundation or build upon anything other than Christ it is worthless and it will be burnt up. We must build upon the foundation of Christ just as those who have gone before us with great sacrifice so that we continue to build upon that which was laid, because we are living stones placed in the building of God for the building of the kingdom and glorification of Jesus Christ.
Peter tells us that those who believe on Jesus shall not be put to shame and therefore, He is precious to those who believe – but to those who do not believe, stumble on this stone. Why? Read Romans 9:32-33. Christ crucified to the Jews was a stumbling block. Peter in this passage, verses 6 & 8 was referencing OT Scripture which talked about this stone being Christ, who was laid in Zion who is precious to those who believe, yet a stumbling block to those who are perishing (those who rejected this stone). But to us who are being saved it is the power of God in which we will not be put to shame.
So Peter continues this metaphor in these following verses: 1 Peter 2:9-10
Peter described us in four ways. First, we are a chosen race, a description linked to God forming a new nation through Abraham. The Israel people had been chosen by God and set apart for His purposes. In the same way, the church is a people set apart by Jesus Christ who has given us new life and made us new creatures in Christ for His purpose. Being a chosen race also affirms that our primary identity rests in who we are in Christ, not our ethnicity, nationality, or culture. Jesus’ intention is that we be a people completely unified in Him.
The next description is a royal priesthood which reminds us of our function to be intercessors to the unbelieving world around us. This is the core of being a priest – one who intercedes on the behalf of others and bring them to God. Next, as a holy nation, we are a people set apart from the world, but not disengaged from it. We are not to be holy through our lack of presence in the world, but through our different way of living in the world. Our speech and our conduct in the way we treat others should be remarkably different from other around us.
Peter’s final description – says, we are a people for His possession. This reminds us of whom we belong to, the price that was paid to purchase us, and the future hope we have in Christ, because our life is hidden with Christ in God. Our possession came at a great cost – Jesus’ suffering and death – but that purchase price also has future implications. Just as Jesus rose from the dead, we too have been promised a future resurrection.
We belong to God, we are His possession and we have been given the promise of this inheritance that we will receive as His people who have been guaranteed this inheritance by the sealing of the Holy Spirit of promise – until the redemption of the purchased possession (Ephesians 1:13-14).
So as we look back on how we became His, we should be filled with gratitude. And when we look forward to what awaits us, we are filled with hope. Along with our new identity, we are given a new citizenship. This world is no longer our home.
Peter went on to address how we should live in light of our new identity. Read 1 Peter 2:11-17
One key to living out our new identity and purpose is to fully understand our new citizenship. We cannot live out the call to be holy with one foot in the conduct of the world and another in the lifestyle of Christianity. Because they are different from one another. How might greater effort focusing on eternity change our attitudes and actions each day? Focusing on eternity will mean we aren’t merely living for the moment. Instead, it remind us that our lives are a part of something much bigger than ourselves.
What difference will it make in our attitudes and actions if we love our place in the world more than we love our citizenship in God’s kingdom? If our ultimate allegiance is to the world and what the world has to offer, then our actions will surely follow. Each of the four preceding descriptions of the church – a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for God’s possession – reminds us that we are fundamentally different from the world. We are, as Peter puts it, strangers and exiles. This is our new identity in Christ and our changed behavior should flow from this identity. Who we are should always be the root of our behavior.
The first way we live as strangers in the world is by avoiding sinful desires. The idea here is that we should live in an unexpected way. In other words, we do not give in to the sinful patterns of the culture around us. We must counter the culture in our lifestyle. We are to live honorably so that when the world attempts to lie about us and say we are evildoers, our faithful lifestyles refute every accusation. Instead our good works will draw them toward God and not away.
The second way we live differently is through our submission to authority. We are to willfully and respectfully place ourselves under the authority God has placed over us and in doing so, once again silence any foolish accusations made against us, through our good citizenship.
The third way we live as strangers and exiles is through our honor for everyone, our love for our fellow believers, and our fear of God. Peter seems to present these as important. It is important that we honor everyone but more important that we love the church, and ultimately most important that we fear God.
Which of the three ways Peter taught us to live is most challenging for you?
We must remember that we are God’s chosen people and because of our identity in Christ it should cause us to live differently than the world, knowing that we have been called out of the darkness into His marvelous light, so that we would proclaim the praises of His glory in word and deed.