Many in this room have had the experience: You’ve stood at someone’s front door, or waited in some business man’s office, knees knocking, breath shallow with anticipation, waiting for that “moment” to arrive. You were selling something and this person was a potential buyer. It might have been magazines, or cars, or insurance, but, whatever the product, the fear and the anticipation was the same.
For me the product was pharmaceuticals. I’d arrive in some doctor’s office unannounced. I’d get my 30 second shot at the doc, in between patients or a five minute session with him over the lunch I’d brought in. I promoted several products, but the top two were an anti-inflammatory and a high blood pressure medicine. It was like the tale of two cities. The anti-inflammatory went great. It was a great drug that really worked and almost everyone that tried it swore by it. I increased market share substantially and was highly commended for its success. The High blood pressure medicine was a different story. I tanked! Why?
Well, it was a new product that had a great side-effect profile, but it had a huge drawback: It had to be taken three times every day. Let me ask you a question: How many of you have ever had to take an antibiotic that was dosed 3 or 4 times a day. How many of you forgot to take a dose? Yep, that’s right! Chances are some of you still have some old bottles of anti-biotics sitting around in your medicine cabinet that you never took, right? Why is that? Because of its dosing. It’s just too hard to remember.
That’s why that drug didn’t sell. It was used to treat a condition that they call the “silent killer” because it usually has no major symptoms. It was dosed several times a day and there were other drugs dosed once per day which were just as good. Simply put, it was a hard sale, and I never really made it. Why not:? I was trying to sell something nobody wanted and I knew it. For that reason, I wasn’t very passionate about it.
By now, you’re probably saying, “As fascinating as this is, Rusty, what does it have to do with anything? I really don’t care what drugs you used to sell.” Ok, I understand, but I do have a point to make: The reason I could sell the anti-inflammatory and not the anti-hypertensive was that I was passionate about one, but not the other.
Now listen carefully: You and I are believers, at least most of us in this room would claim to be. As believers in Christ, we have been given the job of bringing others to Him to receive eternal life, but now, be honest: We’re often like I was about my blood pressure drug. We’re just not too excited about what we’re selling. Now our apathy comes from a lot of places. While we may personally love Jesus, and our salvation is “working” for us, we’re not so sure that our Jesus would work for our neighbor who has everything and seems to have no problems. We’re not too sure, on the other hand, that Jesus can really take our friend’s drug habit away or deliver our fraternity brother from his sexual addiction. On top of that, we live in a culture that, when it comes to hearing the gospel, puts their hand to our faces and says not so politely, “Been there, done that. Don’t need to hear it.”
In fact, George Barna reported that people 16- to 29 exhibit a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did previous generations when they were at the same stage of life. In fact, in just a decade, many of the Barna measures of the Christian image have shifted substantially downward, fueled in part by a growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment among young people. For instance, a decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society. Currently, however, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a "good impression" of Christianity. As a result 91% of evangelicals like you and me believe that Americans are becoming more hostile and negative toward Christianity. As a result many of us are reluctant “salesmen.”
But this reluctance creates a dilemma. You cannot read the New Testament without realizing that turning non-believers into disciples was the focus of Jesus’ ministry. Throughout the gospels, Jesus told us to go and make disciples. That message is re-emphasized throughout the rest of the NT. Which brings us to our text for today: It begins in 1 Pet 2:9: But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
The action of this verse is found in its last phrase. We are God’s special people for a specific purpose: That we may proclaim the praise of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. We are told to “proclaim” and that is a strong word. It means to “herald” or to “publish.” It’s the idea of shouting the latest news in the town square so everyone hears. So, I am to shout the praises of God so that everyone hears about Him calling out of darkness into light. That’s my job.
I am to tell it. So here’s the dilemma: While the world is becoming more and more hardened against the gospel, we’re supposed to be shouting it from the roof top. Tough sale, huh? It’s kind of like selling refrigerators to eskimos. It seems like we’re hawking a product nobody wants. And because we feel that way, we have very few people who share their faith, or even want to.
So what’s the problem. What is it that we’re missing in this whole “evangelism” thing? Well, in the first place, understanding is missing. You see, our analogy is all wrong. We are not salespeople! Not at all! Our job as followers of Christ is not to sell the gospel but to tell the gospel. I think witnessing our faith is so difficult for us because we think that if we don’t actually win the person we’re talking to to Christ, we’ve failed. I’ll tell you, you will not find that in the scripture. In fact, in our text it says that our job is simply to proclaim His praises. And because we have the wrong target, we feel unsuccessful and we often stop sharing our faith. We lack passion because we lack understanding.
But we also lack passion because our love is missing. We look at evangelism as an anonymous exercise. We seem to think we’re supposed to come out here on a special night each month, go knock on the door of someone we don’t know and convince them with our logic that they need to change their whole life. We feel convicted and hypocritical when we do that because we know that we really don’t have love for the person, and the worst part of it is that they know it too. The experience is painful and fruitless, and, after repeated failures, we decide not to repeat it.
We lack passion because we lack understanding and love, but there’s something else that costs us our evangelistic zeal: We lack reality. Whether it’s because we’re not walking with the Lord or because we have just never really had a dynamic, living relationship with Christ, there’s something about our relationship with Christ that just doesn’t ring true. In our heart of hearts we know it, and when we talk to other people about the Lord, they know it too. It’s like we’re trying to describe Wikiki when all we’ve done is read a travel brochure. We can talk about some details, but we have no passion.
So, is it possible to turn the corner on this whole evangelism thing? Is it really possible to lose the guilt and gain passion. Can we really go from a tortured, check-the-box approach to sharing our faith and really share Jesus with a gleam in our eye and a real joy in our hearts. You see, I believe that would really make the difference. I believe that, if we could do that, we would see a difference in the results our evangelistic efforts bring. So how can we do that? How can we become passionate about this message we have to share?
Well, I believe that part of the answer at least flows out of our understanding of who we are in Christ and what He has done for us. I say that because that is what is stated in our text. Peter talks about who we are in Christ and what He has done for us and, in that context, tells us that we are to proclaim the praises of who Jesus is. So just who are we in Christ, and just what has God done for us?
Well, in the first place, when we come to Christ, we receive
DIV 1: AN IDENTITY
Peter uses 4 labels to describe our identity in Christ in v 9-10. He calls us “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a Holy nation, and God’s own special people.” These four titles give us three specific benefits that flow from who we are in Christ. First, because we belong to Jesus, we have eternal significance. Psychologists will tell you that every single human being is on a never-dying search. We disguise it in our greed or our lust or our selfishness, but the if you strip away all the veneer, you’ll find that every human being is looking for the same thing: They want to matter. They want to be significant. I think it flows out of that innate image of God that dwells in each one of us. We know we were destined for more than we are. We know we were meant to matter beyond the three-score and ten we live here on this earth. When we are called a “chosen race,” God is telling us corporately and you individually that you matter. Out of billions on this planet, He chose you to be His. Peter’s title reflected his culture. The Roman writer, Suetonius, referred to Christians as a separate class, a race of people if you will. In his day, that designation meant persecution, but because Christians lived out this calling they did create a new “race” and through their privilege and sense of significance eventually won over the masses.
And listen, believer, if you belong to Christ, you matter! You are a chosen race. But not only is eternal significance part of your new identity in Christ, you have also received divine access. Peter calls us “a royal priesthood.” Those are not labels we’re really used to. Since we have no kings in this country we don’t really understand the term “royal,” and since we are not used to animal sacrifices, we’re usually not that familiar with the term “priesthood.” But this is a rich, rich title we’ve been given. By calling us priests, Peter is emphasizing the fact that we’ve been given access to God, through Christ. Jesus has become the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins, so now, as God’s priests we no longer have to offer a sacrifice in order to enjoy His presence. We can enter the Holy of Holies and have communion with God.
By calling us priests, Peter emphasizes our access and by calling us “royal” he emphasizes the fact that this access is divine. In Peter’s day, Kings would have their own cadre of priests set aside to serve them exclusively in worship. When Peter calls us a “royal” priesthood, he is emphasizing the fact that we have been set aside as God’s own priests to minister to Him. We don’t have to wait for an animal to die, Jesus already paid that price. We don’t have to wait for an invitation into the very presence of God, we have a standing invitation through Christ. We are a royal priesthood, and we can come right into the presence of God, any time, anywhere.
As believers we have eternal significance and we have divine access. But last of all, when we come to Christ, we receive real relationships. I love this! Peter calls us “a holy nation, God’s own special people.” By saying we are holy, he is saying that we have been set apart for God. We are special to Him and loved by Him. That means we are in a love connection with the Father of the universe. We’re special to Him.
I got to spend some time with my grandson about a month ago now. If you’re a grandparent today, you understand what I’m about to say. I thought I discovered love when I met my wife. Then I thought I discovered love when I held my daughter in my arms for the first time. But what I feel for that grandson of mine is like discovering that all over again. It amazing! How is it possible to feel like that about someone. Yet as much as I love that grandson of mine, God looks at me with incomparable love. I am one of His own special people
And because I am a part of this holy nation, I belong to a fraternity that brings closer communion than any college fraternity ever thought about. I’m not just in an organization, I’m in a family. What used to be selfish, plastic, relationships are changed in Christ. They are vital! They are real! That belonging you’ve been looking for is right here in this church. We’re a holy nation. We belong to God.
You see, that’s why we should be passionate about sharing Christ with others. We have something to offer that they are really looking for! We have eternal significance; we have divine access; we have real relationships. And it all flows from who we are in Christ. It’s because of our identity.
And identity matters. John Orgberg writes that many years ago He was walking in Newport Beach, a beach in Southern California, with two friends. The two of them were on staff together at a church, and one was an elder at the same church. They walked past a bar where a fight had been going on inside. The fight had spilled out into the street, just like in an old western. Several guys were beating up on another guy, and he was bleeding from the forehead. They knew they had to do something, so they went over to break up the fight. He says, “I don’t think we were very intimidating. [All we did was walk over and say,] "Hey, you guys, cut that out!" It didn’t do much good.
Then all of a sudden the brawlers looked at John and his friend with fear in their eyes. The guys who had been beating up on the one guy stopped and started to slink away. John didn’t know why until he turned and looked behind him. Out of the bar had come the biggest man he’d ever seen. The guy was something like six feet, seven inches, maybe 300 pounds, maybe 2 percent body fat. Just huge. John said he called him "Bubba" (not to his face, but afterwards, when we talked about him).
Bubba didn’t say a word. He just stood there and flexed. You could tell he was hoping they would try and have a go at him. “All of a sudden,” John say, “my attitude was transformed,” and I said to those guys, "You better not let us catch you coming around here again!" He says he was a different person because, now, he had great, big Bubba. He was unintimidated and ready to stand up. He was released from anxiety and fear. He was filled with boldness and confidence. He was ready to help somebody that needed helping. He was ready to serve where serving was required. Why? Because, he says, “I had a great, big Bubba. I was convinced that I was not alone. I was safe. If I were convinced that Bubba were with me 24 hours a day, I would have a fundamentally different approach to my life. If I knew Bubba was behind me all day long, you wouldn’t want to mess with me.
When it comes to our witnessing for Christ, we act a little like John felt when he first went over to break up that fight. We say empty words that fall upon deaf ears. The problem is not that we aren’t telling the truth or that our approach is wrong. The problem is that we’ve forgotten who we really are in Christ and Who is right there with us. God is standing with us and flexing, if you will, and He will make us effective. We must believe who He is and we must understand who we are in Him.
Listen, Christian, don’t go to share Christ with anyone until you take a fresh look at your identity. When you remember who you are in Christ, it gives your witness reality. You actually are talking about someone you really know and that reality comes through. When you remember who you are in Christ, it gives you passion. You come to understand you’re not trying to sell refrigerators to eskimos. O no! You’re offering them an opportunity they can’t afford to miss.
When you remember who you are in Christ it gives you reality and passion, but it also gives you love. In a very real sense, you and I cannot love until we understand we are loved. But when I find all I need in Christ; when I understand the length and depth and height and width of God’s great love, it allows us to really love others. Your witness must flow out of your identity.
And if you’re here this morning and you really are not a believer, I want to pause long enough to simply tell you: Jesus is Who you’ve been looking for. He will bring significance to your life. You’ve tried everything to make your life matter and you feel as worthless today as you did before. There’s a good reason for that: The only way to really matter is to become part of this chosen race, this royal priesthood, this holy nation, this special people. It is only your connection to God which will bring you what you’ve been looking for.
Effective witness flows out of the identity you receive from your relationship with Christ. But it also comes from something else you receive. When you come to Christ, you also receive:
DIV 2: A DESTINY
Now I could have chosen other words for this one. I could have chosen purpose; I could have chosen a “meaning for life,” and they both would have applied, but I chose destiny because it can speak to both the present and the future. You see, when you know Jesus Christ, you receive a destiny for the future. Peter hints at that when he says, But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. One commentator wrote:
The “marvelous light” to which the Christian community is called is nothing other than the “glory” soon to be revealed in the coming of Jesus Christ (cf. 1:7–8: 4:13; 5:1). The elect community lives between the darkness of its pagan past and the light of its eschatological future. Alienated from the one and not yet at home in the other, it is a community of “strangers and foreigners . . .”
The light we are called to is the glory of that final day when we, as the body of Christ, become His bride at the marriage supper of the Lamb. We have a destiny waiting for us. This paltry life at it’s best, only offers us 70 or 80 years if we’re blessed, and many of those may be spent in sorrow for one reason or another. But there awaits an eternal destiny that is so wonderful it can only be called “marvelous light.” That is our future destiny.
But our relationship to Christ also gives us a present destiny. Hey, this Christian life isn’t only about dying. It’s about living! Having Jesus in my life gives me a purpose for life. What is that purpose. Peter tells us that it is to “proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness.” The word, “praises” is one which speaks of “virtue” or “moral excellence.” Applied to God it means glory and is used to speak of any “manifestations of divine power” or “mighty acts.” Simply put we are to passionately shout out the mighty acts of God and the manifestations of His divine power. That’s our present destiny. We’re to be all about declaring all that God is doing!
Christian that means that if you’re to have a present destiny, God’s got to be doing something for you to talk about. And when He is, we’re to talk it up. In fact, Peter says that is what gives our life meaning. We are to proclaim His praises. Look, if that’s my destiny, life is not boring. Fulfilling God’s ultimate purpose for your life is exhilarating. No ambition rivals it. Talking about your own business may be a rush, but it cannot compare with talking about Him. This is what gives your life real meaning. It is this present and future destiny.
But not only does this destiny bring life present meaning, it also gives my life future hope. As Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I loved that clip we showed a few weeks ago about John Wooden. At the time of the interview, Wooden was 99 years old. The interviewer asked him if he was afraid to die, and Wooden replied very confidently, “O no! That’s the most wonderful thing in the world.” Wow! That’s the perspective of a believer. When I know the Lord my life has great meaning and my future has great hope, but last of all,
My faith has great vindication. That phrase, “God’s own special people,” can also be interpreted “ a people destined for vindication.” What is in view is this: When the last curtain is called, and the lights go out on this world, the people of God will be held up before the world as right. Hey, the world may laugh at you now, but they won’t be laughing then. The press may call you a nut case now, but they won’t then. The Richard Dawkins and the Christopher Hitchens of the world may decry your faith in Christ as barbaric, but they won’t then. Your faith will be vindicated.
And that vindication will be sweet. Many of you remember Ray Charles, the famous African American singer who wrote the song Georgia on My Mind. In 1961, he was banned from performing in the state of Georgia because he refused to play before a segregated audience. A scene from the movie Ray captures a poignant moment in his life almost 20 years later.
As this scene opens, Ray stands with his wife and sons inside the Georgia State Capital legislative chambers. The state lawmakers are in their seats. The gallery is filled with public observers. Reporters and news photographers are crowded near the rostrum. State Senator Julian Bond, a former civil rights leader, speaks:
"Today we are here to right a wrong that was done to one of our native sons nearly 20 years ago. In 1961 Ray Charles was banned from performing in the state of Georgia because he refused to play before a segregated audience. Thankfully we've come a long way since then."
As the senator speaks, camera flashbulbs pop. Ray faces the floor wearing his signature sunglasses. A look of humility is detected on his countenance. His wife stands proudly at his side as the senator continues.
"Some of us have fought for equality through the political process, but Ray Charles changed American culture by touching people's hearts. So on this day, March 7, 1979, we, the duly elected representatives of the state of Georgia, not only proclaim "Georgia on My Mind" our official state song, we also offer Mr. Ray Charles a public apology and welcome him back home."
The assembly breaks into applause and cheers. A broad smile breaks across Ray's face as he proceeds to reach his arms around himself as if to hold himself together. He reaches over to hug his wife and gives her a kiss. The applause gives way to a standing ovation on the main floor and in the balcony. Ray holds over his head the engraved plaque that the senator read from.
Listen, one day we will enter heaven. Yes, we’ll have the battle scars and some of us will reach our arms around ourselves to hold ourselves together. And as we enter the presence of the one who died for us, I think last piece of the puzzle of faith will fall into place and we will realize that the trust we placed in Christ was worth it. Our faith will be vindicated and in that moment, only two questions will matter to us. We’ll be asking, “How much glory did my life bring to Christ?” and “How many people are here because God reached them through me?” You see, that is your destiny. Your life has meaning when you know Jesus.
And, by the way, that’s why you need to talk about Jesus to your unsaved friends. They really do have a hole in their soul. They know that there has to be more to live for than what they see here. They know that life needs a meaning that they have not found. That’s what Jesus offers. He offers them a destiny and he offers them an identity. But most of all, when you have Jesus you have
DIV 3: A DELIVERANCE
Now lets just admit right up front that many people don’t really connect with their need for deliverance. O they may know that they have some glaring needs, but unless they are addicted to crack or a hopeless alcoholic, they may balk at the idea that they might need deliverance. The truth is, however, that all of us need to be delivered. That’s why I love v 9. It says that we are to declare the praises Him who called you. That’s it! That’s the first action of this deliverance we’ve been given. It all began with the call of God. Deliverance from darkness doesn’t come because you get sick of pornography or scared you’re going to lose your family because of your alcoholism. Deliverance begins not with you, but with God. He calls you out of darkness and you respond.
You might ask, “How do I know God is calling me?” Well, all I can tell you is, you’ll know. There will be a conviction over sin. Things that used not to bother you will start to bother you. There will be a sense of dread when you think about God and a longing to be right with a God you’ve never even met. You’ll know that things are wrong and, in at least some part of your heart, you’ll start getting sick of the man or the woman you are. God will be dealing with you, you see. You’ll be called.
And after the call comes the instant intervention. You see, that’s what being born again is. You see it implied in v10: who once were not a people, but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. These phrases quote the prophet Hosea. God, speaking to His wayward people of Israel, had the prophet name his daughter Lo-Ruhamah, which means “not pitied,” and his son was called Lo Ammi, which means “not my people.” These names symbolized the coming judgment of God on this nation. Yet later in his prophecy, God tells the prophet, “I will show my love to the one I called “not my loved one.” and I will say to those called “Not my people,” “You are my people.” Will you notice something. This was not something that the people of Israel deserved or that they worked up. This was something declared by God. It was instant intervention. Those who used to be rejected are now accepted.
Peter uses this passage of scripture to express the truth that even though the Gentiles used to be rejected by God. They were “not His people,” but by an instantaneous declaration of God, He is saying that they have become His people. That’s the way the new birth works: You don’t work for it or deserve it. God just gives it to you. One day you’re going a hundred miles an hour away from Him and you are under His judgement and the next minute He has declared you to belong to Him. He delivers you when He calls you and when He instantaneously saves you, but there’s one more step. You see, not only is this deliverance a divine calling and an instant intervention, it also leads to a:
Progressive change. This is where we so often miss it. We emphasize God’s work to reach us and save us. We emphasize the moment of surrender when we pray the sinner’s prayer, but we forget about the progressive change part. You see, even though God, in Christ declares us right with God on the basis of His righteousness, we then must allow Him to go to work on us to change us into His image. That’s why Peter, in v 2 of this chapter says that we must desire pure spiritual milk so that we can grow. Realizing the righteousness of Christ in our every day experience is a process of growth. And, as we grow in Him, we begin to experience real deliverance. Addictions that once bound us are overcome; language that once embarrassed us and hurt others ceases; selfish attitudes that built walls in our relationships come down. We are changed; we are delivered because we are called, because we are declared righteous, and because we are progressively changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And Christian, that’s what this experience with God is all about. Christ didn’t come to reform us or to make us better people: He came to radically change us. He came to DELIVER us, which just means that, when it comes to your witnessing, there are no hopeless cases. Just name the sin. Just name it! There’s no sin beyond the reach of His grace. Know a crack addict? Society may hopelessly offer them counseling, but God can deliver them! Know an alcoholic? Family members may hopelessly enable them to continue their hellish life, but God can deliver them. Know an pedofile? Psychologists may say they’ll never change, but God can deliver them. Just name the sin. There are not hopeless cases. And Christian, when you reach out to people in the name of Jesus always remember its not your logic or your persuasion, it’s His power. Before you ever open your mouth, you must make sure you genuinely believe God can change that person you’re talking to! There are no hopeless cases.
But, listen! There are only helpless cases. And I rather suspect that this is where the problem most often lies. Most people don’t think they’re too bad for God’s deliverance, but too good. They tend to think that they may have some issues or problems but that, with just a little more effort, they can deliver themselves. But this divine deliverance abhors self-effort. God doesn’t need your fleshly energy to make you better. No! He does a radical work of the Spirit in you. It is His work from beginning to end. You and I have nothing to offer Him but our surrender to His power. The greatest work of the Spirit in any human heart is getting him or her to the place that they realize there is nothing they can do to save themselves.
May I just show you an example of someone who experienced this?
SHOW JEFF ALLEN VIDEO
That’s it! That’s what can happen to those people you want to reach with the gospel. Jesus offers them an identity; Jesus offers them a destiny; Jesus offers them a deliverance. And if you’re here this morning and you’ve never really known this Jesus, that’s what He offers you