A Chosen People
1 Peter 2:9-10
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 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.”
Generally speaking, people grow up in this world, and from an early age learn to see, and to understand most things from a worldly perspective. Especially the truth of who we are, and what we are here to do seem to heavily rest on worldly philosophies passed down from generation to generation. Critical things such as self-worth are then measured based on who we are in the world, what we do with our lives here, what we have accomplished thus far, and what we hope to accomplish in our lives. We grow up in this world and are pummeled with such worldly concepts that it is hard to break through and see the reality of things from God’s perspective. Sometimes, even Christians— who should know better— seem to retain and hold on to such philosophies even in small measures which in time take a heavy toll on the life God intends for them to have. When a Christian measures his or her life by the world’s standards, they lose their heavenly perspective, become ineffective as Christians and may even become useless to God. More than that, a sense of God’s grace is lost in them. And what’s worse is the possibility that they fall into pride— human worldly pride— and lose the ever so crucial thankfulness that often defines a Christian’s maturity and relationship with God.
But my life— who I am known or unknown— and what I do significant or insignificant— what I have or do not have— my day to day job whether thrilling or tedious— where I live in a mansion or a hovel— all these things have nothing to do with the spiritual reality. That is what Peter hopes to tell the people he was writing to. They were Christians— the highest most blessed place any human being can be in. And regardless of what the world deems them to be, will not change the reality of their true worth. Beyond imaginings, they are the elite of the human race, the only sweet fragrance there is in a world rancid and rotting from all that the world considers good and desirable. Peter spoke to a people at the time who had been losing everything in a world that hated and persecuted them for who they really were. He was speaking to those who had to flee homes confiscated by those who ridiculed them for their teachings on love and sacrifice. Peter called them strangers in a world that didn’t understand them. The was speaking to such insignificant people in society that no one would even care to rise to their defense. He was speaking to those who were defenseless and impoverished. Even if there had been some among them who had a standing and influence in the society, they had now been stripped of it and driven out to insecurity and often oblivion. But peter never once felt sorry for them nor gave them sympathy. Rather, strange as it may seem to the worldly ear, the Apostle Peter— who had walked and talked with the Lord of lords and King of kings— Peter commended them. He also reminded them of who they were. In this Peter was sure that whatever sadness or grief they underwent; whatever a sense of worthlessness they may have momentarily felt; whatever confusions or regrets that may have crossed their hearts for a heartbeat; whatever— Peter was sure would evaporate instantly. For they were Christians! And that alone is something to remember and to hold on to whatever else may happen to them— something to forever give thanks to God for. They were Christians.
Thanksgiving Thursday I thought a lot about the grace God had shed on us and on me personally. I realized how truly unthankful I often get to be and searched out my heart to see what the problem might be. The problem seems to always be sin. Like a disease that flares up when totally unexpected, and can either get better or worse depending on how it is dealt with. The Bible teaches us to deal with sin severely. Dr. Alex once taught us in our “purity workshop” the term “radical amputation” which seems to perfectly describe the way to deal with sin. “Radical” can mean “extreme” and “without compromise”. And “amputation” can also mean one thing— “amputation”. Amputation is “cutting off” “severing”. Radical amputation then is the way to deal with whatever sin I find in my heart which is making me sick. Un-thankfulness makes me sick— very sick. Pride also makes me sick— very sick. A proud and unthankful Christian is a really sick Christian— one who needs to radically amputate— severely sever without compromise— those things that make us sick. Peter gave the early Christians who were in danger of becoming sick by their worldly predicaments, hardships, troubles, and pains— he gave them the means by which to cut off anything that comes in the way between their loving God and them— anything that makes them proud or unthankful. He reminded them who they were. With that, He also reminded them of how they became what they were— what the Lord had done for them. Sometimes it’s the best remedy to sickness is to repent of what we have forgotten and to remember what God has done for us and why. To do that, we have to radically amputate whatever is in our hearts which makes us forget who were are and what we have been chosen to do.
Read 1 Peter 2:9-10 again. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 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.” One often does not forget where he or she works, nor is it normal to forget the name of one’s son or daughter. Our physical lives are filled with things we remember. So should be our spiritual life as well— filled with things we must remember as well as with things we must forget. For example, we should remember “the grace of God” or the “love of God” for us. And we should forget what harm others have done to us. We should also remember to “be joyful always”, and to “pray continually”, and to “give thanks to God in all circumstances” as the Bible teaches us to. (1 Thess. 5:16-18) But as much as we should try to remember those things in our daily lives and our daily walk with the Lord, we should also try not to forget them. But as much as these things are urgent to remember in our daily lives and our daily walk with the Lord, it is interesting what Peter wanted the suffering flock of God in his time to first of all remember.
Read our key verse again. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 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.” It’s truly amazing what God would have us remember. God wants us remember who we really are in this passing fleeting life; as well as what he would have us do in this passing fleeting life. To remember who you and I really are, and what we are called by him to do are really powerful memories that can bring healing and health and stability and maturity in our hearts and lives— especially in this world with up-side-down standards and values.
It is important to remember the time when we were not a people of God at all. It was the time we had not yet received God’s mercy. We had no idea then that we were nothing but drifters in a world without God’s mercy. We had no idea then that since we were not one of God’s people, we were therefore living under God’s wrath rather than in his mercy. We had no idea then that we were also living in a world powered by sin and ruled by evil. We had no idea then why our hearts were always dark and anxious. When we were not a people of God, it was a scary time of our lives. With no meaning nor purpose to our life, we drifted along with everyone else, like Cain who was also a restless and anxious wonderer. Those who loved us witnessed the turmoil in our hearts. Even our parents would have liked to give us some peace of mind, and some future security, and some hope, and some vision for a beautiful future. They would have liked to inherit us a trouble-free life, and a life full of wonder without even a day of sadness. They would have liked to give us an inheritance of joy. They would have liked to inherit us a country without violence and war, a place with no tears nor pain. A world full of kindness and gentleness and generosity. But in all honestly no parents could hope to give us even a fraction of this. For the most part, parents do their best for their children, but in this world, the best of parents could give no more than the legacy of Cain — the gift of anxiety and of a life of going nowhere. Why? Simply because its what they had inherited from their own parents before them. (1 Peter 1:18) And with all their well-intentioned but powerless blessings, eventually they end up sending their grown children into a world of uncertainty.
In truth, whoever goes out into this world, ends up living in fear in the world we are driven to live in. It matters not if we have a family we can call our own, or a place we call our own home, the fact is that most people end up alone. Living like Cain the anxious wanderer— what the Bible considers a life under curse. We must not forget this. Rather we must remember these truths. Because unless we remember them, unless we do forget not what we were and what our lives were like, or what our lives would have amounted to, it will be hard to see or to fully appreciate what God had done for us.
In his great mercy God found us in our time of trouble. And God shed his grace on us through his Son Jesus. He chose to forgive us of our shameful sins rather than condemn us for them. He chose to take our aimless lives and gave them a new direction— he gave us a life to be lived for him. He removed the guilt and shame of our past life. And God replaced all that with his endless and undying love. In his great mercy he purified our hearts from the fears and anxieties of life— fears and anxieties we sometimes could not even understand— and he gave us instead his gracious peace to rule in our hearts from day to day. In his great mercy, he also chose us to be his very own children when we had originally belonged to no one. And if we did not belong to anyone, we may have actually belonged to the devil. But in his great mercy, God also chose us to work side by side with him in the salvation work he was doing in our generation.
“Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Surely, once we had not received mercy. Once we were only waiting to receive the just rewards of our sins. Once, we were living only until the final day when God in his justice would pass on us the judgment of death, a judgment reserved for those who do not live for God but who live for themselves in this world. But in his love, we were shown mercy. Once we were not a people at all. But now we are part of God’s people. Now we have been chosen for salvation and for eternal life and for the kingdom of God, the very thing Jesus died in order to secure for us. But most of all, in his great mercy, God has chosen us as a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. In other words, God had given us the very identity we so desperately need in a world where people are no people, and men are not men; in a life that has no meaning and no identity. Now we have an identity, we are the children of God. We are the chosen of God. We are the blessed ones reserved for God and for his kingdom. This we must remember. We should not forget this.
And for what purpose has the Almighty chosen to call us his very own people? It was to declare the praises of this loving God and of his gracious Son to all people. It was for the purpose of advertising what he has done to the whole world, so that the whole world may know that there is a God who loves sinners— that there is a God whose sacrifice for sinners goes beyond human logic and beyond human reasoning— a God who has made the ultimate sacrifice to save his children from death and to bring us back home to himself. That, is what God wants us to do. That is the purpose for which we were created. That is what we are living for. That is what we should remember. It is our identity— who we are— we are Christians. It is also our mission— to tell of God’s grace and mercy to the world.
We celebrate thanksgiving to remember God’s provisions— the greatest of which is the giving of his Son who died on the cross for our sins — and through his Gospel of grace— to also to give us a heavenly identity as his people— a people belonging to Him. And who shed his blood for us to make us a holy nation, a nation privileged with all the blessings of heaven and more— and who rose from the dead to commission us as the ambassadors of his Son and of the gospel of life to the world. For this we are thankful to God Almighty who in his great mercy has chosen us to no longer belong to this world, but to belong to him. And who has also appointed us to share with him in the work of salvation — to be shepherds, Bible teachers and missionaries to the world. And regardless of our human situation, whatever our situation may be, we should turn our hearts in thanksgiving. It is what God wants us to do always. [1 Thes. 5:18] To do so, we need to radically amputate, cut off, remove, any hindrances from our hearts. Most of the time, the deep rooted selfishness, complaints, bitterness, anger, discontentment in something or another, apathy, and mostly unwillingness to forgive others’ grievances against us— all these things are notorious in making us remember what needs be forgotten and forgetting what needs be remembered. On this day, we need to remember who we are and what it cost him to make us so, and push forward to be the Christian God would have us be.
God’s mercy to me, and to all of us is remarkable. In his mercy, God has brought me into his family and made me one of his own people. By his mercy he has also brought so many of us into this family of faith to be part of his redemptive work and to belong to a nation and a people unequalled on earth. By his grace he has shown us mercy by blessing our lives in every way. Our lives may not be free of troubles and hardships and pains and sorrows. But our lives are the most blessed lives in heaven and on earth. In his mercy, God has inherited us what we could not possibly have inherited from this world. How privileged and blessed we truly are! Blessed enough to inherit our children living hope and almighty faith and glorious vision and a love this world cannot offer them— also what joy it is to be able to give them gospel of life. Jesus teaches us to inherit them a life of sacrifice rather than a life of selfish and self serving ambitions. We can give them a life direction which does not begin and end with a dead-end job, but a life direction which begins and ends in the kingdom of heaven.
On this thanksgiving weekend, may you remember God’s grace which gives you the unique identity as “Christian” and calls you by his mercy to belong to him, and to do his will. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 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.” Amen