Who Do You Think You Are?
A sermon based on 1 Peter 2:9-12
Sunday, February 9, 2014 – Epiphany 5A
“Who do you think you are?” That question is sometimes asked as a challenge. “Who told you that you could make these changes? Who gave you the authority? Who do you think you are?”
But sometimes it’s asked not of someone else, but of yourself. After you’ve tried and failed or after your suggestion is shot down, it can lead one to ask, “Who do you think you are? Did you really think that would work? You shouldn’t have even tried.” And that kind of thinking can lead to low self-esteem.
In fact, studies have consistently shown that your perception of yourself greatly impacts the way you live your life. If you think you’re a loser and are no good, that’s how you live life. You don’t take chances, you don’t push yourself, you don’t chase after your dreams… after all, you’d just fail anyway. But, if you are confident and cheerful and think you will succeed, that kind of thinking will also impact what you do. You’ll try. And when you fail, you’ll try again. And eventually you will succeed and do better at life.
So what do you think of yourself? “Who do you think you are?” Well, honestly, that doesn’t matter that much—not compared to what God thinks of you. If he were to demand of us, “Who do you think you are?” we’d have to admit that in our sin, on our own, we’re not that much, in fact, we’re nothing. But in Christ and by his work for us, we can answer the question, “Who do you think you are?” with “I am a perfect saint, holy, royal, with purpose and meaning in my life… thanks to Christ!”
Now, as you listen to our sermon text from 1 Peter 2:9-12, consider this question: “Who do you think you are?” God, through Peter, said…
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.
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which 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.
I. Have Low Self-Esteem
Do you like reality TV? You know the shows, where they put cameras all over the house and following every move each person makes so you can watch what happens as the drama unfolds. It’s cheap to produce because you don’t need a script or any special effects. And it’s bound to be exciting when you put a bunch of sinners together with a camera on them 24-7.
Now would you like to be on reality TV? Would you like a camera crew following you around 24-7? That wouldn’t be so bad, right? After all, you’re a pretty good person, aren’t you? You’re a good spouse, a good kid, a good friend, a good employer or employee. You “let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds…” (Matthew 5:16)
Ah… but you have a darker side too, don’t you? You have things you wouldn’t want broadcast on live TV if there were a camera on you 24-7, don’t you? You have things you wouldn’t want put on a projector here at church! And what’s more, you have thought—things you didn’t act on, but thought about, things that only God sees—that you wouldn’t want put on display. And what’s more still, there are plenty of sins in your life, blind spots, that you don’t even see. But God does.
Who do you think you are? If you’re feeling proud, then take a look at the law, not a camera following you around, but a mirror for self-examination. Does your righteousness surpass that of the Pharisees?
Let’s start with the reminder that you are not your own. You are “a people belonging to God.” You belong to him because he made you and because he bought you… at an incredible price!—the life of his own Son! Your money belongs to God. Your time belongs to God. Your body belongs to God. Your whole life belongs to God.
And what does he want from you? How does he want you to use that money, that body, that time, that whole life? To declare his praises. He wants you to live for him and declare his praises not just for an hour or two on Sundays, but in your home as you interact with your family, in your workplace as you behave differently than your co-workers, in your speech as you talk about your Savior.
What does he want from you? He wants you to be “aliens and strangers in the world.” You’re called to be different. You’re called to be weird. You’re called to live like you don’t fit in with the rest of the world. But can others tell that you’re not like them? Or do you try so hard to fit in that they don’t know you’re different? Do you care more about what other people think that about what God thinks? Who do you think you are?
The truth is we can’t find our self-worth or our self-esteem in anything other than God. Do you have low self-esteem? That’s good. The mirror of the law shows us that our self-esteem—how we esteem ourselves—should be even lower than it is. We have nothing to be proud of in ourselves. We deserve to be left in the darkness, to suffer eternal darkness in hell.
Ah, but we’re not by ourselves, are we? We have Jesus! And that makes a world of difference! In 1 Corinthians 6(:11) Paul wrote, “that is what… you were. But… you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Now you’re different!
II. Have High Christ-Esteem
Do you remember recess in grade school? You know, when the two most popular kids were picked as team captains. And they got to choose who would be on their teams? One of those poor kids—maybe it was you?—was always picked last. And that didn’t do much for that poor kids’ self-esteem, did it?
But that’s not you. You have been chosen by God. He wants you on his team. He wants you on his team so much, that he acted. Christ, true God, proven by his miracles, became true man, flesh and blood, just like you and me. He gave up the glory of heaven to live on earth. And he lived a perfect life in your place. His righteousness surpassed that of the Pharisees and every person. He was sinless in every way. And he gave that perfection to you and took your sin on himself. And he suffered the hell your sin deserves. Now you are forgiven! You are sinless. You are holy. And we have Christ-esteem. That is, we esteem him and give him glory for what he’s done.
But we also have Christ were in-esteem in another sense. Though we have no self-esteem, or self-worth because of our sin, in Christ, we have the highest esteem before God. He values us differently. We have great value in his sight!
Who do you think you are? Listen to what God thinks!
“You are a chosen people…” You have been chosen by God, hand-picked by him to be on his team. And literally in the Greek, it says, “You are a chosen [race]…” That means that we don’t find our identity in in being German, or Irish, or Alaskan, but in being Christian, God’s hand-picked saints—chosen, not for anything you might have done, but by his grace alone. And what comfort that brings! Since it’s nothing we earned, we can’t un-earn it. God won’t change his mind. The teams are set and we’re on his team.
“You are a… royal priesthood…” You are royalty—a prince or princess. That means that we don’t find our identity in our family tree, but in being a part of God’s family. We have been adopted by him at each of our baptisms. You are his son or daughter—a son or daughter of the King. And he treats you like royalty by his grace.
And you are a priesthood. Old Testament priests had access to God. They could approach him. They could pray to him. And they were called to serve him. And you too, through Christ, have access to God. You can pray to him 24-7 like a little kid talking to dad. That means that we don’t find our identity in our job or profession, but in our new job as priest of God, eager to work for him.
“You are a… holy nation…” You are a people who have been set apart from sin. You are a people who have been set apart for God. That means that we don’t find our identity in being Americans, citizens of the United States, but as Christians, citizens of a heavenly kingdom that we’re in now and will fully enjoy one day soon in heaven.
“You are a… people belonging to God…” You belong to God. And that means that you’re not an outsider anymore, but belong. And as his possession, you know that he’s going to protect you. He’s going to take care of you. That means that we don’t find our identity in our toys, or our homes, or in how much we own, but in who owns us. We belong to God.
Do you see what God thinks of you? He thinks you’re pretty special. He think’s your holy. He thinks you’re awesome! So see yourself as God sees you. While there is no room for self-esteem, you ought to have Christ-esteem. See yourself as Christ sees you. “Who do you think you are?” You are special. You are holy. You are awesome. That’s what God says of you!
And as you see yourself through God’s eyes it will impact what you do. You’ll live differently. You will “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds…” And when you fail, you’ll try again. And you’ll do better at life.
So “let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds…” (Matthew 5:16) Live such good lives that no accusations against you can stick because your reputation precedes you—you are known as someone who would never do what you’re accused of doing. And be different. Be weird, “abstain[ing] from sinful desires” “as aliens and strangers in the world…” Don’t live like everyone else, but as a Christian. And others will notice. They’ll ask you what makes you different. And you’ll have a wonderful opportunity to respond and “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Then hearing of God’s grace, they too might come to faith in him and, “glorify God on the day he visits us.”
“Who do you think you are?” You know that you are the most valuable, the most important, the most successful people there are. You belong to God. You are his own, hand-picked by him. You are royalty—sons and daughters of the King! You are holy and sinless in his sight. With this as your identity, go and “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” In Jesus’ name, dear friends, amen.