Our New Identity

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If you’re just finding out that it’s Mother’s Day, I don’t know what to tell you at this point other than maybe, if you know your mom’s going to be happier watching church online today, maybe you can share this and tag her in it and try to save your bacon. But it is good to see, especially our young people celebrating Mother’s Day and what a joy it is.

Hey, we’re happy that you’re joining us online today for worship. I want you to know that as a church family on the back end we are busy trying to figure out how we can best accommodate us moving forward. If that video didn’t just make your heart just soar and just the celebration of seeing young people honor their mothers. It also reminds us of just how important it is to be together.

I’m missing those faces and as a church I want you to know we’re working on options that we have as an opportunity to be respectful to social distancing and still provide us a place to meet with one another. We’re working actually with Lehi city on a few things that we could do as a church. And as soon as we have details, we will let you know. We want to provide a safe place for everybody, so we’re not wanting to put us in a position that’s compromising, but at the same time that you can still have that fellowship because we know it’s important to have community around you and to be loved. And so we’re doing the best that we can on that end because of the pandemic going on. It’s making things a little bit slower in the process. But we are working on that and as soon as we know, we will let you know those details.

But I am thankful that you’re with us today and I want you to know this morning on Mother’s Day we’re going to partake a communion together. If you have in your home, maybe you’ve got some things. We try to drop off to people on our church family, we may not have gotten these to everybody. Just the communion opportunity we have to partake together. If you don’t have that kind of thing, you can grab grape juice or even some water. We’re just going to have a spirit of what communion is today and some kind of bread or tortilla shell or something, the partake of for communion. We’re going to do that here at the end of today’s message.

We’re going to be in 1 Peter 2:4, so you’ve got a Bible. I’m going to invite you to turn to that. This passage of scripture is going to be important for us because this sets a foundation for really the importance of everyone, not just mothers on Mother’s Day, but it’s a beautiful passage to the significance of who we are as human beings and what God desires for us in our relationship with him.

When you look at what 1 Peter is, remember this is a passage of scripture, an epistle that Peter has written to the early church going through persecution. And he wants them to not just endure it or not just wait for things to get back to normal. But I believe Peter really believes that God’s people can go through circumstance and even adverse circumstances and come out stronger because of it. Now, one of the verses that we highlighted, encouraging that even make memory verse in your life is 1 Peter 3:15, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts always being ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you with gentleness and respect.

So God wants us to give an answer to everyone. And so in order to do this in this passage of scripture, if you remember this, epistle is being written to Christians that are being persecuted. So it’s saying that God’s expectation for believers is more than just simply get through it, but it’s also an opportunity to allow your light to shine for Christ. Because in the midst of darkness, God’s light shines forth in his people. So in order to do that, we’ve got to find ourselves strong. Strong in the Lord, and strong on what he’s called us to do. And that is exactly where 1 Peter 2:4 begins for us.

Now know if you’ve gone through this section of scripture with us together, you looked at chapter one, you might be at the end of chapter one thinking, man, I am not that strong believer. That’s great for everyone else, but I am not the super spiritual Christian. I struggle.

I’ve seen a popular meme going around of the back of a minivan and I just assumed that a mother wrote it on the back of a minivan. But it said something to the effect that, “You lied. You said my kids were a joy to have in class.” Maybe you’ve been home over these last few weeks and being together, you’ve enjoyed in that. And other times you thought someone in this room is not going to survive. It’s a testing of where you are in your walk with the Lord. Maybe sometimes you’ve felt like you failed. And so you look at a passage like 1 Peter 3 and you’re thinking, you know, I can’t even make the struggle of these last few weeks, let alone thinking about losing your life because of your faith in Christ.

Well, I want you to know that’s exactly why Peter writes chapter two. Because he knows as people, we all have our battles. Verses five and six of chapter one tells us that we go through persecution, but you have something that’s precious and imperishable in Jesus. Verse three and four. And because of the resurrection in Christ, verse seven 11 that you are refined, a beautiful, pleasing thing to the Lord. That God sees right where you’re at.

And in verse 15 he calls us to be Holy, set apart for him in the midst of our circumstances. And last week we looked in verse 17 and on where he tells us to turn to the word of God and love one another. Let God grow us in him through his word, and in our relationship with each other. It’s not always about the result, but it’s about understanding the journey that God has us in with him. That God is doing a work in us and as we depend on him, he grows us even in our struggles. And could I say, especially in our struggles,

We all need encouraged here. Let me just give you a test. Maybe you might be speculative as to whether or not some people need encourage. You might see someone that always seems happy go lucky, rolls with the punches. You think, man, they’re an exceptional person. And what about me? Well, let me give you this test. Here’s how you know if someone in your life needs encouraged. If you’re sitting with somebody this morning, next to them on the couch enjoying popcorn pajamas, watching church online, like if you turn to them for a minute, this is the test you need to give them, okay? If they’re breathing, then they need encouraged. And in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 it tells us, encourage one another and build one another up. How important it is to understand where we are in Jesus as it relates to the circumstances that we face. Because it’s Jesus who builds us up in him.

It is very valuable for us as people to understand intrinsically who you are in God and positionally where you are in God. If you don’t understand who you are in the position that you have, your entire life, you’ll be trying to prove yourself to others in order to validate who you are. But when you understand the identity that God gives you in him, and that that identity is immovable, it tells us in 1 Peter 1:3-4, that it is imperishable and undefiled. And it’s not because of you, but it’s because of him.

And so today he’s laying into this identity because he understands that the things that we go through can be a struggle. But when we recognize our position in Jesus, it gives us that power, that authority, that place to not try to validate ourselves, but to walk in what Jesus has already called us to through him, which is undefiled and imperishable.

And in chapter two verse four, he starts to describe for us our new identity. And this is exactly what we want to talk about today. Your identity in Christ. Whether you’re a mother, a woman, a male, this position, this identity becomes the basis for all that we do in Jesus. And so he says this for us in verse four, and coming to him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men but is choice and precious in the sight of God. You are all also as living stones are being built up as a spiritual house for a Holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in scripture. Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, and he who believes in him will not be disappointed. This precious value then is for you who believe, but for those who disbelieve the stone, which the builders rejected, this became the very cornerstone, a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. For they stumble because they are disobedient to the word and to this doom they were also appointed.

So this new identity for us, this recognizing of position becomes important because it’s everything that Jesus gives to us. It’s based on not our authority, but on his authority. And what he says about us becomes important.

And I just want to answer this key question in this passage verses four to eight, what does it mean to be a living stone? What does it mean for us to be a living stone? Now I realize that this is very, you and I centric to ask that question, but here’s what’s important about this question and related to this passage. What you see when you read this passage is this passage is predominantly about Jesus and here I am asking the question, what does it mean for you to be a living stone?

The reason we want to ask this key question is because the foundation of this question can’t be answered without understanding everything that Jesus is for us, because that provides the basis for understanding the statement that you then become this living stone. So when you look at these verses, verse four it becomes important for us because it starts off on the idea of as you were coming to him

Meaning in order to become what God calls you to in him, it starts on who he is. But this isn’t given to everyone. Now intrinsically, what’s important to understand for all human beings is that all of us carry value, not because of what you do, but because of who you are. You’re made in the image of God. You have this intrinsic value. This is why human life to the Christian is so sacred. It’s why we fight for life and we’ll defend life. It’s because it’s not about what you do. It’s about who you are.

In this world, if you try to live your life and find your value based on what you do, you’ll always find someone else that can do it better, greater, stronger, faster, and more beautiful than you can. And when you compare yourself to them, what do you become? Worth less. You’re not worthless, but you become worth less because someone can do it better. But God gives you a value that transcends what you do. It’s gifted intrinsically based on who you are made in his image.

Now, that’s for all human beings. And in addition to that, he gives positionally this place for his followers, which is why Peter says in 1 Peter 2:4, you need to understand how unique this is. Because as you’re coming to him as to a living stone describing God, he then refers to us as living stones in him and becoming precious to him because he himself is the cornerstone.

When you think about this idea of cornerstone, it’s kind of a silly illustration maybe we would think of right off the cuff that Peter would pick a stone to describe us. You think you want to help someone understand their value in life, call them a stone. You think about it. What great thing did you learn at church today when you watch church online? Well, I’m a stone. Out of all the illustrations you can say, Peter’s coming to this place and he realizing that at the end of chapter one you know people are going to struggle with this still. We’re human beings and he wants us to understand our position, our value. He’s saying and thinking to himself, what’s the best illustration I can come up with? I know you’re a stone. What does this have to do with anything?

Well, when you think about the picture Peter’s creating here, first he begins to describe this stone in connection to the idea of a building of worship. To the Jewish mind they would’ve thought of temple. Because this was where God’s presence was. This beautiful building. God’s presence was known to be there. All of Israel gathered a worship through the holidays, and now Peter is drawing on the illustration of the temple and rather than than described this building as this place where they connect to God, he describes it as us. And the basis for this connection is because of Jesus. And the reason that he wants us to recognize this is because the illustration he uses of cornerstone.

And this is why in this section of scripture, the highlight of everything that’s happening here to us and in us is because of this precious cornerstone you find in verse six. This word cornerstone is foundational to the building of any structure. In Jesus day, the cornerstone became the pinnacle stone of which everything else was built. Without this cornerstone, the building would be off and all of it would fall apart. You needed this cornerstone to be correct, to be level and to be the foundational place from which the rest of the building could be built.

That’s what it’s saying about Jesus here. Everything that you are is because of everything that Christ gives to youth, both intrinsically and positionally. Don’t buy into any lie about what anyone else might say, but value what Jesus says about you. It is imperishable and undefiled. Hold these words. He becomes the cornerstone of which everything else rests. And he says this in verse five then based on his identity that you become a living stone. What does it mean?

Well, when you think about the idea of a stone, a stone left unto itself is most often pretty unimpressive. Our parking lot is littered around with all sorts of stone, both in our landscaping and in our back parking lot. We have stones and really no one gives two sense of thought towards the stones. It’s unimpressed, but give God this stone and let God shape this stone. And what he begins to recognize for us in this passage is not just a stone anymore, but what makes this unique in this beautiful work of God is that it becomes a living stone.

Now what stone is a living stone? But it’s Jesus who takes the things that are dead and he breathes into it life. And now in him you become this living stone. And what he’s illustrating now rather than the physical structure of a building, in Israel’s day, it’s not about a building. It’s about the work that God is doing in all of us and taking a heart of stone and he’s bringing it to life and he’s creating a community. We need a spiritual family, but we don’t need facility. It’s about God’s people on mission to gather as a living stone towards the miracle that he works in our lives.

You’re the church wherever you go. It’s not the building, it’s about his presence in you. Because you belong to Christ and you are the church. There is no such thing as secular anymore. Everywhere that you are, it is sacred unto the Lord. And God wants you to begin to understand this, that on Sunday watching church online, wonderful thing, and on Monday it’s all sacred to God because wherever you go, you go as this beautiful edifice in which Jesus is working his miracle in your life, transforming you to demonstrate the beauty of who he is in this world.

Now, if we ask the question why would Peter pick a stone out of all the things that he could use to illustrate the beauty of God’s people? Why is Peter picking a stone? One it certainly identifies the miracle work of God becoming a living stone, but I think at the same time, Peter wants to understand the particular value that you hold as a believer. And what I mean is this illustration isn’t too far from Peter’s heart because this became the very illustration that Jesus used over his own life.

Do you remember the story in Matthew 16? Jesus says to the disciples, who do you say that I am? Peter says, you are the Christ. And Jesus says, based on that profession of faith, you are Peter, meaning you are a rock. And he will build his church upon that profession of faith in Christ. I think the reason Peter comes to this, and he says, you know what? God’s people need encouraged, especially in hardship, we need encourage. What’s the best way that I can encourage him?

Peter goes all the way back to a time in his life that was a transitioning point in his understanding of his relationship with God. God takes him to a place to see what the Lord’s going to do through them to change this world. And what did God do in Peter’s life in this moment? He called him a rock. And what’s Peter now doing in your life to help us understand that Peter is not the spiritual elite. All of us are called to this in Jesus because all of us become living stones in Christ and all of us are being built up in him. And Jesus has given us not just intrinsic worth, but in a position in which to walk in this world to glorify him wherever we go.

No matter how broken we’ve may feel, it’s about his strength working in us. And so Peter takes this beautiful picture of his own life and he makes it our picture too. In Hebrews 12:28, perhaps this is why it says in relationship to this rock, you serve a kingdom that cannot be shaken. What a rock. Meaning you got a place to make a difference no matter the circumstance. That we think about what Jesus calls us to on-mission for him. That in this world there is sin, there is a problem. We call it sin. And in this world there is a solution and his name is Jesus. And God has given us a place to participate and belong on this journey for which he provides the solution to this world.

What a beautiful building and you’re a part of that story. Maybe we could say in a cheesy sense, we all get to be rockstars for Christ. As ordinary people. When I think about what God calls us to in this world, I don’t think we measure it by results. Bur rather faithfulness to this statement being lived out in our lives and the results are up to him.

I was reading this statement written by Kyle Dugdale. He was working on his master’s of architecture thesis at Harvard graduate school of design and he was reflecting on scripture as it relates to design in this world. He argues that people have been building structures since the garden of Eden to create a sense of feeling at home, a feeling that we lost when we were kicked out of Eden. And Kyle says this, “A city is a poor substitute for the garden of Eden.” And then he gives his proposal. He says this, “We built structures not as a cure to losing our home in Eden, but as an expression of our homesickness.”

Since the garden of Eden, man has struggled to belong. And here what you find in 1 Peter, we’ve created these these buildings in order to give the appearance of belonging or try to formulate some structure of home. But what you see in 1 Peter 2 is God has built that home in you. What we lose, Jesus provides in him. The sin that destroyed this world and the pain of separation that comes with sin. Jesus takes on himself and because of the cross, he then gives us opportunity to find that life through him. And so as we were coming to him, the living stone, we ourselves become living stones because of the preciousness of this cornerstone. Not only do we want to answer the question, what does it mean to be a living stone, but the next part of this verse, verse 9 and 10 he also describes for us and answers this question, what does it mean to be God’s people?

Verse nine, what does it mean to be God’s people? Listen to these words. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession so that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. For you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God. You had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

What does it mean to be God’s people? When Peter goes to illustrate this, he goes to a text of scripture sacred to the Jews. He actually goes to two passages. He goes to Exodus 19:5-6, which is when Israel is at Mount Sinai and the presence of God comes down and delivers the 10 commandments. It’s the closest these people get to the presence of God. It’s when God chooses them and they’re taking on identity in him. Beautiful passages of scripture, sacred to the Jews, and God gives these statements of their identity in him. A chosen people, a Holy and Royal nation. And at the same time in Deuteronomy 7, God does the same thing. Where it’s the second giving of the law where Moses is preaching a message and he reflects back on this passage from Exodus 19. He uses these same words to describe God’s people.

The more you understand Judaism, the more you appreciate the terms that he chooses here to describe who God’s people are. This chosen race just as God chooses Israel. It becomes an illustration of God choosing Israel of how God chooses all people for for him. In Genesis 18, and Genesis 22, Abraham is told by God that through him all nations of the world would be blessed. That we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, royalty showing kingship and priesthood showing the ability to connect to God. In Revelation 1:6, “And he has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father. To him be glory and dominion forever and ever.”

He saying this to the church, that not just Israel has this royalty and this priesthood, but God’s people in this world have this priesthood. I’m going to come back to that in a minute. A holy nation of people for his own possession. You’ve got to think in the first century to be in Rome, not everyone in Rome was a Roman citizen. That citizenship was a prized thing. Paul was fortunate to call himself a Roman citizen. To think about the citizenship and the extra privilege that comes with that, but here to be called a citizen of heaven, a citizen of God’s kingdom. Jesus came as a King to deliver a kingdom for all people, all tribes, all tones, all languages and nations.

I want us to pay particular attention to this passage and the specific words in which he uses here. Because for us, these words are always in danger of being pulled away to the identity of which God gives us. When you think about what these words represent, when you just consider them in your mind what Peter is saying here, he’s saying these words don’t just belong to the elite. These words belong to everyone in Jesus, that all of us together we are a chosen race. All of us together, we’re all a royal priesthood. All of us together, a holy nation of people for his own possession. These aren’t just some people that belong to Jesus. These are all people that belong to Jesus.

For some reason and sometimes what people like to do with these passages is rip these words out and pretend like it belongs to a particular group of people or a particular race of people. This is not true. This belongs to all of God’s people. The Holy spirit isn’t gender bias. The Holy spirit isn’t racially biased. In God’s eyes, there’s only one race, the human race. It’s not based on wealth. It’s based all on Jesus and what he’s done for you and because of what he has done is sufficient. Do not give anyone position over you for what God has already provided for you.

What I mean by this is you are royalty in Christ. That you hold the priesthood in Christ. That you can connect to God anytime, anywhere, not because of anything special you have done, but because of the special thing Christ has done. And in case you approach a verse like verse nine and you say to yourself, well, I’m a glass half empty kind of person. How do I know that this is talking about me? Well, listen to this. Let me just give you a couple of verses here. Galatians 3:26, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ, have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek. There is neither slave nor free. There is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.”

So what he’s saying to us is, look, this promise given to Abraham wasn’t just for those that were born out of Abraham. God doesn’t care who your daddy is. The God cares who you trust in and whether or not it’s Jesus. You don’t get this elitism because of who your parents are and what your parents are done, it’s everyone comes to God the same way: through the cross.

And when you come to Christ because of what he has done, this image and this position is yours. Don’t let anybody take that from you. And if you’re still hesitant and you say, well, I still feel like it’s good for everyone else that’s good for them. But me? I don’t think you know me well. I think if you feel that way, this is exactly why Peter writes verse 10. Listen to this, “For you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God. You have not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Jesus says you belong.

You might think in your life that you deserve condemnation or you may look at your life and see the failures. And Peter’s honest with it here, saying, you’re right. At one point in life, apart from Jesus, maybe you didn’t belong to him, you were not his people. And maybe because of the sin in your life, maybe you weren’t to receive mercy. Maybe it is the wrath of God. But thanks be to Christ, because those that are not his people become his people. And those who don’t deserve mercy receive mercy because of his grace.

That’s exactly what the cross of Christ represents for us. A place to turn and look at the accusations of Satan who heaps our past upon us and to remind him none of the goodness of who we are, but the goodness of who Jesus is and what he says about us because of what he has done for us through the cross. When you don’t know your position before God all the time, you’re trying to fight to validate who you are. When you don’t know your position before others, it’s unsettling. You want to be loved. You want to be accepted. You want to belong. You want to prove yourself. But in Jesus the identity is there. A people for him. And because of the position God has given you.

He knows during the coronavirus you may have learned some shortcomings in your life, but he still loves you. And he still wants to do his work in you, and because of the position given to you in Christ, you can go united in him as one living building in Jesus and represent him wherever you are because you are royalty. You hold the priesthood in Christ. You’re a living miracle to what Jesus is doing because he took a stone which was dead and he brought it to life. And because of this, wherever you go, you represent Christ. And maybe your story isn’t that you lead 10,000 people to him, it’s not about the results. For us, it’s about a Christ like love and faithfulness to him. I think that in itself inspires others. May I be faithful and may my faithfulness be a tool to inspire others to the love of God because of the love that he has given me.

This week I was reading about Amy Carmichael. And Amy Carmichael I think was one that understood her position in Christ and because of that, it led her to places in the world where she could love people that maybe even felt unlovable. She went to India and she started a ministry rescuing young girls. They asked the young girls, they call it her Amma. Why did you, why did you love Amy Carmichael? Amy Carmichael, by the way, she was in the 1800 into the 1950s you can see photos of Amy Carmichael today. But they said to these young girls that Amy minister too, why did you love her? They responded this way, they said that we love Amma because they knew, Amma loved them. The love of Jesus in her life on transformed the lives of those around them.

Amy Carmichael once reflected on a young lady that wrote her a letter and they said, what is it like to be a missionary? And Amy Carmichael just simply wrote back saying, missionary life is simply a chance to die. And that’s the beauty of this picture in 1 Peter for us is it’s this recognition that yes, we are dead. It’s this living stone. And when we come to him as stones dead in our trespasses and sins before God, but God takes that heart of stone and he gives it life. And the dying to self and the turning over of self to him, Jesus births that life into us.

And as I was reading about Amy Carmichael’s life, she gave this beautiful poem. I think it’s fitting that it become our prayer as we understand our identity in Jesus. Amy wrote this word, I think it was because she understood her position given to her because of Christ. She said this, “Give me the love that leads the way, the faith that nothing can dismay, the hope, no disappointments tire, the passions that will burn like fire. Let me not sink to be a clod. Make me Thy fuel, Oh flame of God.

Everything that we are in this world it’s not because of us. The things that we are because of us will perish, but it’s the things that we are because of him that endures. Your worth as a human being, intrinsically given to you by God and your position as a believer has everything to do with what Jesus has done for you. It is enough.