Sunday, August 29, 2021

“Elect Exiles” [Matt's Messages]

“Elect Exiles”

Lanse Evangelical Free Church
August 29, 2021 :: 1 Peter 1:1-2

Your Bible might just naturally open to the Psalms. For a year now, we’ve been bouncing around the Songbook in the center of our Bibles, studying the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. So it might be a little strange to go back to studying a letter in the New Testament. Letters are written differently than songs! And you read them differently, as well.

But I thought as we started a new school year, it was probably a good time to change over what we are focusing upon in God’s Word.

I don’t expect to spend a full year in 1 Peter like we did in Psalms, but it is worthy of our focus and attention today.

I prayed a lot about and thought a lot about what to study next, and I finally landed on 1 Peter. I believe 1 Peter speaks to the church in our current moment in ways that we need to hear. Some encouraging and some challenging. I hope to both encourage and challenge us from 1 Peter every single Sunday of this sermon series.

I actually have preached through 1 Peter one time before for this church. It was exactly 20 years ago. Strangely enough, it was right about the same time the US military invaded Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Twenty eventful years have now gone by, and I believe that the message of God’s Word in 1 Peter is even more relevant for us today, if that’s possible.

We’re only going to make it through the first two verses this morning, but you will see that there is a full spiritual meal in just these two verses.

If this was an email, we wouldn’t be getting very far past the headings at the top:

Who wrote it.
To whom it was written.
And a basic Christian greeting.

But there is so much in here!

Let me read these two verses to you, and then we’ll get into the details together. I’ll be reading today from the 2011 update of the New International Version. And, you’ll notice the title of this message is found in two e-words right next to each other in verse 1: “Elect Exiles.”

Those are two very important words that tell us who we are and where we are. 

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”

Two weeks ago, I did NOT get lost in New York City.

It would have been easy to get lost in New York City. Have you ever been there?

That’s a big city with a lot of streets and a lot of people and a lot of big tall buildings.

My wife and son and my brother’s family went up to the top of Rockefeller Center. “The Top of the Rock.” I’m not a big one for heights, so I myself stayed down on the street at the bottom of “The Rock” and went for a walk. I was supposed to try to find a place for us to eat lunch.

And did I get lost? No, I did not. (Though maybe it would have been a better story!)

Why I didn’t I get lost? Because I had a phone with me with GPS and Google Maps.

And I had my bluetooth earpiece in, and it actually gave me directions of where to go. “Turn left on 5th Avenue. Turn right on Broadway.” That sort of thing.

If I looked at the little screen, there was actually a little moving dot on a map that told me, “You are here.”

So I did NOT get lost.

Now, imagine waking up on the street somewhere in New York City with NO phone in your hand, and not only do you not know WHERE you are, you don’t remember WHO you are.

Think about how disorienting that would be.

No wallet either. No identification. And no trustworthy memories.

You don’t know WHERE you are, and you have forgotten WHO you are.

And so you try to piece it all together. 

And you ask other people on the street who you are.

And you ask some people on the street where you are.

And they begin to look at you funny. And some of them take advantage of you and tell you the wrong things. Just imagine. How disorienting!

I think that life itself can be like that. Even for Christians. We can lose our bearings. We can lose our orientation. We can lose track of where we are and even who we are–which will cause us no end of problems.

So the Apostle Peter’s first letter is a wonderful gift to us because it is a Word from God that tells us WHO WE ARE, WHERE WE ARE, and EVEN WHOSE WE ARE and therefore HOW TO LIVE.

1 Peter is wonderfully orienting.

It’s like that moving map on your phone. 

This is you, and this is where you are, and here’s what to do next.

Now, not everything Peter tell us is fun and exciting. I don’t like everything that Peter tells me about myself or where I am or what to do next!

There is a lot in here, for example, about suffering. I don’t want to suffer, but Peter says that suffering is normal for followers of Jesus. “Don’t be surprised.”

And there is a lot of other stuff in here that I don’t necessarily feel much like doing most of the time.

But at least I’m not lost.

Because I read 1 Peter, I know who I am and where I am and how to live accordingly.

Does that sound good?

I hope so. Let’s get into 1 Peter, and I’ll try to show you what I mean.

The letter begins by identifying the author. Verse 1.

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ...”

It’s from Rocky himself. The Apostle who was named Simon that Jesus renamed “Peter,” the original “Rock.”

Remember him from our study of the Gospel of Matthew? Peter’s probably most people’s favorite disciple from the gospels because he’s so loud and forward and relatable, right? You’ve gotta love Peter. 

We loved him so much, we named one our sons after him!

Well, this Peter is all growed-up now. And he is not just a disciple. He is an apostle, an authorized representative speaking authoritatively for Jesus Christ Himself.

This is a Word from God. It is not just Peter’s opinion. This is a Word from God that tells us who we are and where we are and how to live accordingly.

The very next words in verse 1, tell us not just who was to get this letter, but WHO WE ARE and WHERE WE ARE. V.1 again.

“To God's elect, exiles scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia...”

Peter wrote this letter to God’s elect exiles.

To be “elect” means to be chosen. When you have an election, you are choosing someone for something.

And these precious people to whom Peter was writing were God’s elect. People whom God had chosen.

He’s going to say some more about that in verse 2. It’s a glorious and comforting truth. It is incredibly orienting to know yourself as in God’s chosen people. God’s elect.

It’s not as encouraging, perhaps, to see yourself as an exile.

To see yourself as displaced and outside of your homeland.

Peter says that he is writing to these chosen people who are exiles “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia...”

Those are places in modern day Turkey.

You might want to look at a map in the back of your Bible this afternoon and find “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” Those were the names of regions in what we call “Asia Minor.” Not Asia as in China and over there on the Pacific. This is Asia Minor, where modern day Turkey is. Northern and Western Turkey. 

And these 5 Roman provinces are kind of in a circle on the map. Perhaps the circle in which the letter would have been circulated as it made its way to the churches? Or maybe just a circle in the mental map in Peter’s mind as he thinks about where he wants this letter to land.

There were Jews in all of those places in the first century. All of those places were mentioned as sending locations for Jews present on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. Perhaps those people got saved that day and went back to their homes with the gospel and planted littler churches. We call the dispersement of Jews in the world the “diaspora” which is the Greek word here behind the NIV’s “scattered.” So these could have been Jewish Christians scattered among the Roman provinces.

Or it could have just been Gentile Christians scattered in those same places maybe even scattered out from Rome where Peter probably was when he wrote this. We don’t know for certain.

We do know for certain that Peter wanted them to think about themselves as exiles.

Or if you have the 1984 New International Version, as “strangers in the world.”

Now, the believers that Peter was writing to might have been literal exiles living outside their true homeland, but I’m certain that Peter was making a point not just about their location on the map, but their own self-identity as followers of Christ.

Because he’s going to hit this idea more in this letter. In verse 17, he’s going to call them to live their lives as strangers, as foreigners. And what did we see in our brand new memory verse this morning? Peter urges them “as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires...” Same word “exiles.”

This is their Christian identity. They are elect, and they are exiles.

And so are you and I.

To God’s elect, exiles in Lanse, Grassflat, Drifting, Winburne, Kylertown, Allport, and Morrisdale. Elect exiles.

What does that mean? Especially, practically speaking. What does that mean for us?

Let me give you some shorthand.

#1. ELECT.

That means that you are very loved. You are very loved.

Here’s the other one:

#2. EXILE. 

That means that you are very displaced. You are very displaced.

Let me talk a little bit more about that second one first because it’s the one that’s not so pleasant.

To be an “exile,” like this verse says, means that you are very displaced.

You are living somewhere that is not your homeland.

It’s your home at this point, but it’s not your homeland.

The NET Bible has "to those temporarily residing" and a footnote saying, “to those living as resident foreigners." That's really helpful. (NOTE: I had mistakenly quoted this as being the CSB in the live version and video version. CSB actually has "living as exiles.")

So you are not a tourist. You have come to live somewhere, but it’s not your homeland. It’s not your heartland. You are not a citizen of this place even though right now it is your temporary home.

Do you get the picture?

My mind goes to these precious Afghan refugees that have gotten on a plane and been shipped to somewhere else, perhaps Qatar and then taken through the US State Department’s rigorous vetting process, and then brought to the US. Perhaps they get off a plane in Sacramento, California where a lot of Afghan refugees have been resettled by Christian groups like World Relief that Heather and I support [the closest WR regional office is in Rochester].

And these precious people made in the image of God and coming from a war-torn homeland have to adjust to a completely different place, a different language, a different way of life, while probably their hearts are longing and worried about what is going on back “home.”

They are living in a home but not their “home.”

That’s how you and I are supposed to live as followers of Jesus Christ in this world.

This world is not your home.

You are not at home.

Do you feel that? Do you know that? Sometimes I think we need reminded.

I think that Christians often can lose their bearings and begin to believe that this world is their home. And this culture is their culture. And this country is their country. And this particular political party is their political party. This sports team is their sports team. This biological natural family is their family.

And we get too comfortable.

We begin to take on the values of this world, this culture, this country, this political party, this sports team, this natural family. We begin to look like and talk like and act just like the rest of the people in the world.

And we begin to find and place our identity in things of this world instead of in Christ. We make our major identity markers our culture, our country, our party, our sports team, our family, or whatever, our brand (Marvel or DC!).

But those are not our home.

America is not our home if we are Christians.

We are just “resident foreigners” wherever we are.

Now in the case of the Afghans, some of them will eventually get to American Citizenship which for them will be a wonderful thing. Because their homeland is not heavenly (right now), and it’s okay and even good for them to become true citizens of the new place they live. 

But that’s not our case. We are supposed to think of ourselves not as refugees but missionaries. Not as citizens but as ambassadors of our true homeland.

Does that make sense? Do you see what I’m saying?

We are to see to ourselves as very displaced. Exiles. Continually temporary resident  foreigners.

A year ago, we saw the same basic idea pop up in Philippians chapter 3. Remember “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ...” He is our king.

Now, we do live here in America. And as “resident foreigners,” so to speak, we are called to live for the good of our current home even if it’s not our true homeland.

We’re going to see that as we go further into 1 Peter. We are, in fact, supposed to be some of the best “citizens” that really-ultimately-non-citizens of a place can be! Paul was a Roman citizen himself. The one who said that our citizenship is in heaven.

But we are not supposed to get too comfortable. We are not allowed to make it our identity. Citizens are not what we are. We are exiles.

And...the world will make sure that if we’re doing it right, we can’t get too comfortable!

In fact, we will suffer.

These Christians were suffering, and we should prepare ourselves to suffer, too.

Because we are God’s exiles. We are very displaced. That’s where we are on the map. We are not at home.

But that’s okay. Because we are also God’s elect. We are very loved.

That’s who we are. We are very loved.

You are very loved.

Do you know that? Do you feel that?

You are very very loved.

Peter wants you to know not just WHERE you are on the map (not home), but WHO are you and WHOSE you are.

You are God’s elect.

Look at verse 2 to see just some of what that means!

Peter builds off of the words “elect” and “exile” to show in what ways we are elect and in what manner we are exiled. Look at verse 2.

Elect exiles “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”

Wow. Just wow.

Do you see how the entire Trinity is at work here?

You are loved by the Triune God. The Father, the Spirit, the Son.

You have been “chosen [elected] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”

Here’s how loved you are. God the Father picked you.

You are chosen.
You are wanted.
You are known.
You are loved.

Now, some people have a hard time with the doctrine of election. That, ultimately, God does the choosing.

But most of the time when the doctrine of election shows up in the Bible, it is not a problem to be solved but a glorious truth to revel in!

You are chosen.

According to the foreknowledge of God the Father. It didn’t just happen. God didn’t just say one, “Oh my. Where did that one come from? How did she get in here?”

No, God knew beforehand, before you were ever born, that He was going to save you!

He placed His love on you on purpose. It’s no accident.

And you didn’t have to take the initiative.

The Father chose you beforehand for adoption.

He is not just God the Father. He is your Father God!

So, it’s okay to live in exile. Because your Father[!] knows where you live, and He’s there, too.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be away from home with this Father than somewhere I feel completely comfortable but apart from this Father!

And not just the Father, but the Spirit. Verse 2, elect exiles “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit.”

“Sanctifying” is just a big word that means to be set apart. It’s another word for “being made holy.” Holy-fying something.

When we became Christians, we were set apart, consecrated by the Holy Spirit and now are being set apart, being made holy by that same Holy Spirit.

In other words, we are chosen to be different.

That’s going to be one of the major themes of this book.

You and I have been saved to live holy lives, different from the world around us.

That’s part of what it means to think of ourselves as exiles, as resident foreigners.

This world is not my home. I’m in it, but I’m not of it.

I’m American, but I’m not American.
I’m a resident of Lanse, but I’m not a Lanse-ien.
I’m a Mitchell, but I’m not a Mitchell.

Not when any of those things conflict in any way with my ultimate allegiance, my true homeland.

I’m not ultimately an American. I’m a Christian.
I’m not ultimately a Lanse-ien. I’m a Christian.
I’m not ultimately a Mitchell. I’m a Christian.

I’m different. I’m a resident foreigner. I’m an exile.

And I’m loved so much by God that His Spirit is making me holy like Him!

You are loved by the Triune God.

You are elect exiles, “for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling with his blood.”

We were chosen not just to spend eternity with Jesus, but to obey Jesus.

To come to faith in Him and follow Him with our very lives.

Have you done that? Have you chosen to follow Jesus?

Are you choosing to follow Jesus? Are you obeying Him?

Does your life look distinctly different from the non-Christians around you?

You are loved by the Triune God.

God accepts you just as you are but loves you too much to let you stay that way.

I learned that line 25 years ago, and it’s so true!

God accepts you just as you are but loves you too much to let you stay that way.

You have been chosen for obedience to Jesus Christ and “sprinkling by his blood.”

THAT’s how much you are loved! You are very very loved.

Jesus Christ’s blood seals the deal. It ratifies the New Covenant (see Exodus 34:3-8).

I think Peter is alluding to the ratification of the Old Covenant in Exodus 34 where there was a sprinkling of blood. You might want to read that this afternoon.

And Peter is saying that Jesus’ blood ratifies the New Covenant and saves us from our sins. It affects our adoption into the Father’s family and our consecration by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ.

That’s how much we are loved! You may be very displaced. But that’s okay because you are very loved. 

That’s what it means to be God’s elect.
It means that Jesus shed His blood for us.

“Redeemed how I love to proclaim it! / Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb!”

Ok. Do you know where you are right now?
Do you know who you are right now?
Do you know whose you are right now?

You are God’s elect exiles.

And here’s what happens when you are. Verse 2.

The words here are so much more than a simple greeting: “Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”

That’s what I want for me.
That’s what I want for you.
That’s what I want for Lanse Free Church in the Fall of 2021.

And that’s what I pray we will find as we study 1 Peter together in the weeks to come.

Grace and peace.