1 Peter 2:9-10
“Go and tell more people about Jesus.”
Over the past few weeks we have been working our way through the “This is Us” series and the past two weeks our focus has been the church. We looked at the church as family. We are a family, not a perfect family this side of heaven, but we are a family and last week we looked at the church as a body. As a body with different parts that make up the whole; we all have a role in serving. Today, we are going to be looking at the church as voice.
“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” It’s a saying that is often taught to children to stand against name calling when it being to poor down on them. Words like fatty, ugly, shorty or shrimp, skinny, dummy, weird, four eyes or idiot. And on the other end of this is a child that deep within their hearts recite this phrase over and over, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Then they might shout it out and run away, but when they get home they often run to their rooms, curl up in bed and cry. Because they know it’s not true. All of us desperately want to believe that “words can never hurt me,” but we all know it’s not true, because everyone of us in here have been on the receiving end of this or the giving end of this.
Words are the most powerful way of expressing who we are and what we most believe in and the effects they have on us or others can crush one’s life and destroy relationships. They can cause one to lose hope, lose confidence or lose faith or even drive someone to doubt life has any purpose. They can also uplift, empower people to do things you never thought possible. Bring truth into one’s life that changes everything about them and they have the potential to change the world.
In the Oxford English Dictionary we have 171,476 words recorded, but most believe that there are actually over 1 million English words that could be used for the positive or negative.
“The tongue has no bones, but is strong enough to break a heart. So be careful with your words.” Unknown
The Bible has a few things to say about how we use words in both the positive or negative and the power that comes through words.
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb: sweet to the taste and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21). King Solomon
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). Apostle Paul
“Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).
Here is the point…Our words have the power to change lives.
Peter was a man who understood the power of words and the influence they have to either uplift ones spirit or mess things up. Words often got him in trouble. We can think of the time he rebuked Jesus for speaking of his death (Mt. 16). We know how well that ended up for him. “Get behind me, Satan.” There was also the time he denied knowing the Lord three times. Not just denying him, but cursing and swearing an oath that he didn’t know Him. “Do you love me?” Peter had a lot of growing pains. But as he went through this, God would transform his life and use his voice to be the “rock” and “pillar” of the early church that Jesus knew he would become. He stood boldly on the day of Pentecost and preaching to the crowds in Jerusalem. He was the first to proclaim Christ to the Gentiles. And even though he would be arrested, beaten, and over and over told to never proclaim the resurrection of Jesus, none of that stopped him.
At the time of this writing which was probably near the end of his life, he, and Christians throughout in the Roman Empire, found them surrounded with first massive scale of horrifying persecution that the church had ever seen.
Nero was the emperor of Rome
- Re-create Rome (100 acre Palace)
- July 18th, 64 A.D. Rome burned
- 9 days 14 districts burned down
- Rumors – he needed an out.
- Nero falsely blamed the Christians
- Ordered the brutal persecution of them
- It was easy for Rome to turn on Christians at this time because most people didn’t like them because they were “different” and lies about Christian beliefs were everywhere.
- Men and women throughout the Roman Empire would be falsely imprisoned and many other would be slaughtered like animals.
Here is the church, many of them were already disowned by their families and own people, because they became Christians and now they were also being hunted down like animals under the ruling government. What do you do? What do you do when the world has turned against you and your identity, who you once where, is completely gone.
Peter, through the hand of Silas (his penman), writes. He uses words to encourage them and let them know that their identity is not lost, because what they are now is more than they could have ever been before because now, they are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession” (1 Peter 2:9).
Four points of change in identity.
All four are Old Testament terms for Israel, but now directly associated with the church. It’s a beautiful and extremely powerful way of expressing that what God began to do through the line of Abraham (as the blessing for all nations) was being fulfilled in the church. They no longer were welcome into the race or the nation they were born into and looked at as outcasts by the world around them, but Peter reminds them that what God has done for them is so much more. He began to unpack this for them in chapter 1:3-5 when he reminded them when and how this all happened.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a NEW BIRTH into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
By God’s great mercy, their salvation was sealed in this “new birth” they received through the “living hope” of Jesus Christ and their inheritance is of an eternal reward, not something that will be given and taken away because it’s protected by God.
Four points of changed identity that came through this “new birth”
- A “new birth” into a Chosen Race (or family)
- They haven’t lost their family, this, the church, is their family. And it’s made up of Christians from all over the world.Ryan, in this focus on the church as the body, pointed to what this looks like when we looked into the writings of Revelation and we saw that one day there will be “every tribe and language and people and nation” gathered to worship in the glory of God.
- The church is part of a global family of every tribe, language, people and nations that is….
- Chosen to be made alive together in Christ.
- They have a “new birth” into a Royal Priesthood
- The kings and priests of the Old Testament, when working together, were serving in God’s royal Kingdom to point the nations to the one true God, but this didn’t happen a lot.But now, Peter is saying that this responsibility and privilege, which was often abused and neglected in Old Testament times, is now given over to the body of the church.
- The church is part of a Royal Priesthood that is…
- Called to serve and reign with Jesus in his Kingdom work.
- They have “new birth” into Holy Nation
- A People for His Possession (The Prized Possession of God.)
- The world might not value the church, but in God’s eyes the church is everything.
To think though the history of what God was building towards in bringing the church into this family, into this body, into this holy nation is amazing and for those hearing this during such hardships in their lives it must have been such a blessing and encouragement to keep moving forward. This is who you are. You’re not forgotten. Your identity is not lost. You have a “living hope,” not in a false god or in idolizing humanity, but the God of mercy who gave you a “new birth” through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. You’re part of something greater than anything the world could ever offer. You can almost hear Peter asking if they can see what has happened. In the simplest way he could put it he says, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s People; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).
What are they to do?
This is where we would think that Peter is going to call them to take up “sticks and stones” because it is time to retaliate and go to battle. Young Peter would have done this and he was ready to start a physical war, but not at this stage of his life because he realized better. He says, “Proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
It’s mindboggling to think that these words came from Peter. He doesn’t call them to use weapons of war, but words and not in the way we might think…
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
“But set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
Makes you wonder if he remembered the words of Jesus when he said,
“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-44).
Peter understood that words are the most powerful weapon we have and so he tells them to use your words to pierce the hearts of your enemies with the marvelous light of Jesus Christ, but do so with words of blessing, gentleness and respect. He never looked at telling others of what God has done, even in the harshest conditions, as a burden or as a way to bash others. Because he knew that it’s a privilege to proclaim what God has done.
The Church Today
Here’s the kicker; everything that Peter spoke of to this church at this time is true of the church today. This is who they were and this is who we are….
- We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and a prized possession of God. We are “God’s people.”
- And God wants us to use our voice, just as He did with the early church, to proclaim the praises of the One who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.
I don’t believe that within my lifetime, there has been a better opportunity than we have now to stand and point people to that light. But I often wonder how the world hears our voice?
We have two connection points with the world. First, are those in direct contact with us (family, friends, work colleagues, etc.). When they think of us and our proclamation of the light that brought us out of the darkness is it like this? The second connection point with the word are with those typically outside direct contact (old friends, random people, the world) and we often use this to reach them. How do they hear our voice?
Before, during and after the election…..
Hope for Tomorrow by Rodney Pennington
On November 8, 2016 the eyes of the world watched as America began the final process of electing the new President of the United States. One man or one woman would be appointed the next leader of this great nation and all eyes were keen to see who would stand and lead America into the future.
On November 9, 2016 the world awakened to witness millions of people in celebration, praise and relief while millions of others were in anger, grief and confusion. The next President of the U.S. was chosen and the reaction throughout the world, particularly in America, has exposed a sad reality of the true focus for where most people find hope.
One individual with a special title, for many, has become the hope of tomorrow and at their feet (doesn’t matter who this person is) is where people’s dreams have either come alive or have come to die. Many celebrate in the hope of their “victor” while others weep in the lost hope of theirs. And at its core is the revelation of the painful illumination of what the human heart truly idolizes.
News, social media, radio, etc., have given the world an opportunity to witness what the human heart often tries to conceal. Its shameful reality of the idols that we believe in because of what we think they can or could have offered us. On display is the truth of who we really are. We expose the reality that our faith and hopes for tomorrow has been given to one person or lost in the other. In our pursuit of an idol, humanity has become lost in the wilderness of worldly endeavors and our ability to see light in the darkness is fading away. Our ears are no longer listening for truth. Our passions revolve around only what brings personal achievement and pleasure.
One man or one woman is believed to hold the keys to the future and today you might believe that future is bright, or you might believe that future is gone. If your hope truly rests at the feet of one human with a special title then I want to invite you to rethink this dangerous path you are walking. No matter who won or lost, placing your hope in a human idol will ultimately lead to the surrender of everything you are meant to be.
Someone once said, “The two greatest days of your life are the day you were born and the day you found out why.” You were born for something more than casting your faith at the feet of idols. You have a greater purpose in life that goes beyond what any human, by lying and manipulating their way to worldly power, can offer you. You are special in a way that goes beyond your skin color, culture, language, etc., because you are the child of the King of kings!
To my unbelieving friends, I beg you to consider your life and where your hopes rest. I know the message of Christ is foolishness to you because I was once with you. There was a time that I lived for myself and my desires dictated my life. I, too, would have easily placed my hope at the feet of an individual who I believed held my future because deep down I truly believed that they would fulfill my tomorrow. However, every time that happened I found nothing but disappointment, because even when they won, and I thought I did as well, they failed me and left me behind. They walked away with my dreams and crushed my hopes under their feet. However, all that changed when I stopped to realize the pointlessness of my actions and the pain that comes in placing faith in humanity. In one incredible moment, my eyes and ears were opened and for the first time I could see and hear truth. It changed everything.
My faith, hopes and dreams are no longer shackled to an individual who will make promises they can’t fulfill. I have been set free from this pain and this is why it ultimately didn’t matter to me who would assume the title of President because “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
One of the most incredible things about the life of Jesus was the dedication he had to reaching out and loving those who did not believe. He lived with them, fed them, taught them, healed them and ultimately gave his life for them. Why? Because “in the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in him and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:1-5). That “light” that shines in the darkness is for you. To lead you through the wilderness of worldly endeavors, free you from false idols and guide you to the one and only hope for humanity. You have a victor and he can set you free!
For many of my Christian brothers and sisters, I also beg you to consider your life and where your hopes rest. Many of you have also fallen into the trap of elevating an idol to sit at the right hand of the one seated on the throne. You have placed your ultimate hopes and dreams at the feet of a false idol. You have forgotten your fist love and have used things like social media to express this truth in ways that are shameful to the name of Christ. You call yourself a Christian (follower of Christ) and yet your words would not reflect the nature of Jesus. You are called to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” and yet many could assume you are anything but that.
The Apostle John cried out to the church, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” He said, “Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For everything that belongs to the world – the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
Please listen to me – I am not claiming perfection in my own life in any way. I make mistakes. I’m a sinner and I admit that. This message is as much for you as it is for me. However, some of the things that I have seen and continue to see break my heart because, by God’s grace, I haven’t fallen into the trap of elevating humanity over God and, by God’s grace, I never will. In all my imperfections I love Jesus Christ above all. I know that no matter who carries the title that offers great worldly power, Christ is the King of kings and all of us who carry his name must live as lights in the darkness. “A city on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for ALL who are in the house. In the same way, LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE BEFORE MEN, so that they might SEE your good works and GIVE GLORY to YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN” (Matt. 5:14-16).
In the book of Revelation, John read the letter to the church in Ephesus and I think that for many of us the words written in this letter speak a powerful truth for us today. “I have this against you: you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent” (Rev. 2:2-5).
I believe that there are many out there who need to repent as they have lost their way in the pursuit of an idol. An individual with a special title has become your hope for tomorrow and at this persons feet your dreams rest. Little Children, it is time to come home. It is time to guard yourselves from idols and be who you were created to be.
Listen and, again, I’m preaching to myself here as well, whether it’s the words that we use with our spouse, our children, our family, friends, work colleagues or something like social media; those words have power and they can’t be taken back. They could be the poison that kills ones soul or the median that heals. The living situations, culture and political landscape from Peter’s original audience was vastly different then what we see today in our country, very similar in other countries, but the implications of who we are and what we are called to do hasn’t changed. We must know our identity and we must tell people about the light.
Where the church must be the voice:
- Proclaim the truth to yourself.
- Daily remind yourself who you are as a child of God not of this world. You have been given a “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”And you are part of a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” and you are a prized possession of God. “God’s people,” not the worlds.
- Proclaim the truth to those you have direct contact with (family, friends, neighborhood, work, etc.).
- In love
- It’s not always about winning the argument, but loving people and showing them the hope you have in Christ.
- “If you speak the truth of God, but you communicate it without the love of God, then it ceases to be the truth.” Dr. Shane Wood
- Start a conversation
- Ask questions about their life
- Listen to them
- “My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, or man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness” (James 1:19-20).
- Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers.
- Tell them about the hope you have in Christ
- Pray for them
- Proclaim the truth to the world.
- International students
- Social Media
- What could daddy do to be a better dad?
- “Go and tell more people about Jesus.” Eden (5yrs)
- Go and tell more people about Jesus. Tell them of the mercy of God; tell them of His marvelous light.