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Monday, February 20, 2012

Holy Nation (1 Peter 2.1-10, v.9)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
February 19, 2012
Some Music Used
Prelude: "Praise to the Lord" (Manz)
Song of Praise: "Praise to the Lord, Hallelujah" (LOBE DEN HERREN; chorus, Nockels)
Hymn of Praise: "We Come, O Christ to You" (DARWALL)

The Word in Music (Worship Team): "Chosen Generation" (Tomlin, Giglio)
Song of Confession: "Shine into Our Night" (Sczebel)
Offering of Music: "Joyful, Joyful/Jesu, Joy" (piano) (arr. Bobby White)

Hymn of Sending: "We are Called to Be God's People" (AUSTRIAN HYMN)
Postlude: "Choral Song" (Samuel Wesley)

Holy Nation
Text: 1 Peter 2:1-10 (v. 9)

(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, and today is our last week looking there at our Christian identity – that is, who GOD says we are if we trust and follow Jesus Christ.

We’ve seen that Peter sets this teaching in the broader context of who Jesus is and what God is doing, using the imagery of God as master builder and architect. 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 – YOU are that Church, and at that point the names or identities begin to flow.

You are a spiritual house made of the living stones of those who trust in Jesus Christ, made alive just as Jesus is alive. You are a holy and royal priesthood, those who respond to God’s grace with obedience, praise, and public witness. You are a chosen race, adopted into God’s family in Christ and attached through him to God’s people in the world and all the promises and mission given to them in scripture.

And today we will see that you are a holy nation, another way of expressing your connection with God’s people of old, but with a little bit different focus than the identity of chosen people. The main thing to take away from today’s discussion of holy nation is that Jesus is our King. 

Holy Nation in the OT – God, the Law, and Human Kings

It is interesting to look at the different names and metaphors God uses to describe His people. And interestingly, most of these names in 1 Peter 2 are found in just a few verses in Exodus 19. You heard those verses in the call to worship today. Listen to them one more time, from Exodus 19:4-6…
4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. 5 ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’
This is right there at the foot of Mt. Sinai, after God has delivered His people out of slavery in Egypt and right before He gives the Ten Commandments (ch. 20). Much as Peter is doing for us in 1 Peter 2, God is saying through Moses: “I have delivered you; I have made a covenant with you; here is your identity – who you are; if you listen to me and follow me, you will know it!” If you pick up on a conditional part of these verses, it’s not that the people have to obey God to be delivered; God has already done that work. They don’t have to obey God to be in covenant relationship; God has already made the covenant with Abraham. It’s not even the case that they have to obey to earn the roles God has designed for them; that is already God’s intent. They have to obey in order to inhabit those identities. It’s like my house and driveway analogy from last week. God has built the house and given it to them; their choice is to remain in the driveway through disobedience, or move in through obedience.

So early on, God describes them as a “holy nation.” Interestingly, at this point, God is their King and His Word is their Law. And mostly, they will be described in scripture as a ‘people’ or the sense of them as a nation will primarily be to describe them as a people group… until, they notice that all the other nations have a king, and they ask for one. This leads into the whole middle period of the Old Testament, where they demand to have a human king, and with a few rare exceptions (David, Solomon, Josiah), that goes very badly. 

Holy Nation in the NT – Christ is King

Coming into the New Testament, the same shift happens in terms of a King and holy nation that happens regarding priests and sacrifice. It is all picked up and transformed in Jesus Christ.

You may remember that this was not unexpected. There was a huge expectation for God to send His Messiah or “Anointed One.” And the whole “triumphal entry” we remember on Palm Sunday was one popular expression of that expectation. God’s people, in Jesus’ day, were looking for God to send another great king to restore the kingdom of old. But they were expecting a King David type – one of the good kings and the greatest king in their history. But Jesus spoke of a different kind of kingdom.

Jesus actually spent most of his teaching time talking about the Kingdom of God. But this was a spiritual Kingdom that cared for the poor and sick, that expanded to include the outsiders, and that, like the expectation of old, listened to and honored the intent of God’s Word and Law at the heart level.

Jesus did prove himself to be the long-awaited King, but he did so through sacrifice and death, and through victory over sin and evil. We talked in previous weeks about how the New Testament Church is joined to Old Testament Israel as God’s people. We are likewise joined to ancient Israel as God’s “holy nation” – but not as ethnic Hebrews, an identifiable political state, or looking for an earthly king. Rather, those who believe and trust in Jesus Christ are a holy nation because we look to Jesus as our King. In fact, that allegiance is above any earthly allegiance, as scripture names him the “King of kings” (Revelation 17:14,16).

As we try to understand “holy nation,” the key question for us to ask as Christians is what it means for Jesus to be our Lord and King. What does it mean to submit to Jesus in every aspect of our lives, individually and together? Another way of talking about Jesus as King and us as his nation is to acknowledge Jesus as Lord of the Church. 

What “Holy Nation” is Not

I want to take a moment to offer some clarification around what “holy nation” is not. Simply said, it should not be equated with the United States. It IS appropriate to want to be a more godly nation, to embody and experience Judeo-Christian values and godly truth in our laws and life together. It is appropriate to caution and warn and work against ungodliness in our culture. But we must be careful not to confuse those aspirations or even pride in our heritage with the idea that the United States is the modern-day equivalent of ancient Israel under the kings. In fact, that would not only be a poor understanding of New Testament and Christian theology, but a poor choice in the sense that even ancient Israel went against God's expressed Word to them in establishing a human monarchy, and the subsequent history demonstrated that folly.

By all means, let’s desire and work to be salt and light in our culture and nation, but let us not make the mistake of claiming or pursuing something that scripture actually warns against. Jesus is our King and the living Church embodying the Kingdom of God out in the world is what “holy nation” means in the context of scripture. 

Being a “Holy Nation”

So how do we do that?

Let’s go back to that key question and think through life and living and ministry and mission in light of it.

What does it mean to submit to Jesus in every aspect of our lives, individually and together?
  • What does it mean that Jesus is King or Lord of your life as you are a husband, wife, parent, or child? Or in your singleness?
  • What does it mean to submit in terms of your work or school – responsibilities, integrity, purpose, witness?
  • What does it mean to look to Jesus as King or Lord of your life in the midst of sickness, unemployment, discouragement, or loss?
  • What does it mean that Jesus is Lord of the Church as we try to be the living Church to our neighbors and neighborhood?
  • Is there any aspect of life that is not subject to Jesus Christ as Lord and King? Probably… what would it look like to surrender that to him?
As we ask those questions together, and seek God’s answer and help, we are being and becoming the “holy nation” God intends for us. Where Israel had a few strong, yet still imperfect kings, and a whole bunch of bad kings, you have a perfect Lord and King, who not only reigns in power and strength, but rules in truth and grace, and loves you enough to lay it all down for you, even his own life.

That’s our King; that’s our Lord. And you, the Church, are his holy nation. Amen.

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