First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ November 1, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Exodus 6:6-8; 1 Peter 2:9-12
Who are you? Who am I? It’s probably the most profound question in life. People can achieve so many things but still not know who they really are. Often times we try to find our identity in our race, in our family, in our job, in our money, in our talents or our appearance. But none of these things really tell us who we truly are. Without knowing who we are, no matter how good life may seem, we’re lost.
Today we kick off our Stewardship Season. The focus of our season this year will be rediscovering our identity as children of God. Who am I? Who are we as a congregation? So, this morning and over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at 1 Peter 2:9-12 as our key Scripture passage for our Stewardship Season this year. The concept of identity is both revolutional and transformative.
I don’t know when was the last time you read Peter’s First letter, but let me refresh your memory of the background of this book. Peter’s First letter was written around 67 AD. It was written to Christians who were scattered in various places in Asia Minor. They had to flee to these places because of persecution. They left everything behind; their property, their family and friends. They literally got uprooted. It was so painful. They lived in Asia Minor as foreigners and they seemed strange. They spoke differently; they dressed differently; their lives were so different.
You can add to that another huge difference. They neither worshipped Caesar nor acknowledged him as Lord. This of course put them in direct confrontation with the Roman Empire. They refused to conform to the values and lifestyle of the Greco-Roman culture. They refused to chase after material things and fleeting pleasures. In short, Christians in Rome suffered of what we call today, “Identity Crises.” Who we are? What we are here for?
Peter wrote his First letter to encourage those Christians. He reminded them of their new identity in Christ. In 1 Peter 2:9 we read, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Here is a three-fold description of our identity. In Christ, we are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” This morning and the next couple Sundays, we will explore this three-dimensional description and what it means for our lives today. So this morning we shall cover the first part. “You’re a chosen people.” Two observations:
First: Consider the Privilege
One of the greatest aspects of our faith is knowing that we are chosen by God. Do you remember in school being chosen by the teacher because you knew the answer? Do you remember being chosen by your peers to play on a sports team? I am sure that these situations bring back great memories about being selected in front of your peers and classmates. Peter tells the scattered and struggling believers that God has chosen them to be on his team. Consider the joy of this truth. Consider the strength we are able to draw from it. Consider the comfort those persecuted Christians could find in this truth. I would rather have God on my side and face all the troubles of the world; and I would not want to have a smooth sailing away from God.
In 1528, Martin Luther, the leader of the 16th century Protestant Reformation, wrote the great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” In the second stanza Luther says:
Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right Man on our side,
the Man of God's own choosing.
You ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name,
from age to age the same;
and he must win the battle.
Friends, consider the privilege of being chosen by God to be on His team. Yes, the world may despise us, but we are honored and treasured in God’s eyes.
Second: Consider the Responsibility
As we think about this profound truth of being chosen by God, we also need to remember our responsibility. We are a people belonging to God. With great privilege comes great responsibility. Deuteronomy 7:6 says, “The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” This is a covenant relationship. God is committed to us and He expects us to be committed to Him.
“I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God,” says the Lord in Exodus 6:7. As a response to this amazing Grace, “you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” God also says in Exodus 19:6. It’s a great privilege that comes with a huge responsibility. God didn’t want his people to lose sight of their identity and their calling.
Because of their sin and disobedience, Israel as God’s chosen people failed to live up and live out their calling. In 1 Peter 2: 9 Peter uses the same exact terminology said about Israel to describe the New Testament Church, the Church of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God fulfilled His glorious plan for His people. In Christ, God included all peoples of all nations—anyone who repents and believes in Jesus. Race doesn’t matter. Social position doesn’t matter. Gender doesn’t matter. Ethnicity doesn’t matter. Education doesn’t matter. Anyone who receives Jesus becomes a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and God’s special possession.
Friends, God has chosen you. This truth in itself should make you shout out with joy. In the midst of our trials and suffering, God has chosen us for hope. Yes, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed,” says the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. Friends, in Christ, you’ve been chosen by God; a great privilege as I said, that carries with it a great responsibility. What does this mean to YOU in this Stewardship Season? What is God calling you to be? What is God calling you to do? I hope you can wrestle with this question this week and in the weeks to come. Amen.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.