Why do Christians go through so much hardship in this world? And how can we live through it? The Apostle Peter, in the introduction of his letter to persecuted and suffering Christians, helps us see that the reason for these challenges actually lies in our identity. In this identity also lies the hope that enables us to continue. So it is critical that we understand who we are. We must have an answer to the question who is a Christian?
Who Is A Christian?
“I am going to ask you this question: “who are you?” How would you answer that? It’s a question that we don’t want others to answer for us. But, we don’t know how to answer very well for ourselves. Because is it by your ethnicity? Is it by your height? Is it by your skin colour, by your vocation, by your marital status? Who are you?
Can you define yourself? The problem is that most times when we have to define ourselves we pretend.
Again, I said, we don’t like people answering for us because we say we don’t like people putting us into boxes. Into boxes defining us. Alright. You don’t want people to define you. Can you define yourself? The problem is that most times when we have to define ourselves we pretend.
And you see in the same way Christians should not really be defining ourselves. When I ask you who you are you don’t look into yourselves. We are meant to define ourselves not by ourselves but by God. And that is what Peter does in this letter.”
Chosen… Foreign… Heir…
“Now to answer that question Peter gives us three answers. A Christian is chosen. A Christian is a foreigner. And a Christian is an heir.”
You are not an accident. God is in control of your life.
Listen to Pastor Femi as he unpacks what each of these means – and why we can believe them to be true.
“Who are you? Who is a Christian? A Christian is elect before time, foreigner in the current time, heir of the time to come. You are not an accident. God is in control of your life. Don’t be surprised about difficulties with society. Your guaranteed best life is yet to come.”
Text: 1 Peter 1:1-5
Preached: 1 March 2020
Location: City Church, Lagos, Nigeria
1 Peter 1:1-5
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 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.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
This is the word of the Lord. Praise be to God.
Thank you Dennis. And good morning again everyone. Well it’s nice to – especially those who are coming for the first time – we are happy to have you around. And you’ve come at a good time because we’re just starting a brand new series as Emmanuel told us. We’ve called it ‘Living on the Edge’ as we go through the book of 1 Peter.
Before we get into what we have today I would just ask us to quickly say a word of prayer and ask God to be with us.
Lord, we ask that you show us how to order our steps in your word. By first being present with us. You can’t show us without your presence. We also ask Lord that we would be made aware of your presence. And Lord, we ask for attentive hearts so that we can have attentive ears. In the name of Jesus Christ, we ask for your spirit Lord. Holy Spirit come now. Come now. Help us with any distractions. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
It’s time we spoke about contradictions. You know? Some things that on the one hand that you like – on the other you are wondering… urgh. Let me share one contradiction that I have in my life. But I think at least most of us will identify with it. Which is this: I like travelling, but I hate visa applications.
I like travelling, but I hate visa applications
How many of you like visa applications? Alright? Let me just see the weird people around us. Why do I hate visa applications? Let me say why do you? First of all, they are very long. Aren’t they? Like you might find a few of these forms take a time to fill. All these forms so long! Then they ask you silly questions. Like how are you meant to remember the date that you started university? Not the month, not the year, they give you the exact date space. And you must fill something. And the problem is, after you fill this – you don’t even remember what you filled this time. So the next time you fill something else. And that’s when they catch you that you have been lying!
The date you entered. The date you left. All the dates you travelled to a particular country. Usually when you have travelled afterwards it is gone! You are not storing the dates somewhere. Then the records of your previous employment. Now some of us want to forget some of our previous employments! Like the things that happened there. And when you put all of these things – after you have put everything, you’ve tried to be honest – it’s not still like a guarantee to get the visa after all.
But if you do get it, what happens? You probably have to return in 6 months time to reapply again. Because they only gave you for 6 months. At best they will give you a year or two.
Not All Visas Are Made Equal
And yet, when I travel, I mix with people from other countries and we are sharing our – you know – experiences. I find that they have different stories though. Even my South African friends, they get 10 years visa from the US. 10 years! I did not even know that the US gave 10 years visas. Ghana. Ghana, our younger brother – yes they are. They are our younger brother – we beat them in Jollof we beat everything! Ghana get 5 years. 5 years!
And then you mix with people from other countries in Europe, and North America, and you find out that you know when you are you talking about let’s meet in this place, let’s meet in that place. You are always the one saying “eh… it depends. I need time to, you know…” They are already buying tickets. You are still praying to God. Will I go to Abuja to apply for a visa at the embassy, you know yeah?
Hardships Linked To My Identity
And so, at some point, when I reflected on the hardships that I – and we all – go through in the world of global travel, I am left with one thing. To reflect on one thing as the main cause. You know what it is? The colour of my passport. In other words, it shows you that the issue is really that I’m Nigerian. And so in other words my hardships force me to look at what? My identity.
As I am going through all these different things, as we are going through this stuff, I look and say – it’s who I am.
Living On The Edge
In this new series we are going to consider what it takes to live in this world. The real world. The world of Lagos. Not Lagos of the selective, photo-shopped pictures and no – please – stop using that Lekki bridge. It has been overused in everything. Sorry. You can use it as that is the picture on our website. OK that’s OK.!
Many of us are basically living on the edge of everything. Bankruptcy, divorce, terminal illness, perpetual singleness, a malfunctioning society.
But you know, a lot of us go through a Lagos filled with hardship and suffering. Many of us are basically living on the edge of everything. Bankruptcy, divorce, terminal illness, perpetual singleness, a malfunctioning society.
Peter Is Writing to Struggling Christians
Peter was an Apostle of Jesus Christ – you see it in verse 1. And he writes to Christians scattered around the Roman world. All those places that Dennis was struggling to call. And they are probably facing more difficult conditions than we have been going through. And this letter is about encouraging them on how to live in this world in light of those conditions.
Your hardship should force you to consider your identity. You are Christians
But before he goes to all the different elements of the letter, he starts by telling them the ‘why’ of the conditions. And the why is rooted in who they are. You see Peter in this message and in this passage, is going to challenge them by saying – your hardship should force you to consider your identity. You are Christians.
Now you see understanding this identity, you make much more sense about your conditions – but will also provide you with the ability to live through them. Which then makes the question which forms our sermon title: ‘who is a Christian?’ all the more important.
Who Is A Christian?
Who is a Christian. “What kind of a question is that? I am in church. It’s the people who are outside there.” But actually, as I said, we go back first to our identity to deal with our current situations.
Now to answer that question Peter gives us three answers. A Christian is chosen. A Christian is a foreigner. And a Christian is an heir.
1. A Christian Is Chosen
So let’s start with the first one. A Christian is chosen.
Who Are You?
If I ask the question – and I did this on theology day – “who are you?” How would you answer that? It’s a question that we don’t want others to answer for us. But, we don’t know how to answer very well for ourselves. Because is it by your ethnicity? Is it by your height? Is it by your skin colour? Is it by your vocation? Is it by your marital status? Who are you?
Can you define yourself? The problem is that most times when we have to define ourselves we pretend.
Again, I said, we don’t like people answering for us because we say we don’t like people putting us into boxes. Into boxes defining us. Alright. You don’t want people to define you. Can you define yourself? The problem is that most times when we have to define ourselves we pretend.
The Problem of Self Worth
And by pretence I mean that we project an image of who we really are not, but we would like to be. How many of you have ever pretended? You won’t answer the question. You are just pretending now. And what’s the worst fear of a pretender? Exposure. To be found out for who they really are.
In other words, when we try to define ourselves, we are not fully comfortable. So we still need the affirmation of others to be sure of who we are. Because part of identity is defining self worth. And even if I say… let’s say Muwa says he is a wonderful footballer – come and see his football skills. I come, Philip comes, Beatrice comes. We all look at him. We all say Muwa you are a wonderful footballer. We play football together, we say Muwa you are a wonderful footballer. But Muwa realises that he is way better than all of us. And so really our affirmation doesn’t really mean anything.
But then Lionel Messi now comes. And he and Muwa do one on one and at the end of it he says “you are a good footballer.” The next time Muwa says he’s a good footballer his chest will be out a little bit more. You see he’s been defined now, but he needed the affirmation of someone else to identify him; to define him.
Who Is A Christian?
And you see in the same way Christians should not really be defining ourselves. When I ask you who you are you don’t look into yourselves. We are meant to define ourselves not by ourselves but by God. And that is what Peter does in verses 1a and verse 2a.
Who is a Christian? Look at what he says “To God’s elect.” A Christian is elect. In verse 2 he says “who have been chosen.” God’s elect who have been chose. Who is a Christian? An elect. God’s elect. Someone who has been chosen.
God’s Elect… For What?
Now, it depends. Chosen by God for what? What does the chosen mean? Elected to what? To what kind of office? Now Peter doesn’t leave us with any doubt as to what he means. Because he is going to explain it further. He is going to explain it further but again in relation to God. And you remember, we’ve always spoken about God as one God – but how many persons? Three.
It’s the same God – one God – but three persons. Three distinct persons. And so when Peter is going to describe what it means to be chosen by God (God’s elect) he is going to describe it in a united package, but relating to the three persons of the one God. Do we understand?
1 God, 3 Persons; 1 Election, 3 Ways
You are chosen by one god. And so however we are going to explain it, it is unified, but it is unified and described in three different ways relating to the three persons of the one God. It’s a unified package – because it’s one God doing the choosing. But it’s described in three different ways because there are three persons in that one God. Is this clear?
We are chosen according to a plan, through a particular agency for a specific purpose.
And so what he describes, when he describes we are chosen, he describes it like this. We are chosen according to a plan, through a particular agency for a specific purpose. According to a plan. Through a particular agency for a specific purpose. What’s that? Look at verse 2. “According to the foreknowledge of God.” Through a particular agency: sanctification. For a specific purpose: a covenant with Jesus.
Interpreting Words: The Context Affects the Meaning
So, I am going to explain some of those things. And I want to explain them in a way… you see quite often we go into the Bible wanting to interpret the Bible. We look at a particular word and the mistake sometimes – I am not saying this is wrong – but sometimes what people then do is to go and get and english dictionary. And you see sometimes the meaning of a word cannot just be the dictionary meaning of it. Sometimes there is a context to that word.
When we look at the Bible, and we see a word, don’t immediately rush out of the Bible to look for the meaning. Look in the context.
It is like if I say that you people have been annoying be severally. And prior to two months ago I went and checked in the dictionary. That severally will not mean what you think I mean. If I say two people have been annoying be severally two months ago what would that mean? They have been annoying me a lot. But that’s not what severally meant. Severally meant to sever, to separate. Which will now not make sense. However, if you have been in Nigeria for all this while you know that severally has a different meaning. There is a context in which we use it. We own the word now Oxford have put it in part of their dictionary – it’s such a shame! But anyway.
And so sometimes when we look at the Bible, and we just see a word, don’t immediately rush out of the Bible to look for the meaning. Look in the context. But sometimes that context is not immediately in that book. Especially in the New Testament. Sometimes the context is the Old Testament. Amen!
So Peter is writing to a church. God’s people of the New Testament. But you would really understand what he’s saying if you look at the context of God’s people in the Old Testament. Remember, Peter did not have the New Testament as part of his Bible. Peter only had what we call the Old Testament. So, to understand what Peter means by all these words – these deep, deep words – we must look at the parallel of god’s people in the Old Testament. Are we ready for that? Alright – let’s go.
I am going to work backwards. So let’s first look at the last part.
Entering Into A Covenant With God
Now, a significant thing happened at the inception of the nation of Israel. And this happened in Exodus 24. What was the thing that happened? They entered into a covenant with God. You see this people were brought into this wilderness called the wilderness of Sinai. And I will get into how they got there. But they were brought into this wilderness of Sinai. And God now wanted to do something with them, very, very significant. And I said in Exodus 24. Look at verse 7 and verse 8 what it says there. Exodus 24:7-8.
“Then he took” – ‘he’ is Moses who had spent some time with God and God gave him words about how these people were meant to live – and he put it in a book. Alright? A book he called the Book of the Covenant. “Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will …” what? “obey.” We will what? “Obey.”
“Moses then took the blood,” and what did he do with the blood? “Sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
The Terms Of The Covenant
Notice – God wanted to sign a covenant with them – so he shows the terms of the covenant. For them to enter into the covenant they have to agree to the terms of the covenant. But also that then has to be ratified with blood. And blood had been sprinkled on the book, and blood was then sprinkled on the people. And that is how they entered into the covenant.
This action of entering into the covenant required two things. They had to agree to be obedient. “We will obey.” And then the blood had to be sprinkled on them. This is how the old covenant was ratified. How they became God’s people through covenant. Amen?
So who is a Christian? One who is chosen to enter into covenant with God through the death of Jesus Christ.
Look at 1 Peter 2 again. “To be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood.” Do you see it? What is he talking about? He is talking about those who are chosen are chosen to be in covenant with Jesus Christ. The obedience is to be obedient to the terms of the covenant and sealed with blood. But now it’s not the blood of an animal. It is the death of Jesus Christ for the atonement of the sins of the people who enter into covenant with him. Amen?
So who is a Christian? One who is chosen to enter into covenant with God through the death of Jesus Christ. Is that OK? Let’s move on.
The Deliverance from Slavery
Back to Israel. But the covenant people, these covenant people, before they got to Sinai you know what had happened to them? They were in Egypt under slavery. And God did something for them. God wanted – he had a special purpose for them. And so because of that special purpose he did something to them in Egypt. And we see this in Exodus 19. Remember we were at Exodus 24. We go back 5 chapters before.
Exodus 19: 4 “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt.” What did he do to Egypt? Remember they were under slavery, but God came to deliver them from slavery. It was God that delivered them. Moses said come and see the salvation of your God. God brought them out – through a great salvation – out of Egypt. And so he is saying you, yourself, can see what I did to Egypt. What did I do?
“and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Remember – God brought them to himself in Sinai – we were brought into covenant with Jesus Christ. So God brought them by himself!
God’s Treasured Possession
“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” Treasured possession.
There are some of us ladies here – now – if I come into your room, right? Because I am seeing everywhere just sparkling and some of these things. Some of you have what you call stainless steel on your ears. Let’s just call it what it is. Its stainless steel. You know? You understand it’s for everyday stuff. So if I come into your room I just see that one that you bought for 500 bucks just there.
“Ah who’s found my?” You can’t find it… you just thing – agh it’s 500. You understand?
Well some of you then, with all of those 10 different banda – you then just have this one that you bought – somebody bought for you – in Dubai. 18 carat gold. Not gold plated. 18 carat gold.
How We Treat Treasured Possessions
Do you just put it with the other ones? Where do you put it? You have a box – first – for it. And then that box is under one particular… some of you even have a safe for it. Why is it there and the other ones not there? Because, one is a treasured possession. And because it’s a treasured possession you set it apart. The word setting apart can also be translated to being you consecrate it or you sanctify it, different from the others, and you bring it out when your mother is about to do her 70th birthday. When your child is going to do his 5th birthday. When your child is going to get married. Do you understand?
Your treasured possession is sanctified for a special purpose. Amen?
Set Apart; Sanctified; Consecrated
So God says I was bringing you to this special purpose to have a covenant with me. To make you my treasured possession. That is why I brought you out of Egypt. In fact, another way he calls it – it’s not just bringing them out from Egypt – he is saying because I love you – in Hosea 11:1 – Because I loved you I called you out. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”
It’s a call. So notice that the call preceded the covenant. Amen? He called them to a covenant. Go back to 1 Peter again.
Called By God
Those who were chosen, before they entered into the covenant with Jesus Christ, what happened to them? They were chosen through the sanctified – the consecrated – or the calling of the Spirit. Before we came into covenant with Christ, God called us. He called us to Jesus Christ.
This is why Jesus’ words in John 6:44 are really important. Notice what Jesus says there. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me” does what? “draws them.” He must call them out first.
In verse 37 he says “All those the Father gives me” – the father is the one that will give them. “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”
Why do you enter into covenant with Jesus Christ? Because you believe in him and the terms of the covenant. But why did you get to Jesus Christ in the first place? Because God drew you. God called you. The Spirit consecrated you for this special purpose. does this make sense?
But then there is a third thing. Back to Israel again. And this one could be a little more complex.
Foreknown By God – A Little More Tricky
So Israel were called before the covenant. But before they were called, who were they? What happened to them? Well, if you see Romans 11 it tells us something. Romans 11:1-2. Before they were called: “Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.”
He foreknew them before he called them and then he covenanted with them.
Foreknown. They were foreknown.
Diagnosis & Prognosis
It’s where we get the word. Really the greek word it’s where we get… You know, when you go to a doctor. You say “doctor, doctor I’m sick.” And then you find out – they take all your vitals, they ask you questions, and then the doctor does what? He diagnoses. Right? He diagnoses your ailment.
Now notice with diagnosis he has seen all the conditions and he is telling you what is wrong with you. That’s a diagnosis. But there’s also another thing a doctor does, which we call a prognosis. Now a prognosis differs from a diagnoses because a prognosis is… he is basically looking at a conditions and he is saying this is probably where this thing is going to end up. He is almost predicting what is going to happen. Do we understand? A diagnosis tells you what is happening and this is what has happened. But a prognosis is looking at certain things and saying this is what is going to happen. Do we understand that?
Prognosis. Pro-gnosis. Pro: For. Gnosis: knowledge. Foreknown is really prognosis. So God foreknew Israel before he called them.
What Is This Knowledge?
Now pro there, the prefix as we say it, is not just before the thing happened. It’s before time. Before anything happened in God’s own economy. Before time existed. So there’s the pro. But let’s talk about the know. The knowledge. What does it mean to know?
Now some of us would say something like “knowledge is discovery.” It is, but what kind of discovery? “Ah” you say, “well God foreknew Israel – he know Israel – he just knew them before that time that he should covenant with them.” Is that what it’s saying?
Now look at Amos 3:1-2. If you look at different translations you get something different – but…
“Hear this word, people of Israel, the word the Yahweh has spoken against you—against the family I brought out of Egypt.” So we know it’s Israel he is talking about right? He is giving you descriptions.
“You only have I” If you read the NIV it says chosen. If you are reading ESV or KJV it says “known.” “You only have I know of all the families of the earth.”
Really Knowing Someone
If I say that I know Prea it’s true. If I say I know Tosin, my wife, it’s true. In fact, the mere fact that I called their names tells you that I know them, isn’t it. But if I then say “ah. Tosin – you are the only one I have know of all the women in City Church.” What you people should be praying, as a pastor, is that I only know her – of all the women in City Church.
You see Adam – they say in KJV – ‘knew’ his wife and she became pregnant. That is there is a knowledge that a man should have of his wife that he should not have of other women that he knows. When God is saying you only have I known of all the families of the earth, he is not saying he does not know all the families of the earth. Who created them in the first place? But that there is a special kind of intimate knowledge of Israel that is set apart. A consecrated knowledge. Because they are his treasured possession, there is a knowledge of Israel that he has, that he does not have of any other nation. Amen?
That knowledge with the ‘fore’ is what ‘foreknowledge’ is about. With the pro.
A Helpful Illustration From Nigeria…
Maybe I should use one illustration to find out – let’s dig into this – let’s put it together.
You know Nigerians are a very proud people. We are the giants of Africa aren’t we? Giants! Now giants of Africa, but we tend not to do much as giants globally. Just take sports. We don’t win things globally in sports. We don’t win things generally globally anyway. That’s why the ones that we have won, we don’t forget ever.
Atlanta ’96 gold medal. Eh? We remember that one. Other people when you say in ’94 did you win anything? We didn’t win anything. We didn’t even get to quarter finals. But we now think of the first under 17 world cup 1985. Right? We won that one. 1993 we won that one. It’s under 17 we are celebrating – not even under 20.
The Story of Agbani Darego
So when Nigeria wins something globally, we don’t forget. Which reminds me of this lady. How many of us remember this lady? Oh look at her. Just look at her. She is the only one we have produced. Who is Agbani Darego? Agbani Darego was Miss World of 2001. Now if I ask you why she got the crown of Miss World in 2001, how did she get the crown? Why did she get the crown? She got the crown because when the time came to announce who was going to win among the last three, Agbani’s name was announced. Is that wrong? No, is it wrong? If somebody else’s name was called… the reason why Agbani was crowned… This is really true.
If Agbani was not called she would not have got the crown. Agbani was announced so she won. Right? I don’t understand. This seems simple to me. But the question is why was Agbani called to the crown? Ill tell you why. Agbani was called to the crown because Agbani was chosen. She was selected. Isn’t it? I think if I remember they were voting – people were calling in at the time. So Agbani was selected above all the others. So notice, she was selected, and because she was selected she was called up. And because she was called up she was taken to the crown. Amen?
She was selected, or she was chosen. But after she was chosen, in the time of the event – in real time at the event – she had to be announced. The one who was chosen needed to be announced to the crown.
Question. Why was she chosen?
Why Was Agbani Chosen?
I’ll tell you why she was chosen. She was chosen because those who were selecting had knowledge of Agbani’s superior qualities above all the other contestants. They looked at Agbani and they said – they looked at all the other people and they said – this one has better superior qualities. Figure, speech, beauty. She had superior qualities above the others. They exercised knowledge there. They looked and the exercised their knowledge to say “this one should be selected.” And when they selected her she was announced to the crown. Agbani was chosen according to the foreknowledge of those who were selecting. Amen.
And when she was chosen, she was called up. And when she was called out she was crowned. So she was chosen according to her superior qualities. Based on the knowledge of the selectors.
Why Were Israel Chosen?
So I guess Israel too was chosen according to God’s knowledge of Israel. That Israel will have superior qualities above all the families on the earth. That Israel would be the kind of people God will want to use. That Israel were more than all the people around. That Israel were more righteous than all the nations according to God’s superior knowledge. Israel was going to be more superior – just like Agbani was superior over all the people. God had this knowledge.
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Before time… of Israel’s superior qualities…
Was It Israel’s Superior Qualities?
Deuteronomy 7:6-7 Let’s see. Confirm that.
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” We see it again. But remember – he had chosen them because of their qualities. There was much more.
“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.” Ah OK. I guess if you have the quality of population – but surely Israel were more righteous than everybody else? Because Agbani was more beautiful than everybody else. Surely they were more.
Keep going. Deuteronomy 9:6
“Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
No – It Was Simply God’s Choice
The choice that God makes – according to his foreknowledge – is not the way we think about foreknowledge. Again, don’t just use an outside example to interpret this. Foreknowledge here does not mean that he chooses because he knows that these people are going to be superior to the other ones. It’s not because he knows these people will believe me more than the other ones. No. It is a choice that God had. He decided “I am going to set my affection on this people.”
Go back to what he says there. Deuteronomy 7:7.
“The Lord did not set his affection on you” for any quality you have. This is not why he chose Israel. He just chose them – go to Deuteronomy 7:8 – he says “but it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out.” That is what? He called you – he brought you out. “with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
Why Does God Choose Us?
Why does God choose? Yes, God can see everything from eternity. But it’s not just that he looked down the corridors of time and then said – “Muiwa I know will believe.” No. God chose Muiwa and then set a plan for Muiwa to eventually come and believe. Do you understand?
God looks and there is nobody to love because nobody has any quality inside of them. He sees that everyone will have a heart to rebel against him. And so what does he do? “I set my affection on him.” And when he does so – whatever God does he did it before time – but, what does he do? He actualises it in time.
References In Scripture…
In the same way when we think about the Church, when he says – 1 Peter again – those “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God” it always affects. Listen, people are chosen, the saviour is chosen before time. And the plan also is made before time? Do you believe me? Alright look at 1 Peter 2:9. Next one
1 Peter 1-2
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” Then in 1 Peter 1:20 listen to what he says about the saviour. He was chosen when? “Before the creation of the world.” OK, the saviour was chosen before the creation of the world but remember we said what happens before time is then executed what? In time.
But what was revealed in these times for what? Your sake. And this choice to set the affection of the people – to set their destiny – which he had thought about before time – their pre-destiny. Remember destiny is the end; the goal. But what is the plan?
The plan is how you get from a particular origin to a particular destiny – isn’t it? To a particular destination. A plan takes you from here to there. So God has chosen – you are a chosen people – he has set his affection on you, just because he has set his affection on you. And then he chooses the means, the saviour, but then he brings that saviour in time – and it’s all according to a plan.
Look at Acts 2:23. “this man was handed” that’s Jesus “over to you by God’s” what? “deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” A chosen people, saved by a pre-ordained saviour, according to his law and deliberate plan.
This is why in Romans 8:29-30 it says this. “For those whom God foreknew” or chose “he also predestined” – planned or predestined – pre the same prefix that happened before time – destination. “Predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” That is the destination. “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified.” Because you are justified by the blood of Jesus Christ’s covenant. “And those he justified, he also glorified.”
Now some of us will say “this – I don’t know – this troubles me.”
Why Are You Here?
Let me ask you this question (and don’t worry this is where I am spending most of my time.) Let me ask you this question. Why are you here? Why are you here? Why are you here?
Well, some of us are here and others of us actually when we first came in – you are here because you drove yourself here. Or you took public transport here. Or you took an Uber here. Is that not why you are here? Yes, that’s why you are here. But, why did you drive yourself here? You drove yourself here because either somebody invited, or you saw an ad on instagram, (or you foreknew the church!). But the church was recommended.
The Long Tale Of Why You Are Here…
OK. Why was the church on instagram? Why were you invited to the church? And why was it recommended? And because the church exists and it was planted. Why was the church planted? Because with the help of so many other people, my wife and I returned from the UK to plant the church. Why did we return from the UK to plant the church? Because while in the UK I had a radical change in my theology. Why did I have a radical change in my theology? Because I was reading some books from certain parts of the Christian world which I had not known before. Why was I reading those books? Because I listened to a guy called R. C. Sproul one day and I was captivated by what he was saying and then after looking at him, reading him, I saw he introduced me to so many other people.
Why did I listen to R. C. Sproul in the first place? Because I was in Peter Thompson’s house and R. C. Sproul was on the screen and he had been recommending R. C. Sproul to me for a while. Why was I in Peter Thompson’s house? I was in Peter Thompson’s house because he and I had become good friends over years. How did we become friends in the first place? Because when I moved to the UK – very early on in London – I went to his church (a church that was part of the movement I was part of at the time) and in closing he decided… he asked me whether I would need a ride? And so I followed him and we started talking and we found that we had things in common. And we have been talking ever since.
But he was in the UK. How come he was in the UK first? Because his wife, Nancy, was a citizen of the UK. Having been born there. Why was she born there? Because her Dad – who eventually became one of the highest ranking judges in Nigeria – was… he studied in the UK and he gave birth to her there.
Why did he study in the UK? Because he got most likely a scholarship to study in the UK. Why are you here? Because Nancy Thomson’s father got a scholarship. In some ways yes.
An Even Longer Tale Of Why You Are Here…
Or, another way, why are you here? Because from the foundation of time, God had chosen you – had set you as a special possession – and then he’s weaving the intricate decisions of millions and millions of people to eventually get you to call you and bring you to his son. Do you understand?
This does not invalidate the faith that we put in. The decision that we make. But if you stand and just say “well the decision was all mine and God had nothing to do with it”, Jesus says “unless the father draws you you cannot come.”
And so who is a Christian?
A Christian is one who is chosen. Chosen according to the foreknowledge of the father, through the sanctifying work of the spirit and for the purpose of obedience to Jesus Christ and the sprinkling of his blood.
The reason you hear all of this, is not for you to start having too many philosophical debates in your mind. It is to tell you that your life is not an accident. That in the midst of whatever suffering you are going through, that God knows you. God decided to set his affection on you. It may not make sense now, but remember, you are God’s chosen.
I have to rush through the last two points but the second thing is this.
2. A Christian Is A Foreigner
Peter says this. That they are scattered exiles. 1 Peter 1:1 “To God’s elect, exiles scattered.” So you see the first one point we defined Christian identity in relation to God – the vertical dimension. But now we have to define the Christian identity in relation to their society – the horizontal dimension.
A Reference To The Jewish Exile
He calls them “exiles scattered” and this part – and they were scattered through all the different places in Asia Minor. Asia Minor was a region that was where Turkey is now. It was a region that was under the Roman Empire. Now, if you study Jewish history thorough the Bible, you will remember that exiles referred to Israel’s displacement from Jerusalem to Babylon – later Persia, Greece and then later they came back and they were under Roman occupation. But it was really to the land of Babylon and then Persia – for the judgement of their sin.
So they are now in a foreign land. And thinking how to be Jewish in a land that is non-Jewish – doesn’t have a Temple and all of those things – was a pretty big deal. Now Peter is taking that same thinking and he is writing to people who most likely were in some part of the Roman Empire. I would say most likely Rome. For some reason they were sent out from Rome, and now they were scattered in all these different regions. And he is saying you too – remember – there were people who were scattered and exiled. You too now as Christians are scattered and exiles.
He uses that word that they should be familiar with – that phrase that they are familiar with – to describe their current condition. Now remember, as exiles they are foreigners. A foreigner is a person who is not a citizen of where they live. And as a result does not fully fit in with the local communities, norms and culture.
Living As A Foreigner Is Hard
I don’t know how many of us have lived as a foreigner. But living as a foreigner I can tell you is not easy. Because on the one hand you are trying to really fit in. But on the other hand you are always aware about how different you are. And sometimes, it can get nasty.
It can get nasty because you are held in suspicion for your difference.
Held In Suspicion For Your Differences
It reminds me of a time when I was living as a foreigner for a while. And so, there was a time I was in the church that I was going to, and there were the young guys around there – there were about three of four of them – they were in prayer. We were praying, and I think we had just finished. So a group of us was praying. And so there were some young guys and I was asked… And I was just telling them – I was challenging them basically to say they didn’t have game. There are so many wonderful, eligible, godly ladies in our church, and they weren’t getting married!
Like, you are the guys, you are the girls, and you don’t have marriage. What’s the problem? So I was saying to them I have observed this. And I said “the reason is because you people are waiting to fall in love.” Fall in love. And I was trying to say look – Biblically – commitment in some ways comes before the love. In fact, the commitment comes and strengthens the love. You’ve set your affection on a person, after you see these things. You love the person. You enter into commitment with the person and eventually you guys grow in love.
So I was giving them that advice. And there was one old lady. I won’t call her by name but I can’t forget her two names. The lady said “well we believe in love here. I’m not quite sure what you believe in, because I’ve heard that in parts of where you are from they force people into marriage. But we, we believe in love.”
Because there are two things there. I first wanted to say “Aunty, where I come from, the way we insult people that insult us… but where I come from we learn to respect the elders.” So I just… I took the insult inside. Living as a foreigner can be difficult. Because sometimes you are held in suspicion for your differences.
When she said that thing, I remembered then and there that I was a foreigner.
Christians Won’t Fit In
And Christians too are foreigners to the prevailing non-Christian aspects of our society. You cannot always agree with, nor adhere to, the prevailing cultural and practical aspects of society. This is part of your identity.
You cannot always agree with, nor adhere to, the prevailing cultural and practical aspects of society. This is part of your identity.
Some will say to you “why do you feel the need to be accountable to people less wealthy than you? It’s pretentious!” Or, “why do you feel the need to apologise all the time – even at someone who deserved your road rage? It’s hypocritical!” “Why do you give money regularly to your church when you haven’t bought all you want? You are brainwashed. Why do you hold onto that sex ethic? It’s impracticable.
It is pretentious, hypocritical, they feel you are brainwashed and it is impracticable to them – because you are a foreigner to them.
You see opposition to the views and practices you hold dear should remind you, not to force you to assimilate into the culture, but to remind you “I am a foreigner.” Don’t always expect to fit in.
But Foreigners Are Still Part of Society
Now but foreigners have to still be part of the society and the culture that they are in. So this is not asking us to totally withdraw. We are neither to be fully assimilated, not to totally withdraw. We are meant to integrate and yet be distinct.
We are neither to be fully assimilated, not to totally withdraw. We are meant to integrate and yet be distinct.
But always remember you are a foreigner. We will look at this – there is a sermon coming which will look at this in more depth. But remember, you are a foreigner.
3. A Christian Is An Heir
Finally, a Christian is an heir. Now, we’ve described the Christian identity in relation to God. We’ve described it in relation to society, but in light of the present hardships, what about describing it in relation to their future?
Well, 1 Peter 1:3-5 do that. They describe the Christian as an heir.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Is It Worth It?
The next thing you ask me is “hey – you tell me I have an inheritance. Is it worth it? And is it guaranteed?” That’s what we think of. Is it worth it? And is it guaranteed?
Do you know the richest country in the world? Right? Some of us would say America. You would be right – in some ways. If you take up the total GDP. But most people like to rank it by per capita GDP. That is – on the average – each person in this country – how much are they worth. That’s a better way to judge how right a society is. And in that regard if we take information from 2014 and after, in that regard the America that is number 1 suddenly becomes 19th. Because their per capita income is $59,500 per annum. Wow right? And they are 19th. 19th. And if I think of Naija it is $166. So let’s just put Naija away!
The Incredible Riches of Qatar
Alright. But for info – as I said – info from 2014 and after, you know the number 1 country? Qatar. Qatar has an average income – a per capita income – wait for it – $124,500. Per person. Do you know what that is? That’s money. That is like imagine us earning like 3.5 something every month. Millionaire. But that’s not the only reason why they are rich. Because that is the average annual income.
But part of the reason why they are rich is that – you see they have so much money – their liquified natural gas is the best in the world. It’s the cheapest so they sell. They have so much money that even through all their citizens live a very good life, they still have so much money that they don’t know what to do with it. So at some point they created a sovereign wealth fund. And they put people over it – they are called the Qatar Investment Authority. As of 2017 that thing was worth $330 Billion. Now firstly, that’s a lot. But, wait for it, it’s for 300,000 citizens. Now do the math. Exactly. So that means that each person has about $1.1 Million invested for them. on top of the $124,000 they earn annually.
and some of you are saying “God – why didn’t you born me in Qatar?”
Being Born Into A Living Hope
Because, think about it. They have invested in places, they have invested in shares, they have invested in VW, Barclays, they are the 4th largest real estate owners in New York in Manhattan. If a child is born today as a Qatari, you know what that means? They are born into a living hope. That’s what it is!
Well you know what Peter is saying? He is saying by God’s mercy, becoming a Christian is to be born into a living hope. Not as a citizen of any nation in the world: Qatar, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein – they all have a lot of money. But a citizen of God’s kingdom with an incredible inheritance.
Economically Secure? Immortally Secure?
You say what is that inheritance? Listen. While a Qatari’s future is secured economically it is not secured immortally. What if you can get an inheritance that is secure both ways? Because there are Qataris that are dying today. What happened to the inheritance? Well you know it’s gone to somewhere.
But what Peter is saying that in Christ there is an inheritance that no amount of present suffering can be compared to. Paul said eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, neither has it entered into the hearts of man what God has prepared for those that love him (1 Corinthians 2:9). Death cannot hold you.
It is the inheritance of living forever with Christ and having all the riches of the world.
Is It Guaranteed?
But then you say, “is it guaranteed?” Because again, the Qatari one is almost fully guaranteed. But sometimes, you know, the global economic forces can take a huge toll on it. And again, as I said, early death means you may not have it.
This our own – that we are saying is best – is guaranteed to be received. It cannot go bust nor lose value.
It Cannot Go Bust or Lose Value
why do I say it cannot go bust or lose value? You know why – it’s not kept in any bank here on earth. It is reserved, where? In heaven. And guess who is looking after it? It’s not oh we’ve got one whizz-kid investment banker – no whizz-kid is not an investment banker – you know what I mean. A whizz-kid… you understand. Who is looking after it? The creator and the controller of the entire universe. God is the one that is keeping your inheritance.
But you say is it guaranteed? You see he is keeping the heir. He said he is keeping, what? Verse 4 “spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded.” You are shielded by God’s own power. The heir and the inheritance are both kept.
But then you say “hey. You know there are people who have made bad investments. They promise, promise, promise.” Some of you invested in all those Ibadan things – you know Spector? The people who know it they are laughing at me. It’s closer to MMM. I can see! I know the people that did it. I did it small so let’s leave that aside eh?!
How do we know? I tell you how we know.
Someone Is Already Living There
A few years ago I went to Aqua Atlantic. They have this wonderful model – a bit model showing you what the thing will be like. Now if you go there and look at the model you will be like “hey it’s a model – it doesn’t mean it will happen.” You know in Nigeria we have a thing with abandoned projects. We have abandoned projects everywhere!
How do we know that this thing is not going ot be an abandoned project? Let me tell you why. how. doI know that Aqua Atlantic will be a reality? You know why – because right now there are people living there. Very few – about three buildings – but there are people living there.
Because there are people living there now I know that there will be more people living there. Amen.
How do I know that I will live forever? How do I know that this resurrection that God is pointing to – that Jesus will do in the end – how do I know that it will happen? You know why? Because Jesus is already living there. Jesus has already resurrected.
You Are A Christian
Who are you? Who is a Christian? A Christian is elect before time, foreigner in the current time, heir of the time to come. You are not an accident. God is in control of your life.
Don’t be surprised about difficulties with society. Your guaranteed best life is yet to come.
I want to finish with this. Let us read 2 Timothy 1:9-10 together:
“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
Let us pray.