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Stephen R. Clark
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Delivered May 16, 2010 | Cleveland, OH | MetroAlliance Church

Be who you ARE; Not what you WERE

CSI: Christian Spiritual Identity : 1 Peter 1:13 – 2:12

Click here to view the accompanying PowerPoint slides.

Cat lion

I stumbled upon this image a couple of days ago and really like it. Inside every cat is a lion wanting to get out! I think that should be true of Christians, too!

The passage that was read earlier, 1 Peter 1:13 – 2:12, is what we will be looking at today. It’s on page 1200 in the NIV pew Bibles.

A changed state

Years ago, devout Catholics typically ate fish on Friday’s. They were not supposed to eat any other meat. Here’s a story I heard when I was a kid about a Baptist man in a small town, who was dating a Catholic woman who insisted he convert to Catholicism if he wanted to marry her. His name was Bob and he loved the woman, Delores, very much, so he went to the priest in town.

“Father O’Leary,” Bob said, “What do I need to do to become Catholic?” Father O’Leary explained what was required. After completing all of the requirements, Bob went before the priest for the final step. The priest sprinkled Bob with water saying, “You were once a Baptist; now you are a Catholic.” He did this three times and sent Bob on his way.

The following Friday, the priest decided to check on Bob to see how he was doing. Around dinner time, Father O’Leary walked up to Bob’s door. Since it was summer, the windows were open and the smell of baked ham filled the air.

Alarmed, Father O’Leary peaked in the window. There on the dinner table, on Friday, was a huge baked ham! Father O’Leary was just about to knock on the door when Bob came to the dinner table holding a bowl of water in one hand. He proceeded to sprinkle water on the ham, three times, intoning, “You were once a ham; now you are a fish!”

Father O’Leary shouted. “Bob, what are you doing?” Bob replied, “I love Delores, Father, but I hate fish!”

Yes, there really is a point!

Okay, it’s an old and corny joke, and since my memory is faulty, I may not have even told it right; and I’m sorry if it offended anyone – it was not meant to. But there is a point!

As Christians, both chosen by God and choosing God, through the “sprinkling with Jesus Christ’s blood,” as stated in the second verse of 1 Peter, unlike Bob’s ham, we have actually been changed; transformed; seated in heavenly places.

We have a brand new identity; a new character; a new persona.

Once we were not a people; now we are the people of God. Once we had not received mercy; now we have received mercy. Once we were lost; now we are found.

In the passage we’re looking at this morning, Peter goes into much more detail, explaining what this means. In later passages, which will be covered by Jeff, Carl, and Juri in upcoming sermons, Peter shows how to live out this identity.

But in order to live this identity we need to know what it is. We need to fully understand who we are, and stop living what we were.

The problem is that we often live like someone – namely Satan – has stolen our identity! Jesus said in John 10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” To have that full life in Christ, we need to reclaim who we are in Christ.

Who are you?

In this passage, using a variety of images and metaphors, Peter parses out and dissects what you could call: “CSI: Christian Spiritual Identity,” that strives to answer the questions, “Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who? Don’t you really want to know?”

My apologies to the Who.

A reflection of Paul

One thing I learned while studying this book is that Peter, like me, is a big fan of Paul. In fact, there are echoes of Paul’s writings all through 1 Peter, and particularly this passage. It’s kind of an expansion on the idea of putting off the old and putting on the new as stated by Paul in Ephesians 4:22-24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

The problem with the metaphor of putting off and putting on is that it implies that, like clothes, we can take off our Christian Spiritual Identity whenever we want to go out and get dirty, and then put it back on later. This isn’t the message Paul was communicating.

Expanding on Paul’s teaching, and considering that his audience is a mixed bag of Jews and Gentiles from a variety of backgrounds with varying degrees of familiarity with this new thing called Christianity, and with the Old Testament history and teachings, Peter approaches his task by employing a range of images and metaphors and examples. He pulls from Old Testament references and poetry, as well as using modern cultural imagery, some of which is just as current and clear today as then.

The purpose of the passage

Peter’s purpose is stated in the opening and closing verses of the passage:

In 1:13, he writes, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

And then in verses 2:12-13 he states, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 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.”

We are to be empowered to be self-controlled, live holy lives as aliens in a foreign land, and set our hope firmly on the promise of Heaven. But how?

On our own power as mere sinful human beings, these would be impossible challenges to face. But, as Peter makes clear, we are not on our own because we are not our own, and we are not merely sinful human beings.

We are not called to be what we were, but to be who we are: living out our Christian Spiritual Identities.

So then, the question becomes, who are we in Christ? What is the nature of this new identity we have been given in Him? And what does it mean to be in Christ?

Let’s take a look at the evidence Peter provides and get ready to reclaim our stolen identity.

Reclaiming our identity

I’m assuming most of you are aware of the CSI TV shows where CSI stands for Crime Scene Investigation. If you’ve watched any of the CSI TV shows, you know that determining the solution to the mystery or crime involves disciplined attention to detail. To fully understand who we are in Christ involves fully engaging our minds, our hearts, and our spirits.

In the King James Version, verse 1:13 reads: “gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” These three exhortations break down like this:

  • Gird up! – In Bible times, men wore flowing robes. When they needed to run or do something that required freedom of movement, they would pull their robes up between their legs and tuck the fabric under their belts, creating puffy pants. It looked weird but got the job done. It’s the equivalent of saying today, “Let’s roll up our sleeves and prepare to get serious.” Or, “Belt up! No lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground!”

  • Sober up! – The idea of being sober very simply means, well, to be sober! It’s the idea of being clear-headed and self-controlled, to not be intoxicated on speculative or exaggerated ideas. It’s a call to be heedful of circumstances and potential consequences; to be prudent, showing self-restraint. Basically, it’s a call to get our head’s in the game; unlike the Cavs; maybe more like the Philly Flyers.

  • Hope up! – What allows us to be successful as Christians has nothing to do with our own strength or good deeds; it has everything to do with God’s grace. Very simply, Peter is saying that our hope needs to be grounded in God’s grace that will be fully revealed when we are in heaven. It’s a grace that points to our future, ultimate goal.

So, what Peter is saying here is: “Focus! Pay attention! Get ready to wrap your head around the truth of who you are. We’re in the endgame and need to keep our eyes on the prize. We need to live who we are, not what we were.” He presents evidence that clearly reveals our Christian Spiritual Identities.

Sorting out the evidence

When Crime Scene Investigators show up, what they encounter are usually pieces of a puzzle they need to assemble and interpret to get the full picture of what happened.

In this passage of 1 Peter, where he’s describing the Christian Spiritual Identity, he throws out a slew of images, metaphors, analogies, and what have you, each providing a piece of insight into the full message he’s trying to communicate.

He structures this around three cautions, which are kind of like boxes into which he organizes all of the evidence:

• Box one deals with being non-conformists (1:14 – 1:25)

• Box two involves getting rid of the old behaviors (2:1 – 2:10)

• Box three is about leaving the garbage outside (2:11 – 2:12)

Let’s open up these three boxes and examine the evidence that will help us reclaim our Christian Spiritual Identities.

Evidence Box One: Non-conformity to God's way!(1:14)

Verse 1:14 states: “…do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” What follows is a three-pronged call to non-conformity.

1. Be who you are: Holy obedient children (1:14 – 1:16)

14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

Don’t you just love it when someone dresses or behaves a certain way so as to “stand out” and be different, yet they look just like everyone else? Often with clothing that’s too tight, too low, too revealing, or behavior that’s just too weird.

What is often being expressed through the clothing and behavior is rebellion against accepted standards of dress, morality, and so forth; especially anything that’s “tainted” as godly. That’s the world’s way of non-conformity which is nothing more than conforming to sin. And Peter says that it’s an ignorant way of life.

Because we have been given a Christian Spiritual Identity, and, as Paul States in 1 Corinthians 2:16, “have the mind of Christ,” we are to be smart, obedient, and innocent as children in the way we live our lives. In fact, we are to be holy, which essentially means being set apart from sin for God.

• Why? Because God says so and we are His.

• How? Because God imparts holiness to us.

• When? It starts at the moment of being born again.

The moment we said “Yes!” to God – the point of salvation – we became holy through the blood of Christ. Peter is saying, “Smarten up! You’re holy, already! Live like it!”

Note that we are not called to “become” holy. That would imply that we can make ourselves holy through some set of rules or behaviors. Rather, we are to be the holiness we are.

As we grow into our Christian Spiritual Identity, we become better at being holy in our behavior, but our behavior never makes us more holy. Leviticus 20:8 states, “Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” Obedience to God is our response to the holiness He imparts to us.

For example, when you were born into your family, you were your father’s child. Period. You didn’t have to work at becoming your father’s child. It was a matter of fact. Now, as children in families, we do have to learn how to live as an obedient child within our family structure. We also need to learn how to live within our culture and so forth. But no matter what we do, we are always a child of our father.

We can choose to live as a child in a way that makes our parents and family proud of us, or not so much.

2. Be who you are: Redeemed reverent strangers! (1:17 – 1:21)

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

The next piece of evidence Peter offers to our Christian Spiritual Identity is the call to:

• live in reverent fear because God looks for obedience

• live like you are redeemed (the perishable replaced with imperishable)

• live like your faith and hope is grounded in God who raised Christ from the dead

I’ll cover the idea of redeemed strangers a little later, but let’s look more closely at this idea of fearing God.

You may be thinking, “Fear God? But 1 John 4:18 says ‘perfect love drives out fear.’ And I love to be able to call the God of Creation, Daddy.”

If that’s what you’re thinking, then you would be right; but it’s not the full picture of how we are to view God. In addition to thinking of God as Abba Father, He is also to be honored and respected.

My Dad’s been gone since 1992. I really loved him a lot and especially miss him this time of year. We both loved the Indy 500. Since it was blacked out in my hometown, we’d listen to it “live” on the radio and then watch it later that night on TV. He was a great guy and I respected him. But I also feared him, especially when I did something during the day that annoyed Mom, and she said, “Just wait until your Dad gets home!”

It was in these moments that I was not eager to see Dad, I was very anxious about the encounter. Now, to be fair, while I did get spanked as a kid, I was never beaten; I was never in a state of unholy terror, just reverent fear. And, whenever Mom got to the point with me that she felt it was time to bring in the “big guns” on the discipline front, it was a pretty safe bet that I’d done something really stupid, arrogant, and wrong; I had earned my meeting with Dad.

When Dad got home and we “met” in the basement, even though the spanking stung, Dad always talked to me about what I’d done, why it was wrong, how I needed to show more respect to Mom, and he always assured me of his love for me. In those moments, I respected, feared, and submitted to my Dad. And at least once, stuffed paper plates down my pants – which, much to my surprise actually worked! And so did my acting!

A biblical example of fearing God is found in Isaiah 6:1-5 where Isaiah sees God who presents Himself in awesome majesty:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I [Isaiah] saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. "Woe to me!" [Isaiah] cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

Basically, Isaiah felt small and needy in the presence of God, but not terrified. The common biblical response to encountering God’s presence and glory is to fall down, also called being prostrate which is lying face down in submission or adoration. When was the last time you were face down before the Lord?

Moving on.

3. Be who you are: Imperishable lovers of one another (1:22 – 1:25)

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you.

Verse 22 is one of my favorite Bible verses and expresses a key virtue that should mark true believers as radically different if practiced with abandon: “love one another deeply, from the heart” with a purified, sincere love that grows out of obedience to the Truth.

Remember that Peter opened this passage with a call to action. So, he’s not talking about just saying you love your fellow Christians; rather it is an essential piece of your Christian Spiritual Identity and should be evident in all you do because of who you are. This is stated more explicitly in 1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

Doing love fervently is so important, because, like grass we are here today and gone tomorrow. But God’s Word in us is imperishable, just as our souls are imperishable. What we leave behind after our physical death should be a legacy of visible love that was motivated by God’s Word working in, through, and out of us.

Our lives and our interactions with each other as fellow believers must reverberate with the love of God in a way that is both startling and attractive to those who are not believers.

Summary #1

So, the evidence in this first box demonstrates that the Christian Spiritual Identity is one of non-conformity to evil desires through being (1) holy obedient children, (2) redeemed reverent strangers, and (3) imperishable lovers of one another.

This call to non-conformity involves a daily turning away from what you were and choosing to be who you are in Christ.

Evidence Box Two: Out with the old & in the new (2:1)

Verse 2:1 states: “…rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”

Peter’s second evidence box is about trashing the former, pre-sprinkled lifestyle, as stated plainly in verse 2:1. The word “rid” means to lay aside, put off, cast away, separate from. The behaviors listed – deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander – are behaviors of people who are not holy, who have not been set apart by God for God. These behaviors belong to the old ignorant pre-sprinkled lifestyle.

Note the word all. What does all mean? A little, few, some? No. It means all. Every little bit of garbage is to be tossed out of our lives. These behaviors do not fit with who we are in Christ and they don’t build community; instead, they break down community and destroy relationships.
These are really stinking bad behaviors. Malice means to intentionally cause someone else harm just to see them in pain. Deceit means to intentionally lie and be two-faced.

These are the kinds of behaviors that bring disunity and discord into relationships, which is the exact opposite behaviors that our Christian Spiritual Identities should be yielding. They fly in the face of the love we are supposed to be exhibiting. Peter tells us to get rid of the old attitudes and behaviors by replacing them with new attitudes and behaviors that are essential ingredients to our Christian Spiritual Identities.

Let’s look at the evidence he provides.

1. Be who you are: Cravers of right nourishment (2:2 – 2:3)

2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Have you heard about the new ad campaign by the Ohio Department of Health to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies? There are billboards around town showing adorable happy babies next to the slogan, “Breast Milk Satisfies.” According to an article in the Toledo Blade, “Health officials said [the campaign is intended] to show that breast milk is the perfect food for infants and it's promoting the bond between a mother and a child.”

Unlike in 1 Corinthians 3 and Hebrews 5 where Paul refers to “milk” as strictly baby food for immature Christians, the meaning here is different. As Christians, we need to crave our perfect food that also promotes our bonding with our Heavenly Father.

Just as babies are insistent on being fed, we are to intensely desire the pure spiritual nourishment found in God’s Word and communion with Him. The goal of this nourishment is to grow us up and keep us healthy spiritually.

Milk always does a body good, even a grown adult body. God’s pure spiritual milk does our spirit good and it is nourishment we need to take in daily.

2. Be who you are: A living sanctuary (2:4 – 2:8)

4 As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone," 8 and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message--which is also what they were destined for.

Many of us would refer to where we are right now as the sanctuary. Please don’t say this around Juri! He will quickly correct you by telling you that this is just a room and you and I are God’s sanctuary. Believe me, we’ve had a few discussions about this. And he’s right. On this point.

As part of our Christian Spiritual Identity, we are, together, the body of Christ on earth. All of us in this room who are in Christ, along with everyone else in the world who is in Christ, is part of the body of Christ. His church. His sanctuary.

To get this point across, Peter uses some weird imagery that actually connects with Old Testament teachings.

He calls Christ the Living Stone and refers to us as living stones. Actually, Jesus referred to himself this way in the Gospels when he quoted from Psalm 118. Matthew 21:42-45 states, “42 Jesus said to them, Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes? 43 Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed. 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them.”

While Gentile readers would not necessarily understand this imagery, Jewish readers got it instantly. In the Old Testament, God’s presence always showed up in the temple which was designed and built to very strict specifications. To meet with God, you went to the temple.

Additionally, the only chosen people was the Jewish nation. But, they rejected Jesus as the Messiah so the kingdom of God was opened up to Gentiles.

Okay, there is a ton of deeper meaning in this short passage that, if we had a couple more hours, we could dive into. I encourage you to get out your study Bibles and take a long swim in these verses this week.

But, for now, the main point to get is that we are living stones being built into God’s spiritual house. We are His temple in which He dwells all the time, individually and corporately. Paul states in Romans 12:1, that we are to be “living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is our spiritual act of worship.” Basically, we are to “sacrifice” what we were so that we can fully live who are in Christ as His living temple.

3. Be who you are: Walkers in his light (2:9 – 2:10)

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, 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.”

As I just mentioned, in the Old Testament the only “chosen people” were the Children of Israel. They made up the nation of God. But now, with the coming of Christ, things have changed. The borders of this new nation are now open to immigrants: anyone who calls on the name of Jesus and is saved can come in, both Jew and Gentile. To make this clear, Peter says it seven different ways that embrace the Old Testament imagery while adding New Testament meaning.

We are…:

1. A chosen people
2. A royal priesthood
3. A holy nation
4. A people of/belonging to God
5. A praising people
6. A people walking in light
7. A people who have received mercy.

Within these seven definitions of this aspect of our Christian Spiritual Identity, regardless of our race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or spiritual heritage, the message is brought home: if we choose Christ, we are His chosen people.

Again, there’s a lot more meat to be picked through in these verses regarding what it means to be a holy priesthood and a chosen people. I encourage you to eat heartily, bite deeply, and chew over this passage on your own this week.

Summary #2

So, the evidence in this second box proves that our Christian Spiritual Identity involves casting off wrong behaviors through (1) craving the right nourishment that will keep us spiritually healthy, (2) being a living sanctuary, and (3) living in the light of being His chosen, priestly people.

This call to cast off sinful behaviors requires a daily walking in who you are in Christ and walking away from what you were.

Evidence Box Three: Leaving the garbage alone (2:11)

Verse 2:11 declares: “…abstain from sinful desires, which war against your souls.”

Peter’s third evidence box contains proof that we are to keep away from what we’ve cast off (or stay away from what we threw away) by abstaining from the sinful desires that war against our souls. The phrase “sinful desires” includes the concepts of lusting or longing for.

In the hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” Robert Robinson wrote,

O to grace how great a debtor, Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.

Our natural, pre-chosen and pre-sprinkled state constantly tugs at our attention trying lure us back to the dark side. The only way to win this war is to remain steadfast and stand in our Christian Spiritual Identity and leave the garbage we tossed out outside in the garbage can.

When you take your garbage out, once you’re back in the house, do you keep thinking about it? Do you wish you had the rotten food, used tissues, moldy coffee grounds, or stinky diapers back in the house again? Do you get up, go outside, and bring it back in and poke around in it? If you do, you may have an OCD issue and there’s help for that. But generally, we don’t long for or feel nostalgic about the garbage we throw out.

But, when we entertain sinful desires – which means fondly re-viewing in our minds the sinful behaviors we have supposedly repented of and asked forgiveness for and are considering indulging in again – when we do this, we are basically playing with our garbage.

We are stepping back into darkness. We are bending to and aligning ourselves with evil. We are stepping back into what we were rather than living like who we are in our Christian Spiritual Identity.

Abstaining from sinful desires yields three results. Let’s look at each one at a time.

1. Be who you are: Aliens to sinful living (2:11)

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

There’s a lot in the news of late regarding illegal aliens. As people who have been imbued with a Christian Spiritual Identity, we are the aliens in this world. In other translations, this is rendered as exiles, strangers, sojourners. It carries the flavor of the Israelites wandering in the desert. They were citizens of the Promised Land, but were viewed as aliens and interlopers everywhere they went. They were viewed as unwelcomed intruders.

As we continue to walk as who we are, leaving what we were further and further behind, we will become more and more unrecognizable to the world, and therefore, viewed with greater suspicion.
But that’s okay. Where we are is not where we’re going and is not where we belong. Jesus stated frequently that this earth will pass away. And Peter states in 2 Peter 3:13, “…we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”

Just as the Children of Israel were shaped and honed as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, as we live more confidently in our Christian Spiritual Identities on earth, we are being prepared for our final destination in the eternal presence of God.

This makes us strange and alien to those who are still lost. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “…the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

I kind of like the idea of being an alien! But our alien behavior will also cause us some problems in the meantime.

2. Be who you are: True to Christ even though falsely accused (2:12a)

12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds…’

Peter also writes later in 4:4, “They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.”

“They” being those who are not in Christ.

They heap abuse on us for not following them in their sinful ways, and they will accuse us of doing wrong, even though we’re doing right!

Have you ever noticed at work or in other settings when you’re around people who are not Christians, how uncomfortable they get if they’re engaging in sinful behavior and you’re not? Maybe Joe’s bad-mouthing his office mates or Sue’s bragging about her latest sexual conquest at lunch. You sit there quietly. What happens? Either they will try to engage you or bait you or mock and tease you. They may stare at you like you’re from another planet.

They may squirm and get defensive if you try to talk about your weekend at church or something really cool you just came across in the Bible.

I’ve been in situations where those around me knew I was a Christian, and simply because of that, worked to make my life miserable. Some were my managers, which really makes for a difficult situation.

Why does this happen? The enemy will work through those who are his to get at those who are Christ’s. No matter how unjust or undeserved, we are always to let our lights shine brightly, staying true to who we are in Christ. Why? That takes us to the next piece of evidence.

3. Be who you are: Pointers to His glory (2:12b)

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.’

So, what’s the point of standing firm in our Christian Spiritual Identity? There are two outcomes Peter is implying:

• Our Christ-like behavior can make the gospel attractive to unbelievers and potentially lead to their salvation.

• Our Christ-like behavior and belief in God will be validated when His presence is made manifest.

Either way, Peter is explaining that, by living out our Christian Spiritual Identity, even in the face of false accusations and looking out of place, our Christ-like behavior points to our future hope, witnesses salvation to the lost around us, and glorifies Him.

Summary #3

So, the evidence in this third and final box shows that our Christian Spiritual Identity involves leaving the garbage in the can through being (1) aliens to sinful living, (2) faithful even when falsely accused, and (3) pointers to His glory.

To stay away from what we threw away involves a daily separation from what we were, and a daily immersion in who we are in Christ.

Pulling it all together: Who are you?

Okay, let’s pull together all the evidence we’ve uncovered that helps us better understand our Christian Spiritual Identity:

First, we are to gird up! To be non-conformists when it comes to evil desires. We accomplish this, in part, by actively being:

• Holy obedient children
• Redeemed reverent strangers
• Imperishable lovers of one another

Second, we are to sober up! To get rid of evil behavior and put off our old way of life. We accomplish this, in part, by actively being:

• Cravers of right nourishment; maturing in Christ.
• A living sanctuary
• Walkers in His light

Third, we are to hope up! To stay away from what we threw away. We accomplish this, in part, by actively being:

• Aliens to sinful living
• True to Christ even though falsely accused
• Pointers to His glory

Taken together, these evidences are the pieces of the puzzle that will reveal who we are in Christ, and help us reclaim our stolen Christian Spiritual Identity.

Taking Jesus to the brothel

It is only recently that I’ve begun to fully appreciate what it means to be “in Christ” or “hidden in Christ.” Amazingly, a good bit of what was covered at the Basics Conference a few of us attended earlier this week was on our identity in Christ. One of the speakers, Sinclair Ferguson, made a startling comparison that comes from the idea Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; you can look it up later.

The key verse here is 15: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute?” Of course, the answer is a resounding no.

But, Ferguson pointed out that many think that when they go to the brothel, they can leave Jesus at the door.

But the reality is, when you go to the brothel, you are actually saying, “Jesus, come with me to the prostitute.”

Let that sink in a few seconds.

Decorating with Jesus

The “brothel” or “prostitute” can be any sinful behavior you willfully choose to pursue. It doesn’t make any difference what you do or where you go, if you are a Christian, which means you are in Christ and Christ is in you, everything you do you do with Jesus present. Every place you go, you go with Jesus.

He is not a removable decorative ornament.

If you have a tattoo that you don’t want others to see, you can’t just take it off whenever you want and set it aside. For all practical purposes, it’s part of you, and everywhere you go, there it is. The best you can do is try to cover it up, but it doesn’t go away.

Our identity in Christ is far, far, far more indelible than a tattoo. And it’s hard to cover up completely; the light tends to leak out and betray us anyway!

Here’s another way to think about it: Have you ever seen a couple who have been married for decades, and think how much alike they look? It’s a lot like that with Christ. The more we are with Him, the more like Him we should look.

But this happens through more than just taking Christ in. It involves putting off or throwing out everything in our lives that is not Christ. It’s the principle of displacement; one thing taking over another. The good goes in and the bad goes out is the basic concept.

You cannot become like Christ, experiencing the fullness of the Christian life AND continue to choose to willfully hold onto anything that you know is sin. When you willfully choose to hold onto sin, in a sense, you displace the Holy Spirit in you. You push holiness out to let the sin in.

Please understand, the reality is that we all struggle with sin and we all do commit sin. But, struggling against and resisting sin, confessing and being genuinely repentant when we do sin, getting up and recommitting to pursue holiness is very different from willfully choosing to pursue or indulge in a sinful behavior that we know is sin on an ongoing basis.

Leaving Jesus behind

As we chatted about this at the conference, Aaron gave the example of a Christian who wants to go out on a Saturday night to “have some fun.” You know, someone like you or me. What we do is mentally leave Christ at home waiting for us to get back.

Or maybe we set Him back in the back room of the house so that when we get home after dirtying ourselves in sinful revelry, we won’t have to face Him right away, but can get ourselves cleaned up before bringing Him back into the living room.

When I was a kid, I often heard pastors and evangelists ask the question, “If Jesus showed up at your door unexpectedly, would you be embarrassed to let Him in? Would you have to turn off the TV program you were watching, or put away certain books or magazines?”

Looking around the sanctu…., uh, I mean the big room in the church building where we were sitting, you could tell by their expressions just who would have an issue with Jesus stopping by. But the reality was and is, He’s already there if you are! He is in you and you are in Him.

Squeezing Jesus

Now, Christ isn’t going to let you push Him aside, but He will let you squeeze Him into a smaller place in your life. I believe that as a Christian, the more sin we stuff in, the more likely we are to explode in a very messy way at some point. I know. I have. And it’s no fun.

The reality is, Jesus can’t be locked up in a backroom while we go out to play. He is right there with us, in us, as we do whatever we do that we know we shouldn’t be doing.

He is right there when we are conforming our behavior to evil desires.

He is right there when we are indulging in malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.

He is right there when we are giving into the sinful desires, which war against our souls.

He is right there with us when we are cheating on our taxes, lying to a friend, stealing more office supplies, committing fornication, coveting our neighbor’s spouse, drinking ourselves into oblivion, speeding recklessly down the street, swearing at our neighbor, gossiping about our family, abusing our loved ones, hating our boss, blaspheming our Lord.

He’s also there when we’re doing good things which are what we will be doing if we live who we are and not what we were.

While He never overwhelms the personality He gave you, if you are in Christ and He is in you, every time you speak, you speak with the lips and tongue of Jesus. Every time you touch, you touch with the hands and fingers of Jesus. Every time you look, you see what you see with the eyes of Jesus. Every time you plot or imagine or fantasize, you do so with the mind of Christ.
John wrote, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Stopping the insanity

You’ve probably heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but hoping for a different result.

We cannot declare, “I’m a Christian,” and then continue to choose to live a sinful lifestyle and think that righteousness and holiness will result. It can’t happen.

In Romans 6 Paul states that we are either slaves to sin which leads to death, or slaves to obedience that leads to righteousness. In Romans 6:21 he says, “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!”

Loving Jesus, not just the idea of Jesus

If you are continuing to willfully choose to live a sinful lifestyle, the odds are that you may not have truly accepted Christ into your life. Most likely you’ve just accepted the idea of Christ because it sounds good. But believing a good idea won’t get you into heaven! It won’t give you the power you need to be who He is calling you to be in your Christian Spiritual Identity.

What have you said yes to; the idea of Jesus, or the person of Jesus who is the Truth, the Way, and the Life?

Since becoming a Christian, are you living like it? Do you behave differently? Do you desire different things? Do you think about different things? Do you set your heart and mind on things above or things below? Do you understand your Christian Spiritual Identity and what it means to live it out? When you look in your spiritual mirror, are you seeing more of Christ?

Seeing Jesus in the mirror

In Psalm 17:15, David writes, “And I – In righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.” Some years ago when reading this verse, the image that came to mind was waking up, looking in the mirror, and seeing Christ’s face instead of mine.
In 1 Peter 1:13 through 2:12, Peter lays out for us the elements of our Christian Spiritual Identity that is the result of our being born again in Christ. What is the picture that all these evidences and clues reveal?

Who we are fully revealed

1. We are no longer what we were. What we were died on the cross with Jesus. What we were is dead in Christ.

2. We are brand new in Christ. Who we are came out of the tomb with Jesus. Who we are is alive with Christ.

3. We are grounded in our hope of heaven. Who we will be is who we already are, but in a perfect and glorified context.

Because of these things, the way we live out our lives on this earth is to be radically different than how we used to live, or how the world wants us to live. It’s time to reclaim our stolen identities.

We were once lost, but now we are found.

We were once not a people, but now we are the people of God.

We were once without mercy, but now we have received mercy.

We once belonged to the Devil, but now we are hidden in Christ.

We were once hams, but now we are fish.

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Go and be blessed for if you are in Christ you are blessed indeed.

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Inside the Mysteries of the Bible: New Perspectives on Ancient Truths.

 

 

 
     
   
     
     
 

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