Living as strangers and exiles in a broken and unwelcoming world is challenging. Listen to Sjah Ndaba encourage us as we journey with Christ in this life.
Living As Strangers
You are to declare his praises in a place where you are a foreigner, a place that is strange to you, a place that does not fully accept you.
“Being chosen puts an end to that aimlessness of running around, being here and there and everywhere. Being chosen gives you a purpose”
Topics & Timestamps
0:00 – The search for identity
04:00 – You are chosen
07:35 – You are God’s special possession
10:15 – Identity in community
12:05 – Living as strangers
19:59 – Battlefield of the mind
24:08 – Not of this world
25:50 – Who Jesus says you are
Top Quotes: Living As Exiles
“God says believe it or not, baby girl, you are chosen by me to represent me, to serve my people on my behalf. It’s an incredible honour.”
“You are to declare his praises in a place where you are a foreigner. In a place that is strange to you, a place that does not fully accept you.”
“Exile for Israel was temporary and exile for us in this world is temporary. There are unimaginable glories waiting for us when we finally see our Lord Jesus”
Other Content On This Topic
Text: 1 Peter 2:9-11
Date Preached: 7 August 2021
Location: REACH Women 2021 Online Conference, Cape Town, South Africa
The Search For Identity
Hello beautiful ladies who are made in God’s image. My name is Sjah and I am so excited to be sharing God’s word with you today. So let’s open to the book of 1 Peter 2:9-11. It reads “But you are a chosen people a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you are not a people but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. Dear friends iI urge you as foreigners and exiles to abstain from sinful desires which wage war against your soul.” Let’s pray. Father God we thank you for your word, we thank you that it is sharp, it is active. And I pray that it will penetrate in our hearts and achieve all that it is meant to do in Jesus name, amen.
Who has never wondered or thought about who they are? What they’re all about? What their purpose in life is? I don’t think many of us go through life without grappling with that question at some point. And as we know it, it’s very tempting to find our identity in the world around us because we see it almost makes sense to us. And so some of us would find our identity in motherhood, some in our skills or our professional careers. And there’s also another contender in this identity shaping business and I think it is our experiences both past and present. And in my experience the most devastating ones, the most painful experiences are the ones that usually have the higher powers in shaping who we become and how we view life and ourselves.
And so you would read maybe that children that come from divorced families act this way. And all of a sudden you notice similar behaviours in your own self. And you think, “This is it, this is my identity, this is what they said would happen anyway.” Or you struggle with anger and then you told, “Well, your mother struggled with anger till the very day she died. It’s in the blood, it’s in the family.” And you think, “I’m doomed. There’s no escape.” And so we can easily find our identity through the reality of the world that we see and live in. But Peter interrupts that obscure view of our identity. He interrupts it with a but. He says in verse 9, “But you are a chosen people a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” He says because you are chosen we know that chosen implies that someone made the first move. Someone who initially decided, chose to make this beautiful creature and she may have moved away from him, but again he looks at her with delight and he chooses her once again. He says, “Yep I choose her.”
You Are Chosen
God says believe it or not baby girl you are chosen by me to represent me, to serve my people on my behalf. It’s an incredible honour.
The idea of being chosen can be seen maybe for some of us who grew up in the township, playing on the streets, you would know that there’ll be different teams, there’ll be two teams. Say you’re playing a game of three tens or three tina in Zulu. So the idea is to build a pyramid with these three tins but the other team must try and attack that building and make sure that you don’t get to build. If for instance the numbers are not even, you would find yourself as the odd one out. But we would still want you to be part of the game so you would be the all-body. So you are all over the place. You would go and fetch the ball if it is thrown too far. You kind of feel like you are part of the game but you’re actually not. And you run around aimlessly and because you’re not really part of any of the teams, you don’t really get to rejoice and celebrate any victories.
And so being chosen puts an end to that aimlessness of running around. Being here and there and everywhere. Being chosen gives you a purpose and we’re gonna come to that as we carry on. Just stay with me.
First let’s talk about the fact that Peter says you are a royal priesthood. Now maybe chosen you could have accepted, but royal priesthood? That sounds like higher grade stuff. That sounds like… I mean even Israel as chosen people were not all in the priesthood business. It had to be the specific ones from the tribe of Levi, from the line of Aaron. It wasn’t just anyone. And here Peter says yeah, you are in the royal priesthood business. God says believe it or not baby girl you are chosen by me to represent me, to serve my people on my behalf. It’s an incredible honour. But just remember this, our royal priesthood is only as valid as when we acknowledge and understand who it is that we are serving. We live and we serve according to his terms.
It’s not new though, being God’s chosen ambassadors in the world right? We’ve seen it in the Garden of Eden. God had created Adam and Eve to rule the world, to rule the earth on his behalf. And they were to do it under his terms. And does Peter give us any terms in this book of Peter? I think if we have a look at chapter 1 verse 15 and 16 we might see the terms that we need to be living by. It says, “But just as he who called you is holy so be holy in all you do for it is written be holy because I am holy. So holiness is not negotiable. It is the standard of your chosen-ness and your priesthood-ness. And so yes he calls you a believer who has been chosen by God. He calls you a holy nation. It’s an incredible honour.
You Are God’s Special Possession
Then he says you are God’s special possession. I don’t know what is your special possession. I don’t know what it is that you look at and you think, “Gosh I love this person.” Or, “Oh my God I love this.” I don’t know what’s your special possession but some of us who love romantic movies, we melt when we see a young man who’s in love and has found the right person, and he runs into the family treasures and he takes this his grandmother’s diamond ring that’s been in the family for generations. And as special as the ring is it is not as special as what he’s going to do with it, right? The girl is special. Let it sink in you are God’s special possession. I know that some of you might find that hard to believe that you can be that special to anyone. Some of you might not even believe that you are special to your own parents. And it is possible that you may even be told, “Honey, you’re not that special.” But God says, “You are my special possession.” Think about this. Jesus being loved by God in a way that we could never understand was allowed to go on the cross to die for you and I so that we can be God’s special possession. That is as special as it gets, so let that sink in ladies
Cristiano Ronaldo, some of you might know him. I know him, yes I watch soccer. It’s one of the glories of being married. You sit through 90 minutes of people running around with a ball. Hopefully there’ll be some treasures in heaven and a crown for all the women who sit through that. But Cristiano Ronaldo is chosen because of his effort and his performance. He knows that as soon as he starts slacking on the side of talent, he might be booted out of that team. He knows that he is worth, unfortunately, his worth is directly linked to his performance, and it is not so for you and I. Our chosenness comes purely through grace and mercy. It has nothing to do with our abilities.
Identity In Community
I don’t know if you have noticed that the words that Peter uses are in plural form. So it is holy nation, it is chosen people, it’s not person, it’s not singular. And so unfortunately if you are one of those that you know want to do this christian thing on your own, you know, people are not your thing, i’m sorry to burst your bubble your identity calls you to be in community. Your identity can only be enjoyed in its fullest in community.
So did you notice maybe a common thread in this identity that peter talks about? Being a chosen people, being a holy nation being God’s special possession, a royal priesthood. What do you see there? I personally see a thread of being set apart for a particular purpose. And so we do not live life as the world would because we are set apart. And just as god’s people Israel were set apart, their conduct had to be in line with their chosenness. They had to lead such lives that would truly reflect that they are a chosen nation. And so too for us today. Nothing has changed from the time of children of Israel except that we can eat bacon, bucket loads of bacon. Amen to that. But other than that we are still expected to live according to the terms of the holiness that was defined for them. And we are not to be defined by the standards of the world.
Living As Strangers
So Peter first lays out who they are before he tells them what is expected of them or what they ought to do. Because he doesn’t want to be asked, like you know how two-year-olds ask, “Why? Why mommy? Why must I do it?” He says, “Well I’ve laid out who you are and this is why you would do this. It’s because of your identity.” So what does he say is expected of a christian believer today? Let’s have a look again at verse 9. He says in the middle of it, “That you may declare the praises of him.” Declare the praises of him? That’s not too hard, that’s doable. Right? I can declare god’s praises. The only tricky thing is you are to declare god’s praises in a world where you are living as a stranger. That’s what he says in the beginning of verse 11. He says, “Dear friends I urge you as foreigners and exiles…” So you are to declare his praises in a place where you are a foreigner, a place that is strange to you, a place that does not fully accept you, and they make it known that you do not belong here. And that is the theme of our conference: Living As Strangers. But it is in that kind of hostility that we are to exercise who we really are. Where our true citizenship needs to come out for the world to see.
I don’t know what comes to mind for you when you hear the word foreigner. But I had a chat with some of my friends and they said for them the word foreigner gives a sense of obviously not belonging. You are displaced. You are isolated. You are confused most of the time. There’s a sense of hopelessness. You feel like you can never win, really. You try to find meaning and purpose in a place where you are met with caution and people are just not sure of you. And you’re trying to prove yourself to people who essentially don’t trust you. It’s not a good place to be. You are filled with fear. You’re in a place of vulnerability and so it is easy to want to just find an escape from such a world. But peter doesn’t encourage these people to find an escape. But rather he says, “Yes there’s going to be suspicion about who you claim to be, but this is what God says you are and your identity is going to help you stand firm in this world where you are an exile.”
For Israel exile meant being separated from God and their only hope was if God was to intervene himself and bring them back to him. And intervene he did. We know we’ve seen God rescue his chosen people from Egypt. We’ve seen him rescue them from Babylon and they are returned back to rebuild Jerusalem. And if you are listening today and you’re not yet a believer, you haven’t accepted Jesus into your life, i’m just giving you a sneak peek of what you are going to be getting yourself into. You’re going to be joining a family where the father looks out for his children. Where the father intervenes, he breaks in. He looks for his children, he finds the, he rescues them and he redeems them back to himself.
And so just like the chosen people of Israel didn’t have a chance of survival without God breaking in, us too as God’s children today have no chance of making it through this broken world without Jesus breaking in. If Jesus doesn’t break in, we will live our lives overwhelmed by the heartache of this world. And some people find it too much and we see it in people committing suicide because this world is broken and we need Jesus to break in.
But here is some wonderful news about exile, ladies. Exile for Israel was temporary and exile for us in this world is temporary too. There are unimaginable glories that are waiting for us when we finally see our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what Peter says in verse 1. Have a look at verse 1, chapter 1 verse 13. He says, “Therefore with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” In the ESV version it says, “Preparing your minds for action.” So you’re preparing your mind for something bigger that is coming that you are going to experience when we finally see Jesus Christ.
You are to declare his praises in a place where you are a foreigner, a place that is strange to you, a place that does not fully accept you.
Now the current world that we live in has some reminders that we actually don’t belong here. Like closing your thumb in a drawer and you’re just like, “I wish I had this new body already.” But some reminders are not as simple as that like losing a loved one or living with a terminal disease. Now when you go through pain and suffering of that kind, it is very easy to suffocate the passion to declare God’s praises. You might ask, “Well, how can I declare his praises when I am in such agony in this world?” And I want us to have a look at verse 10 in chapter 2 where we started. No, we’re still on verse 9. The reason we are able to declare his praises is because of him who called you out of darkness into this wonderful light. So Peter is saying yes the pain that you are feeling now is real and it is horrific, but that’s not the most devastating thing that can happen to a human being. The most disastrous thing for any human is to live without the love of the Father who is the giver of life. And the reason you can give praises and declare God’s praises is because you have been called out of darkness into his wonderful light. The reason you can stand firm and declare God’s praises is because something extraordinary has happened to your life. Verse 10 says, “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.” And that is the reason why you will declare god’s praises
Battlefield Of The mind
The bible doesn’t tell us of any reason Israel was chosen. There’s nothing special about them he just chose him because of his grace. And unfortunately for you and I too there’s nothing special in us but simply that we are loved. We are recipients of mercy and grace. And unfortunately yes it is not going to be easy for sure living in this world. Peter says in verse 11 “Friends I urge you as foreigners and exiles to abstain from sinful desires which wage war against your soul.” He says while you are on this earth there is going to be a battlefield and it’s going to happen in your soul where our desires are. And before we can even act out anything, the war would have been won in our own hearts. So peter says like we see in the Garden Of Eden where Eve had to decide whether to keep on listening to God’s word or listen to the new truth that the snake was bringing, Peter says you need to prepare your minds for action. That’s what he says in chapter 1 verse 13. Prepare your minds for action because that is where the battlefield will happen.
The battle is not because of your unkind husband or your distant parents who don’t care for you or an unjust boss. The battlefield is because of our own sinful desires that take place in our hearts. So next time you hear from the world that you won’t quite be the great ambassador for God, you won’t be able to declare his praises, and it gives you reasons: Because you are a divorcee, or you are uneducated, or you are too old, you are too young you don’t really know what is happening in the world, or you are too black, you don’t quite fit in, too white you don’t understand the culture, too loud, too shy, it never ends. Some might say you are too wounded, you are too broken, too scarred, to bring good news to people. Some might even say believe it or not you’re too intellectual, normal people, ordinary people don’t understand the high intellectualness. Some might say no you are too simple-minded. We’re living in the lives, in times of apologetics, you need to be sharp thinking. It never ends, ladies. But remember what Peter says. You can say, “Yeah I hear you but I am chosen. I’m a holy nation. I am royal priesthood. And you are looking at God’s special possession.” And you keep going. Don’t be mistaken the labels will continue to pop up in your mind and the reminders will keep popping in.
I remember being at Shoprite the one time and it was Christmas time and I was thoroughly enjoying the Christmas carols in the shop, and as I pulled into the till the lady behind me just loudly was exclaiming how she found this jolly Christmas music such a nuisance. And in that moment I also kind of stopped enjoying myself because of her disapproval. But ladies we can’t stay there, we can’t stay in a in a spot where we stop representing God because of the disapproval. At some point you need to leave the shop and you need to think to yourself, “Okay of course you’re not going to understand this joy because i’m not from around here. My joy comes from Jesus. It’s in my blood”
Not Of This World
A couple of weeks ago some friends of gave us a very generous gift. And lost for words, my husband just said to them, “You guys are out of this world.” Because what they had done was very different and opposite to the world we live in where people look out for themselves. They were looking out to honour the one whose country they truly believe they belong in. And so my husband just said, “You guys are out of this world.” And I just want us to be reminded that as much as our identity is going to free us from the lies of the world, it should also free us to be extraordinarily kind and generous. And be crazily passionate in a way that leaves the world thinking, “What has happened to her? This is not from this world.” Our identity in Christ should cause us to fall on our knees and say, “Thank you Jesus for your blood because if it wasn’t for you we would live our lives trying to fit in. Trying to prove ourselves to measure up. To find our identity in a world that doesn’t understand us. In a world that was not there when we were created. We would live our lives exhausted being tossed back and forth by all kinds of new theories and findings. But instead we find ourselves firmly rooted in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Exile for Israel was temporary and exile for us in this world is temporary too. There are unimaginable glories that are waiting for us when we finally see our Lord Jesus
Who Jesus Says You Are
And if you have never given your life to Jesus, I would love to encourage you to consider surrendering all of yourself, all your messed up self, to a God who created you. Who loves you and delights in you. And if you have given yourself to Jesus but still find yourself holding on to the world’s assessment of who they think you are, I want you to make a stand today to say, “No more. I have listened to the world long enough. It’s time I started listening to the one who created me.”
One morning I was getting my daughter ready, she’s five, getting ready for school. And I was putting moisturiser on her face and there were no mirrors in the room but she started chanting, “Look at this beautiful girl! Look at this beautiful girl!” Now this is what I usually say to her usually when I get her dressed up. And as much, well she’s my daughter obviously and I think she’s a masterpiece, but I had made a decision to tell her just how beautiful she is. Because one day when she was about four she had come back home very sad because she had been told that she’s grey. She came to me and she said, “Mommy look at your skin you brown and you’re beautiful but i’m grey.” And that broke my heart. And so I made a decision that i’m gonna tell her exactly who she is until one day maybe she’ll believe it for herself. And so it breaks God’s heart when you listen to the world’s definition of you instead of listening to who he says you are.
Are you convinced? Are you convinced of who God says you are? I pray that the Holy Spirit would rush in right now and firmly establish God’s truth in your heart and completely change how you see yourself and your purpose in this world, so that you would be an ambassador for the kingdom of God. Amen