Big Idea: Christians Pilgrims are singing Precious Royal Priests
Intro: Well morning friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and today we continue our study of 1 Peter – thinking about life and the purpose of life. So far Peter has said we have been born again into a LIVING hope, by a LIVING Word to be today – LIVING stones. So Peter is talking about LIVING and LIVING WELL for God’s glory. So let’s pray…
PRAYER: Well last few weeks, as we dived into 1 Peter – I’ve been amazed that this book is written by a common, uneducated fisherman. Peter has been answering some of the big philosophical questions of life; like why do we exist? Why is there suffering in the world? And now, Peter begins to answer the next big question of life – who am I?
When Peter says; “you are a royal priesthood” OR “you are a holy nation,” he is addressing issues of identity. He is answering the question; ” Who am I? Now again this is a live issue. Young people everywhere are asking who am I? Am I heterosexual? Am I homosexual? Am I bisexual or asexual? According to the LGBTQIA Community there are now 47 different sexualities that could define who you are. Some that you may not yet heard, include; graysexual; demisexual and omnisexual. So who are you? And is your true self, your true identity really defined by your sexual proclivity?
Closely, related to these sexuality identity markers are gender identity markers. Am I male? Am I female? Am I non-binary or gender-fluid? Our world is not only confused on the existential front of why do I exist, but also on the identity front of – who am I? Once upon a time (in a land now far, far away) these were not big questions – because the western world accepted God’s revelation in the Bible. Sin, lies and death wrecked our perception of self and the meaning of life. So God in his kindness gave us the Bible to answer some of the most basic questions of life. And by and large we accepted those answers and experientially they produced much good for humanity.
But then the Enlightenment in the C18th & C19th – rejected the Bible as a source of truth and humanism argued we had to work out what was true for ourselves, rather than accept the Bible.
Now this was presented as true freedom. Instead of being constrained by irrelevant book – you could now be and do whatever you wanted to be and do. The problem is (because of our insecurities) most of us are not very good at choice. We panic. What if I make the wrong choice? What if I get married as a heterosexual, but I’m really homosexual? What if I live my whole life as a man, but really I’d be happier as a woman? Then bit by bit we become paralysed – because 47 different types of sexuality and 12 different genders is simply too many choices. So, what was originally presented as a liberating thing is actually increasing anxiety, worry and despair. How do I really know who I am?
Well that brings the next problem of what is now call identity politics (that began in the 1970’s and 1980’s). Forgetting that we are God’s children, made for His glory – political influences started telling people – who they are and what they should be doing. It generally began with a statement like; you are black (that is your fundamental identity) and this is what you should be doing if you are black. Or you are LGBTQIA and you are a victim of oppression. So you should be doing x, y, z – to express yourself and stop being a victim. Most recently, it is becoming you are indigenous, or you are gender diverse or you a white heterosexual, middle class Judaeo Christian cisgender man who oppresses everyone else and you should shut up. Welcome to identity politics. Identity is now dividing us into different groups, with different objectives AND we are expected to be loyal to our group and work with our group to triumph over the particular oppressors of our group. And some in the Christian church (especially in America) are now playing these identity politics more than they preach the gospel. So what is identity and who is in our Christian group?
Point 1: Christian Identity is Relational, Personal and Corporate
Show: 1Pet.2:4-5a (READ)
Explain: Well as Peter begins to layout our identity he speaks to us both personally as living stones and corporately as a spiritual house. Human identity is never truly grasped in isolation from others, but in relationship with others. So let’s unpack this passage.
In verse 4 – Peter says “as you come to him, the Living Stone rejected by humans… The living stone in this passage is talking about Jesus, or more specifically God’s Son in Jesus. When God’s Son, took on flesh and became the man Jesus he was rejected by men. People didn’t want to accept that Jesus was the Living One. God’s Son in Jesus really is the foundation stone (not only of the church), but of everything that ever existed. As the Bible explains in John 1 and Colossians 1 – Jesus is the Living One, through whom and in whom everything exists – both visible and invisible. He is the foundation stone of the first world and he is the foundation stone of the new creation. Jesus’ life is not derived from others. Jesus has life in himself – in the sense that he is God in the flesh. But human beings didn’t want to accept Jesus is God or that he is the source of life – so humanity rejected LIFE and put LIFE to death.
Of course, this is the way Jesus saved us. The penalty for rejecting GOD is death. If we reject the source of life we naturally die. If we unplug ourselves from the source of life (and go our own way) – it is only a matter of time before our lights begin to go out. (This is our post-Christian world. As Nietzsche said God is dead and that means we are now dying). The consequence of rejecting the Living One has, and always will be, death. But the Living One (who has life in Himself) died on the cross for us to take the penalty for our sin. The Creator accepts the death his creatures deserve – to show us how much he loves us. Like parents scorned by rebellious teenagers – God does everything to win back our love and respect – because He knows our rebellion and anger will ultimately destroy us. So God does the cross – so that we might willingly come back to Him, the source of life – under our own volition.
But most people don’t see that Jesus died for them. Most people struggle to see that Jesus really is LIFE ITSELF in the flesh. But in verse 4 – Peter says “As you come to him…” (See it, verse 4). As you (Christians) come to him the LIVING STONE – you become living stones. In other words, life begins to flow in you once again. The living hope (week 1), the living and enduring word (week 2) and the living Stone (week 3) brings us back to the state of really living. Now the way we come to Jesus is by faith. We believe Jesus died for our sins as Saviour. We believe Jesus is Lord and giver of life. There is no other way to relate to God (the source of life) except trusting Him. And in trusting Him, we find the life that He is giving us… The question is have you trusted Jesus (or life itself) as your Saviour and Lord?
This is where redeemed life begins to flow again. And it is personal. The only way to truly know yourself as alive (instead of dead) is to know yourself in relation to God. God is a being, a person with whom we have relationship – either good or bad. You all have a relationship with God already – its just good or its bad. Ultimate reality is actually personal and relational. A famous Jewish philosopher named Martin Buber – called this the I-Thou relationship. There is no “I”, not even a comprehension of “I” (in the question who am I) until you know “thou” who gave you life. The ”I” does not exist independently of the “Thou.” It’s like trying to describe a proton with no reference to the neutron or the electron. Its impossible and so your knowledge self is deficient and warped.
But Peter says as we come back to God – through Jesus and plug ourselves back into life itself (which is relational) – we don’t just become living stones in relation to Jesus the Living Stone, we become living stones in relation to other living stones. Peter says, that while life and identity is only grasped in relation to God, life and identity also has a corporate aspect that is only grasped in relation to others. Now when Peter speaks of the spiritual house – he is not talking about the institutional church. Peter is talking about other real born-again Christian’s who know the Living Stone.
In other words, we only answer the “I am question” – in relationship with God and other born again Christians – who you usually find in churches. Not that everyone in the Christian church is a living stone. Many people in churches and many pastors are still thick as bricks when it comes to the nature of life. They are not living stones. They are just bricks.
Apply: But the answer to the question; “who am I” is that you (as a Christian) are first and foremost a child of God. Your life is derived from a Creator and you are a creature. But you are not an accident of your Heavenly Fathers passions. He originally and intentionally gave you life (and then he intentionally and purposefully redeemed your life – with the precious blood of his eternal Son) because you are a precious child. God the Father wants you in His life and he paid the ultimate price to have you in his life. So your truest identity is that you are a living, precious, wanted and loved child of God. Now do you believe that? Can you say (Slide 3) – I am a living, precious, wanted and loved child of God. In Jesus – that is your truest identity.
That is why abortion is such a heinous sin. It is not just a sin against the unborn, it is a sin against “who am I?”. In abortion – we are saying you are not worthy of life, because you are not precious, not wanted and not loved – by anyone. And in the process – we are destroying countless lives who are worthy, precious, wanted and loved by God. Our world will one day answer for this crime. But perhaps we already are – because what we are saying to the unborn, we are existentially and ontological saying to ourselves. Our actions are saying – no one is worthy of life. No one is really precious, no one is wanted or loved. We are all just nothings (just I’s) passing through a meaningless world – where life has no value (apart from God). You can’t really live believing you are unworthy, unprecious, unwanted and unloved… But as we come to the living stone Jesus (restoring the I-Thou) relationship with our heavenly Father we find our true identity in Thou and we come into a spiritual home – where other living stones – treat as worthy, precious, wanted and loved. At least that is God’s intention in God’s household.
Point 2: Christian Identity is found in Priestly Christ-like Service of God
Show: 1Pet.2:5-6 (READ)
Explain: Well here the “I am” sentence gets more flesh on its bones. This says you are a holy priest in Gods household. So, if you are a Christian, say with me “I am a priest.” (PAUSE) Again; “I am a priest.” Now I know some of you are thinking. But hang on I’m still a drug addict or I’m still a porn addict or I’m still as greedy, materialistic and full of lies – as a common TV evangelist. Yes, I know! Crazy stuff. You are priests – so live as authentic priests. We love throwing stones at all the hypocritical TV evangelists or Catholic priests – who give Jesus a bad name. But how many of us are giving Jesus a bad name – through our priestly witness to the world…
Having found our true identity in Jesus – through an I-Thou relationship that brings us into a spiritual family where we are treated as worthy, wanted, loved and precious to God – Peter says recognize you are also a priest. That’s who you are. Now a priest exists to serve God. Traditionally, priests in the Catholic and Orthodox churches took vows of chastity, poverty and obedience to God. It was a public acknowledgement in their ordination – that they were leaving behind the things of the world – with the new sole purpose – of living for God and serving God. Now the thing is – every one of you Christians who have been through believer’s baptism made the same sort of vows at your public profession of faith. In believer’s baptism (and as we go under the water) we are dying to self, we are dying to the desires of the flesh etc, so that rising from the water we may live a new kind of life in service of God. Now what do you call someone who dedicates their life in baptism to the service of God? (PAUSE). C’mon. That’s right call them a priest. So say, “I am a priest!” (like you mean it). Yes. I know its comical. Calling some of you guys priests is nearly as strange as calling those pompous twats dressed up in funny outfits at Prince Charles coronation – priests.
Such pompous, self-glorifying priesthood is such an abomination to everything Jesus the foot-washing high-priest represents – that it is comical, in terms of tragedy. But here’s the real problem.
Our conception of priesthood, our conception of glory and victory over death is very different to God’s. Peter goes on to explain – that as priests offering spiritual sacrifices in God’s spiritual house – Jesus is the model that reveals God’s ways are different to the worlds ways…
Peter quotes three different Old Testament passages about Jesus the living stone to help us understand our identity and calling as priests. As priests (offering spiritual sacrifices) – we are meant to be like Jesus, who is like God (because he is God). Now there is a lot going on in these three Old Testament quotes from Isaiah and Psalms. If you go back later and look at the Old Testament passages in context – you’ll see there is a theme of trying to defeat death in each passage. The first passage (Isaiah 28) tries to beat death through witchcraft and making a covenant with the dead. The second passage Psalm 118 looks to beat death through religious observance and going to the temple – and then Isaiah 8 – tries to beat death through actual physical battle and warfare. All different ways – that man tries to triumph over death in this world.
Apply: But each passage also emphasizes that God’s way of being a priest and triumphing over death is not our way. I’ll draw out the point from Isaiah 28. In Isaiah 28:16; God says (Slide 3 – Isa.28:16 & 21-22). The point is – Gods work in Jesus is a strange and alien priestly work. It completely goes against the belief system of this world which is now survival of the fittest OR might is right. If God adopted the policy of survival of the fittest or might is right – God would have snuffed out this world for its rebellion a long time ago. But God has victory over death – by surrendering Himself to it. God does not run from death (like the Darwinian evolutionist). Rather God embraces death to save others – and in so doing reveals the path to eternal life. Now again – Gods ways are strange and alien in this world. God is a servant of others. Serving is not what God does. Servant is who God is in Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is a God who serves others (not just in Christ), but in His Trinitarian self. God is a priestly servant of others, and like him we are called to be priestly servants of others. But is this really the path to life?
If you look down to 1 Peter 2:11 you’ll see that it says (Slide 4 – 1Pet.2:11). Now I’m quoting from NIV 1984 – because our modern NIV (and most Bible translations) miss the clear link to Isaiah 28 – and the living stone. The reason we are aliens and strangers in this world is that we are following a God whose ways are alien and strange in this world. Jesus the living stone was a servant king. And this is also who you are – not what you do. Your identity is servanthood. That’s why some careers are more meaningful and satisfying than others – because the true path of life (even joyful life) is not found in being served, but in serving. So you are a worthy, loved, wanted, precious child of God who is a priest and servant in God’s family. This is who you are. This is the answer to “I am….”
Point 3: Christian Identity is found in Jewish identity, which leads to Praise
Show: 1Pet.2:9-10 (READ)
Explain: Well as I pointed out when we began this book – the primary recipients of this book were probably Jewish Christians – exiled from Rome. Its hard to say to Gentile Christians – you are a holy nation (verse 9). It is also hard to speak of Gentile Christians as exiles of the diaspora 1 Peter 1:1, when diaspora has very Jewish connotations. Again, let me remind you that some scholars use verse 10 – which says; “once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God” to argue for a Gentile audience. They claim that the apostle Peter would never say this to the Jews because they were always the people of God. But again, as I pointed out in the first sermon – this is a clear allusion to Hosea – where God calls the Jews “not my people”, but promises that in the future the Jews will receive mercy and truly become God’s people – through the Messiah.
So we have to accept (with zero argument) that these words – you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, Gods special possession that you may declare the praises of God – first applied to the Jews, before it ever applied to any Gentile. These words are Jewish words and Jewish identity markers.
Show: Exodus 19:4-6
But, when I say this that begins to finds itself through Jesus and in relationship with God and in Christian community starts to complete the that needs to be controlled by self, including other people and things. I-it thinking then pervades every interaction of life
Talking about Jesus as the living One – Peter is talking about Jesus as the source of life. Jesus is not just alive, he is what makes things alive. He
The living stone (rejected by men, but precious to God” is talking about Jesus. The living stone (rejected by men, but precious to God” is talking about Jesus.
The problem is – humanism which rejects the idea of God and