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God is with you - Part 13

1 Peter 2v11

Aliens and Strangers

9th June 2017

Last week, we read these words:

1 Peter 2v9-10
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. 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.

I hope these words fill us with a sense of awe, gratitude and unworthiness. We know we don't deserve to be any such thing, but by God's grace alone, we Christians are God's chosen people, His royal priesthood, His holy nation. It's wonderful. Peter has given us a huge sense of indebtedness to God, and of change, because we are now His.

Peter then says:

1 Peter 2v11
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

If we have this correct self-image of being a royal priesthood and a holy nation, then we must accept that we are not like those around us any more. We are different. 2 Corinthians 5v17 says "If anybody is in Christ, he is a new creation". If you're a Christian, then you are now a person in whom the Spirit of God lives. As God promised Jeremiah all those centuries ago, He has written his laws on our hearts. We see morality differently now that we're in Christ.

For people like me, who were saved out of a non-Christian environment, who have been radically changed, this is a particularly vivid truth - what we used to think is utterly different from what we think now.

God has changed us. He's given us His compassion, His mercy and His generosity - not perfectly, we are works in progress - but we're not what we were. And now we have become aliens and strangers in the world. Paul says that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3v20). We are God's nation. We don't fit in the English * nation any more. Our values are different from their values. I prefer ours, because ours are God-given, and are motivated by love, kindness, truth and mercy for all, including the unborn.

But it's uncomfortable. Peter urges us to see ourselves as a royal priesthood and a holy nation, but he also urges us to see ourselves as aliens in British * culture, or worldly culture.

And in many of us, there's a struggle going on, because we don't want to give up all our worldly values. We don't want to take on all the Biblical values. Some of us can go for years ignoring parts of the Bible because they don't fit with the word view we had before we knew Jesus.

It's a work of grace, a work of the Holy Spirit, that gradually enables us to say, "That's what I used to think, but now I think differently. I'm now going to choose to agree with the Bible, because it's the word of God." And every time we do that, we step further away from worldly values, and become more alien, strangers in the world.

Now I have to admit that, although I don't want to be like the world, I do like the idea of not looking different. I do like the idea of fitting in. I think Peter is saying that we should give up on the idea of fitting in. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6v17, "'Come out from them and be separate', says the Lord". We are in the world but Jesus says we're not of the world (John17v14, 16).

Let's think through this question: Do I want to be like Jesus, or do I want to be like England * ? Do I want to fit into the society around me, or do I want to be like Jesus, who didn't fit in at all, so they crucified him?

Our self-image as God's chosen people feels marvellous, but our self-image as aliens and strangers in the world is much less comfortable. But it's important. And there's a wonderful freedom that comes to a Christian the day he stops trying to fit into the world, stops trying to be like them, and starts trying to be like Jesus. Are you up for it?

I think I want to be as much like Jesus as possible. I want His Holy Spirit to write His law on my heart, and to put His love in my heart, so profoundly that I don't behave like the people around me.

I'm not saying all Christians are marvellous and all non-Christians are horrible. I've known some pretty horrible Christians, actually. But that's not God's desire is it? God's desire is for us to be utterly different, utterly Christ-like, holy and self-giving in love for those around us.

* Or whatever nation you're from