1 Peter 2:9-12 – Chosen by God

ChosenByGod

You are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people who belong to God. You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not God’s people, but now you are. Once you were not shown mercy, but now you have been shown mercy.

Dear friends, since you are foreigners and temporary residents in the world, I’m encouraging you to keep away from the desires of your corrupt nature. These desires constantly attack you. Live decent lives among unbelievers. Then, although they ridicule you as if you were doing wrong while they are watching you do good things, they will praise God on the day he comes to help you. (GW)

The Apostle Peter wrote his letter to a group of believers struggling in the middle of suffering. He sought to encourage them with who they are in Christ, as well as exhort them to not go back to old ways of dealing with hard circumstances. And this is darned good instruction for us, as well, when we feel beat down in tough situations:

Remember who you are and to whom you belong; and, let that new identity, not the old one, determine how you will respond and what choices you will make when the going gets rough.

We are chosen people (Greek ἐκλεκτόν which is literally “elected”). We have royal blood. We belong to God – called by him and set apart for a life of proclaiming his great mercy. Peter simply encouraged and exhorted with the very same mercy he himself had been shown. Peter was chosen by Jesus despite his credentials. He had no formal training and was impulsive, random, headstrong, and likely had some first-century version of adult attention deficit disorder. Yet, Jesus elected him because God’s choice always nullifies human pride and ingenuity.

God chooses people for deliverance from sin, chooses to bestow royalty upon them, and chooses them as his own to be his ambassadors to the world. God’s choice of us is not based on our ability, but on God’s call and the Spirit’s presence and power working in and through us so that we might not boast in anything but the cross.

These chosen people Peter addressed were not full citizens. They were considered as foreigners by the Roman Empire in which they lived. The believers had limited rights in a Roman society which valued wealth, power, status, prestige, and pedigree. The Christians, along with Peter, had none of this privilege. Peter was letting them know that they have a status as God’s chosen people, distinct from the values of their surrounding culture.

The Christians were equipped for royal greatness through being set apart for Christ, with the Spirit of God to help make them holy in an unholy society.

It is from this firm standing and status of belonging to God and having their identity in Jesus Christ that the struggling believers could, then, firmly resist turning to the dark side. A strong sense of place and purpose is what helps us all to live decent lives, even when those who misunderstand and mistreat seem to be having the day over us. More than once in my own life I have been ridiculed and mocked only years later to have those very same persons say, “I noticed how you responded and watched how you handled situations and it made a deep impression on me.” Indeed, they went from parody to praise because of the mercy of God.

We are encouraged by Peter to take the long view of our circumstances. The Scriptures invite us to a more expansive view of our lives, a bigger picture of those around us, and a broader perspective of our society as a royal priesthood of believers. Any old fool can criticize others from afar, play armchair quarterback about things they know nothing about, and expect everyone else to bend to their way of thinking. It is, however, the wise person, instructed through deep suffering, who chooses to walk in the way of mercy, day after day, week after week, year after year, even though the pain is persistent and relentless. Such persons belong to God and have no need to rely on unmerciful and corrupt practices to live a full and satisfying life.

Sovereign God, thank you that you accept us as we are: vulnerable, flawed and in need of love. Feed us and fill us with the certainty of your love, the power of your Spirit, and the joy of your Kingdom as we open ourselves to your choice and your call upon us. Because you have chosen us, we declare your glory to the world. We no longer walk in the uncertainty of the darkness but in the certainty of your glorious light through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Click Who You Say I Am by Hillsong Worship as together we seek to live in the light of our glorious identity.

Ephesians 1:3-6 – Blessed to Belong

blessed to belong

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (NIV)

We tend to live up to how we view ourselves.  If we see ourselves as never getting ahead and needing to lie, cheat, and steal to obtain anything in this life, then we will view ourselves as common thieves.  If we think that the only way to have love and security in this life is to make ourselves as presentable as we possible can, then we will view ourselves as basically unlovely and search for love in all the wrong places by always trying to keep up appearances.  If we look at ourselves as stupid, then we will tend to make poor decisions even when it’s in our ability to make good choices because we see ourselves as unable to compete with those smarter than us.

The common theme in all these scenarios is that it is life lived apart from God.  Without him, we are like lost street children trying to just survive from day to day.  What we need, what we search for is to have a good blessed life in a loving home, a place to belong in a world of disconnection.

To be “blessed,” to have “blessing” in the Holy Scriptures is to have God’s stamp of approval on your life.  Let that reality sink-in for a moment….

The picture being painted at the very beginning of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus was that they were like wayward children roaming the streets as orphans.  The Ephesians were ensconced in their idol worship of Artemis, the fertility cult goddess.  They were going about life without a whim about the true and living God of all.  In sheer grace God plucked them from their worthless condition and adopted them.  He placed his blessing upon them because of his love.

What’s more, the Ephesians were chosen and predestined for holiness and purity.  God set them apart for his blessing.  It’s as if he brought them into his kingly palace, provided lavishly for them, and let them have the run of the place.  They got to enjoy every blessing that came with being children of the king.

The focus and orientation of these verses is about how tremendously special the believer in Jesus really is.  And it has nothing to do with how presentable we are to a holy God.  Instead, out of the storehouse of his blessed grace, God chose and adopted.

On top of all that, God did it simply because he was pleased to do it.  God does not choose, predestine, and adopt with a begrudging attitude, but because it brings him great pleasure to do so.  My friend, do you see how God views you?  Do you know how special you really are?  Have you an understanding of the incredible position you have in Jesus Christ, as his follower?

As a child of the king, you live up to the position you know you possess.  Freedom from worry and anxiety don’t come from willpower, but from the understanding that our Father owns all things and we will never be in need.  Deliverance from the power of darkness doesn’t come by trying to do better, but through the knowledge that God has redeemed us and chosen us to live in his gracious realm forever.

The believer has every spiritual blessing in Christ.  God has your back.  You belong to him.  And to belong to Jesus Christ is to be blessed.  It makes all the difference in the world.

Gracious God, your loving activity has snatched me from the barren streets of sin and brought me into a realm of incredible blessing.  Thank you for blessing me and giving me a place to belong forever; through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit reign forever and ever in a celebration of redeeming love.  Amen.