Set Apart in the City

Series: Prosper the City

November 25, 2018 | Trey Gibson
Passage: 1 Peter 2:9-17

Standing out is not always easy, when I was a freshman in high school I was invited to a party, and was told there was a pool that was heated, and food; so I made the assumption that the party was a “pool party.” Apparently I was operating under middle school rules and somehow I missed the notification that now that we were in 9th grade, social gatherings involving a pool were not strictly “pool parties.” I was wearing floral swim trunks, a white tee, and a towel (I didn’t want to be burdened by a bunch of things). So there was no hiding it. I stood out, and hated it for a good few minutes, and eventually I moved past the horror, and it worked out fine.

Standing out often has a negative connotation for us and can be a very taboo thing to do, which sometimes has its merit and wisdom. However, today we’re going to look at 1 Peter, where he paints a picture for us of the beautiful work God wants to do with his people, but it also involves rejection.

A little context for where we’ll be in 1 Peter Chapter 2:

Peter begins chapter 2 comparing a Christian’s thirst for the word to a baby’s thirst for milk.

I’m not a parent, so maybe there will be more amazing things in store someday for me to marvel at, BUT one of the coolest things to me is seeing a baby get their bottle; they go from LOSING IT to perfectly satisfied and chugging like it was their job.

Peter observes that as believers we should hunger for the word like a baby thirsts for milk. Also, our understanding of God’s sovereign plans for our lives, is probably worse than a baby’s ability to discern the world around them. So lots of opportunities to relate here.

Peter then goes on to describe Jesus as the “cornerstone” to a spiritual house being built out of “living rocks” AKA you and me (v.4-7). He references Isaiah referring to that cornerstone as “rejected” by the builders (the world). So we have the foundation of a work God is doing using us and Jesus, materials that the world has rejected. Let’s read 1 Peter 2:9-17, I’ll be using the NIV.

Why are we set apart? God Gave us Identity (v.10)

Fulfilling the calling of a holy priesthood can be intimidating, so I want us to look at the WHY of God’s calling for us to live as a people set apart. In verse 10, Peter describes how when a person becomes a follower of Jesus, they go from not having an identity, to HAVING an identity. That is a BIG, SUDDEN, transformation.

For the people Peter was writing to, many of them Gentiles, this was BIG. God’s people up until Jesus, were the Jews. For anyone to have the opportunity to be a part of this “chosen people” was a big change, and I HOPE this is a big change for anyone in the room who is a follower of Jesus as well!

In verse 9, we see that we have been set apart to “declare his praises.” That identity we receive in Christ, the MERCY we receive as a result of a relationship with Christ, is not meant to have a uniquely positive effect on our individual life and no one else. Christ shows us mercy so that we can then show others.

Now let’s look at the how.

How do we live as a people set apart? Live holy (good, excellent) lives as a part of Society (v.12)

Peter does a great job of comparing the daily, hourly struggle with our flesh as a war against our soul. Many times we act as if our sinful desires are who we are, and there is no reason to resist. Peter paints the picture of a war zone. A great, easy, setting in which to live the life God has called you to right? Nope.

So how do we do this thing? The NIV says to “live such good lives among the pagans” that they will praise your father in heaven. The ESV says to “keep your conduct honorable.” NASB says to “keep your behavior excellent.” This part closes with the phrase “on the day he visits us” or the “day of visitation.” Probably referring to the day in which we will all answer for our sins, but implies this continuing drive to conduct yourself, as if God is regularly checking on you (which he is anyway).

So what does this mean for us? Peter is telling the church, to live their lives, to be what God has called them to, fisherman, stone worker, soldier, etc.; but to live that life in a way that points others to Christ. How are you living? Would you

describe it as “excellent” or “holy” or “honorable”? If asked would people be able to see any difference in the way YOU act versus anyone else? Let’s look at when living a life set apart applies to us?

When do we need to live lives set apart? All the time, especially when it is difficult. (v.15)

This last section highlights a topic that most of us either worked very hard to avoid or very hard to not turn into a nuclear blast at Thanksgiving this past week, politics. He addresses submission to earthly rulers, and giving proper respect to all people. Peter knew there were people reading his letter who were not recognizing any legal authority outside of God, not paying taxes to anyone except God, etc.; and he is showing us that being “set apart” doesn’t mean you aren’t still “a part” of society. It will be very hard for non-believers to see an excellent, holy, or honorable life lived by a Christian if they never see a Christian, right?

In verse 15, he says that the good we do will silence the ignorance of foolish people. Now, don’t take this to mean that you won’t still have to hear ignorant people, unfortunately I think ignorant people are forever until Jesus comes back. However, our conduct needs to be able to defend itself.

So in summary, we don’t just live holy lives at work or school, or just at home and church, or in the locker room and break room, only in conversations with people we agree with, only in person but not on social media. We live holy lives everywhere, especially in situations where it is hard. What Peter was specifically addressing with his letter was not letting a political identity overwhelm our spiritual identity. But that doesn’t only apply to our political opinions, it applies to everything.

So where does this leave us? What do I do with the why, how, and when in New Orleans.

We live in a city the is unique. You may have heard the beginning and thought, oh we live in New Orleans, we are already a city set apart in a state and region, where we don’t really match any of the norms of the areas around us.

And I think we need to be careful that we don’t have an identity crisis as followers of Jesus. In v. 9, Christians are a “chosen people”, “a holy nation”, and In v.11, Peter describes us as “foreigners and exiles.” When we get so hung up on not being associated with this group or that group, or making sure we are associated with another group, we make an idol of our earthly associations. As we talked about last week, many idols are not inherently bad things, however when they lose their proper place in our lives we have wandered into idolatry. When we let the things we do, or the people we interact with, the groups we are a part of, or whatever, get in the way of being an accurate picture of God’s work in our lives, we need to pause and rethink.

The Christian life is not a lazy river that we will climb off our tube and walk slowly and calmly in the other direction to show others the way to Jesus. It is a class 6 white water rapids, and even with all the right equipment it is exhausting! Living in the city is hard sometimes, living as a follower of Jesus is the city is even harder…

But don’t lose heart, the God who called you out of darkness and into new life does not forsake or abandon you!

Series Information

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