Posts Tagged ‘right where we belong’

Think about what it would be like to be a refugee, far from home, moving from place to place, nothing permanent.  There’s a sense of loneliness, because it’s clear to everyone else you aren’t from here.  And there’s a sense of lostness—everything’s different from back home, and even a trip to the grocery store involves a learning curve.

Now picture being a refugee, but knowing the situation is temporary.  In fact, imagine knowing your refugee status was imposed to prepare you to rule wisely as a prince or princess when you get home.  Sound like a movie?

According to Peter, that’s the truth about every follower of Jesus Christ.  In fact, if we had to sum up the first two verses of Peter’s first letter, we could say that we are chosen refugees—hand-picked outsiders—chosen ahead of time by God the Father, set apart by the Holy Spirit, and brought into obedience to Christ’s new covenant.  Peter writes “to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1 Pet. 1:1-2, ESV).

Notice, first, that Peter calls Christians to expect to live as elect exiles (v. 1).  When he calls his readers exiles, he speaks of resident aliens, those who live in a land that isn’t theirs.  It’s the word Abraham uses to describe himself when he had lived in Canaan for over half a century, but didn’t even have a place to bury his wife (Gen. 23:4).  Peter’s readers may have owned homes and lived in one place their whole lives, but they needed to realize “this world is not our home, we’re just a-passing through.”  They weren’t a special interest group or a political powerhouse; they were outsiders scattered to bring the gospel wherever they went.

Yet with these references to being foreigners—refugees, far from home, scattered across the globe—Peter says they are also chosen: “elect exiles.”  We are not where we are by accident, but by God’s good plan for His good purposes.  Peter tell us more about that in v. 2, and in the process tells us how to live as hand-picked refugees.  First, we live out our exile in confidence, because we are elect exiles by our Father’s knowledge and plan (v. 2a).  As Ephesians 1:4 puts it, the Father “chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world.”  He didn’t merely know about us (that’s true of all people), but He knew us intimately.  It’s the same word Peter uses when he says that Jesus “was foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1:20); the Father didn’t merely know that Jesus would come; it was His plan that He was bringing about.

So what is this plan that the Father has for us?  The Father is creating a family, causing us to be born again, giving us living hope and an unending inheritance in Christ (v. 3-5), and He will use every circumstance to accomplish this.  And remember, we didn’t jump into this plan because we understood it and wanted to sign up.  We were by nature opposed to God, aiming to live our lives for ourselves.  And if we are now living for Christ, loving Him and imitating His love for His Father and for those around us, that’s only because He has given us new hearts and new eyes that see Him for who He really is.

But now that our eyes have been opened, we will live out our exile in holiness, because we are set apart by the Spirit (v. 2b).  We usually think of sanctification as that ongoing, lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus—and Peter will get to that later in letter.  But here Peter’s focus is on what we call positional sanctification—the believer being set apart for use in worship, much as the Old Testament temple and altar were.  This is how the Father’s choosing has been carried out; He doesn’t just say, “Okay, Mike is mine, but he can do whatever he wants.”  He declares us righteous only because of Christ’s righteousness, but He also awakens and indwells us by His Spirit.  He makes us His temple, and then starts cleaning house, as our new love and gratitude toward God leads us to live more and more like Him (see 1:13-16, 2:9-11).

And as we live out our exile in confidence that the Father knows and loves us, as we live out our exile in holiness because the Spirit has sanctified us, we will live out our exile in step with King Jesus, trusting and living in His new covenant (v. 2c).  Pastor Tom Schreiner notes that obedience and sprinkling picture salvation from two angles.  First, there is obedience.  Obeying here is not so much our actions, but responding to the gospel message (see Rom. 10:16, 1 Pet. 4:17) by turning from sin to follow Jesus, trusting His promises as our king and the one who paid our ransom.  Second, the sprinkling with Christ’s blood recalls Exodus 24:1-8, as Israel entered into covenant.  The people promised to obey, a sacrifice was made, blood was sprinkled on the altar to deal with sin, and then on the people to mark them as the Lord’s.  Now we have been given a new covenant, with a better sacrifice and better promises, and we are marked as the property of Jesus.  In Exodus 25-31 God immediately told Israel to build a tabernacle and consecrate priests; in this new covenant He is gathering the church to be a living temple and a holy priesthood to show what He is like by the way we love one another (2:4-12).

We’re not home yet—but we’re heading that way.  In the meantime, Christians are elect exiles—outsiders who don’t quite belong, but outsiders who belong to a Father who knows us, a Spirit who sanctifies us, and a Son who brings us into a new covenant sealed with His blood.  That gives us every reason to live in confidence, in holiness, and in step with our King until we see Him face to face.

The audio of this sermon, which was preached at Grace Chapel Baptist Church, Kingwood, on Sunday, August 7, 2016, may be listened to below, or it may be downloaded by right-clicking and “Save Link As” here.


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