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Monday, February 13, 2012

Chosen Race (1 Peter 2.9-10)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
February 12, 2012
Some Music Used
Prelude: "Hallelujah, Sing to Jesus" (Phillips)
Song of Praise: "Come Praise and Glorify" (Chester, Kauflin)
Song of Community: "This is Your House" (Dawson/Austell)
Song of Praise: "I Will Change Your Name" (Butler)

The Word in Music (Choir): "Great and Awesome God" (Mark Hayes)
Song of Confession: "Shine into Our Night" (Sczebel)
Offering of Music: "My Jesus, I Love Thee" (Brendlinger

Hymn of Sending: "We are God's People" (SYMPHONY)
Postlude: "Finale" (Busarow)

Chosen Race
Text: 1 Peter 2:1-10 (vv. 9-10)

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

We have been studying 1 Peter 2 for a number of weeks now. As a quick recap, let me remind you that our series is focusing on Christian identity – that is, who we are if we say we trust and follow Jesus Christ. More accurately, I should say who GOD says we are if we trust and follow Jesus Christ.

Drawing on other scripture, Peter develops building imagery to set this into a broader context of who Jesus is and what God is doing. Here’s the imagery again: like a master architect and builder, God has a plan, outlined on the foundation of His Word, spoken through Apostles and Prophets; on that foundation, at the time of God’s choosing, He has set His chosen one, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, as the cornerstone. That living stone is measured with justice and level with righteousness. And on that foundation and cornerstone, God is building His Church – a spiritual house made of the living stones of those who trust in Jesus Christ, made alive just as Jesus is alive. So the Church is alive; it is the people following after God in the world. You are the Church!

Last week we looked at the first of several identities or names given in this passage for Christians. The first was “holy and royal priesthood.” Priests were responsible for sacrifice and praise for the people of God and that role has only shifted in the NT because ALL believers are now responsible for sacrificial obedience and praise after the example of Christ. Yet our priestly work is no longer salvific; Jesus’ work has accomplished salvation once and for all. Now our priestly work is the “thank you response” to what God has done.

Today we look at another name or identity, named in one short phrase in verse 9: “you are a chosen race.” 

Chosen Race in the Old Testament

The sound of “chosen race” may ring negatively to your ears. It may have the sound of Nazism and “superior race” to it, so I want to be careful to direct you to the biblical context and usage of this term, which is altogether different.

The idea of it is rooted in the covenant, which is something we studied in some detail last Fall, both in worship and at least one of the adult Sunday school classes. In the covenant God made with Abraham, God pledged Himself to Abraham and his descendants, an unconditional covenant to be their God with God’s own reputation and name at stake if God ever broke that promise. In that covenant, God said to Abraham about his descendants, “I will be their God and they will be my people.” (Genesis 17:7) So that’s the “chosen race” in the Old Testament – the descendants of Abraham, eventually called the people of Israel.

So how is that any different? Was Israel, according to the Bible, another “chosen race” and one claiming divine choosing to boot? Well, yes and no. We have to look at what God chose them to do. It was not to set them over and above the other people of the world, but to be a blessing to the other people of the world. God chose them, as it were, to be a ministering people, set apart for the work of worshiping God and witnessing to the world. Now that’s an entirely different kind of chosen race. More often, in fact, we use the words “chosen people” to describe Israel.

But listen to this – Peter’s use of “chosen race” is not new; you can find that language as early as the Torah, the Law of Israel. We used a passage from Deuteronomy as the call to worship, and it gives you a good sense of what being God’s chosen people involved. Listen to it again.

12 “Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. 15 “Yet on your fathers did the Lord set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. 16 “So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. 17 “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God….” (Deuteronomy 10:12-17a)

What does being God’s chosen people mean? What does God require? …fear of the Lord… whole-life obedience and worship (said several different ways!). Notice, too, the intimacy as well as the biblical principle that God “chastens those whom He loves”: the Lord “set His affection to love them” … but “stiffen your neck no longer” … words of a truly loving Heavenly Father.

And verse 16 contains one of the great images of the Old Testament scriptures: “circumcise your heart.” Circumcision was an outward sign of participation in God’s covenant, and here God is inviting His chosen people to internalize that covenant relationship, just what Jesus would later do in the Sermon on the Mount. Don’t just obey externally, but internally, at the heart level.

There is much here and it’s important for you and for me PRECISELY because when we move into the New Testament, we find out that we haven’t moved on to “plan B,” but that God is welcoming in the Gentiles as “chosen people.” 

Chosen Race in the New Testament

So that’s just what Peter is talking about, that ALL who trust in Jesus Christ are now God’s “chosen race” or “chosen people.” It is no longer just an ethnic people of God, but a spiritual people of God. And again, it’s not that we now are on a new track, but we are joined to Israel going all the way back to Abraham.

So, because of Jesus and if you trust in him, those words from Deuteronomy are now your words, because you are “children of Abraham.” What does God require of you? … fear of the Lord… whole-life obedience and worship… heart-level obedience and participation in what God is doing in the world. And even still, you are not a chosen race to be superior to those who don’t know Christ, but for the sake of those who don’t know Christ. You are sent to serve, love, and witness, that even more might belong to Him.

Remember, too, that in 1 Peter 2, “chosen race” comes in a string of names – “chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, people for God’s own possession” – which all end with something we’ve already talked about: proclaiming “the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (v. 9)

See how it all connects and is of one piece? Peter would say, “That’s the house God is building!” We are living stones for a spiritual house, not only built on the foundation of God’s Word and the cornerstone of God’s Son, but on the first generations of living stones of God’s people. And now we are God’s people!

And God’s purpose in all this? … that the whole world might know the love of God in Jesus Christ. That is your mission; that is your calling; and that is your identity. 

Christian Identity

Let me say a final word about identity. The concept of identity or name is so important, spiritually, because it gets at the difference between church as an activity, set of programs, or civic organization and the church as a living expression of what God is doing in the world. It’s like the difference between one of my children thinking, “I’m going to piano lessons” and “I’m a musician! I’m musical!”

As long as church is what you go do, it is one of many things competing for time and attention. It may be one of the more important things, but it suffers from all the limitations of anything you DO. When you get tired, you leave it alone; when you get frustrated or disillusioned you give it some space; when the schedule fills up, something has to give. But if church becomes WHO YOU ARE, then you carry it with you into every place and space of your life. And it doesn’t have to be a Good Shepherd “activity” – but every word, action, and thought you have. You become the Church mobilized for the glory of God.

Interesting thing… that’s actually the way God says it already is! We just, many of us, haven’t caught on yet. Dig into this chapter, this 1 Peter 2:1-10. There is real meat here spiritually. There is much to learn and much to BE. We’ll be here a few more weeks yet, and I pray that God will continue to stretch us and remind us of who He intends us to be as we trust and follow after Jesus Christ. Amen.

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