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Jan
10

Our Identity

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You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor.
And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say,
“I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem,
chosen for great honor,
and anyone who trusts in him
will never be disgraced.”
Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.”
And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble,
the rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
“Once you had no identity as a people;
now you are God’s people.
Once you received no mercy;
now you have received God’s mercy.”
(1 Peter 2:4-10, NLT)

In the text cited above, Peter offers three tests to positively identify the Church.

1. Our relationship with Jesus Christ

Peter affirms that we are a chosen people. Peter looked at their status as children of God and immediately observed that they were related to God because of his divine initiative. Using the imagery of the Exodus, he observed they were once not a people but now a people belonging to God…once without mercy but now ones who received mercy. Like Peter’s audience, we too lacked identity and were not even a people. But because of God’s great mercy we are no longer nameless. We belong to God through Jesus Christ.

2. Our relationship to one another

Our personal relationship to Jesus Christ carries with it a corporate responsibility. We belong to Christ AND to one another. All of the language in the passage is plural. Vertically we are a people who belong to God yet at the same time horizontally we belong to one another. We are the people of God, not the persons of God.

Peter calls us living stones. When my family moved from Texas to Arkansas we quickly noticed the Ozark Native Stone used in much of the architecture. While it may not suit your personal taste it communicates a wonderful picture of the church. Each stone, with its individual distinctive, is placed among the other stones by mortar to be used for a greater good. Each stone is acknowledged and valued yet together become powerful.

The church is not about uniformity. A brick home illustrates uniformity. The church is about unity in the midst of diversity. Each one of us has come to Christ and his body with our own size, shape, and color. Set upon the foundation of Jesus Christ we are carefully placed within the wall. Our uniqueness can be honored and celebrated as we cherish the individual contributions to the whole.

Peter then leaves the metaphor from architecture and moves to a metaphor from the field of government. Using the language of citizenship he calls us a holy nation. As good citizens of God’s Kingdom we remain rightly related to the king and to our fellow countrymen.

3. Our relationship to the world

Peter affirms that each of us serves in the role of priest. Individually we have direct access to God. There is no mediator that we need apart from our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Corporately we engage in worship and praise, inviting others to join us in worship of the living God.

We are to be renown for our relationship to God. The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. As his special possession, we come to the realization that any blessing we possess does not come for our personal consumption. We are blessed so that we might be a blessing to the world.

I spent my elementary years living in a small, county seat town in Northeast Missouri. One of the features of this typical hamlet was the town square. In the center of the town square stood the county court house. Then surrounding the courthouse were the four streets that boasted the best commerce and retail that our county had to offer. I can remember summer Saturday nights when our family would take a walk uptown and casually walk around the square. I can remember the big, plate glass windows of the merchants where they would place on display the very best merchandise they had to offer. They reason, of course, for the display window was to draw the customer off the streets and into the store. Our relationship to the world is not unlike those display windows. We are to display the glory of Christ and make our appeals based on his greatness, not our own.

What is our identity? We are the people of God.

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