The sermon this week is taken from 1 Peter 2:9-12, which I believe is the thesis statement of 1 Peter.
9 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. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
The NIV has this heading for the verses beginning in verse 11:
“Living Godly Lives in a Pagan Society”
I think that’s a great summary statement for the whole of 1 Peter.
I think that’s also a great summary statement of what is increasingly becoming our call in 21st Century America.
1 Peter 2:9-12 completes the section at the beginning of the epistle that deals primarily with our identity as Christians, children of God, servants of our Lord Jesus. We are somebody; we are chosen; we are special. But that identity is not grounded in our national, ethnic, or economic setting or heritage. It is, as 1 Peter 1:3-9 so beautifully states, based solely in the calling and salvation that we received through Jesus Christ.
This passage also tells us that, because of this identity, we have a purpose. It is to declare God’s praises.
And how do we do that? By living good lives: abstaining from the ways and values of the world (the “thou shalt nots”); and by doing good deeds (the “thou shalts”).
And where does all this take place? “Among the pagans…”
In a world that continues to digress farther and farther away from the Word and will of God—and by “world” I mean Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA—we are to live these values out faithfully right in front of them, right before their eyes, that they too will leave the emptiness of the world and come to glorify God.
But isn’t this what Jesus said all along?
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:13-16)