February 4 & 5, 2017 Epiphany 5
1 Peter 2: 9-12
Dear friends in Christ Jesus:
“Who do you think you are?” That question is sometimes asked as a challenge. “Who told you that you could make these changes? Who gave you the authority? Who do you think you are?”
But sometimes it’s asked not by someone else, but by yourself. After you’ve tried and failed or after your suggestion is shot down, it can lead one to ask, “Who do I think I am? Did I really think that would work? I shouldn’t have even tried.” And that kind of thinking can lead to low self-esteem.
Let’s look to our self-esteem today. What do you think of yourself? “Who do you think you are?” Well, honestly, that doesn’t matter that much, not compared to what God thinks of you. If he were to demand of you, “Who do you think you are?” what would you say?
Let’s consider that question, “Who do you think you are?” as we read our text for today, 1 Peter 2: 9-12:
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. Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Do you like reality TV? You know the shows, where they put cameras all over the house and follow every move each person makes so you can watch what happens as the drama unfolds. Reality TV is cheap to produce because you don’t need high priced stars or any special effects. Now would you like to be on reality TV? Would you like a camera crew following you around 24/7? That wouldn’t be so bad, right? After all, you’re a pretty good person, aren’t you? You’re a good spouse, a good kid, a good friend, a good employer or employee. You “let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds.” (Matthew 5:16)
Ah, but you have a darker side too, don’t you? You have things you wouldn’t want broadcast on live TV if there were a camera on you 24/7, right? You have things you wouldn’t want shown on a screen here at church. And what’s more, you have thoughts, things that only God sees, which you wouldn’t want put on display. And what’s more, there are plenty of sins in your life which you don’t even see. But God does. Who do you think you are? If you’re feeling proud, then take a look at the law, not a camera following you around. How do you measure up to God’s command to be perfect?
Let’s start with the reminder that you are not your own. You are “a people belonging to God.” You belong to him because he made you and because he bought you at an incredible price, the life of his own Son. Your money belongs to God. Your time belongs to God. Your body belongs to God. Your whole life belongs to God.
And what does he want from you? How does he want you to use that money, that body, that time, that whole life? To declare his praises. He wants you to live for him and declare his praises not just for an hour or two on at church, but in your home as you interact with your family, in your workplace as you behave differently than your co-workers, in your speech as you talk about your Savior.
What does he want from you? He wants you to be “aliens and strangers in the world.” You’re called to be different. You’re called to be weird. You’re called to live like you don’t fit in with the rest of the world. But can others tell that you’re not like them? Or do you try so hard to fit in that they don’t know you’re different? Do you care more about what other people think than about what God thinks? Who do you think you are? The truth is we can’t find our self-worth or our self-esteem in anything other than God. We have nothing to be proud of in ourselves. We deserve to be thrown in hell.
But we’re not by ourselves, are we? We have Jesus! And that makes a world of difference! In 1 Corinthians 6:11 Paul wrote, “that is what… you were. But… you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Now you’re different!
You have been chosen by God. He wants you on his team. He wants you on his team so much, that he acted. Christ, true God, became true man just like you and me. He gave up the glory of heaven to live on earth. And he lived a perfect life in your place. He was sinless in every way. And he gave that perfection to you and took your sin on himself. And he suffered the hell your sin deserves. Now you are forgiven. You are sinless. You are holy. We have Christ-esteem. That is, we esteem him and give him glory for what he’s done.
But we also have Christ-esteem in another sense. Though we have no self-esteem or self-worth because of our sin, in Christ, we have the highest esteem before God. We have great value in his sight!
Who do you think you are? Listen to what God thinks! “You are a chosen people.” You have been chosen by God, hand-picked by him to be on his team. And literally in the Greek, it says, “You are a chosen [race].” That means that we don’t find our identity in being German or Irish or Apache, but in being Christian, God’s hand-picked saints, chosen, not for anything we might have done, but by his grace alone. And what comfort that brings! Though we may seem nothing compared to others in this world, we have great worth and value because God chose us for himself.
“You are a… royal priesthood.” You are royalty, a prince or princess. That means that we don’t find our identity in our family tree, but in being a part of God’s family. We have been adopted by him at each of our baptisms. He treats you like royalty by his grace.
And you are a priesthood. Old Testament priests had access to God. They could approach him. They could pray to him. And you too, through Christ, have access to God. You can pray to him 24/7 like a little kid talking to dad. That means that we don’t find our identity in our job or profession, but in our new jobs as priests of God, eager to work for him, to pray to him.
“You are a… holy nation.” You are a people who have been set apart from sin. You are a people who have been set apart for God. That means that we don’t find our identity in being citizens of the United States, but as Christians, citizens of a heavenly kingdom that we’re in now and will fully enjoy one day soon in heaven.
“You are a… people belonging to God.” You belong to God. And that means that you’re not an outsider anymore, but belong. And as his possession, you know that he’s going to protect you. He’s going to take care of you. That means that we don’t find our identity in our toys, or our homes, or in how much we own, but in who owns us. We belong to God.
Do you see what God thinks of you? He thinks you’re pretty special. He think’s your holy. He thinks you’re awesome! So have Christ-esteem. See yourself as Christ sees you. “Who do you think you are?” You are special. You are holy. You are awesome. That’s what God says of you!
And as you see yourself through God’s eyes it will impact what you do. You’ll live differently. You will “let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds.” (Matthew 5:16) As Peter tells us, be different, “abstain[ing] from sinful desires.” Be weird as you lives “as aliens and strangers in the world.” Don’t live like everyone else, but as a Christian. And others will notice. They’ll ask you what makes you different. And you’ll have a wonderful opportunity to respond and “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Then hearing of God’s grace, they too might come to faith in him and, “glorify God on the day he visits us.”
“Who do you think you are?” You know that you are the most valuable, the most important, the most successful people there are. You belong to God. You are his own, hand-picked by him. You are royalty, sons and daughters of the King! You are holy and sinless in his sight. With this as your identity, go and “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Amen