February 22, 2022
1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV
9 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. 10 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.
According to the revealed Word of God, at the center of all that is and was and ever shall be, seen and unseen, is the embodied person, visible and incarnate in glorified human flesh, the resurrected, ascended Savior—the Lord of Heaven and Earth—Jesus Messiah.
Go back and read that sentence again, very slowly. If we cannot begin here, with this revealed reality, we cannot begin at all. We are a chosen people only because and to the extent we have chosen to follow this person, Jesus Messiah, period, full stop. This is to say we have surrendered our broken past to him, entrusted our eternal destiny to him and pledged our ever present love and loyalty to him. Because he is at the center of all that is real, and because by the grace and mercy of God this truth has been revealed to us, we have chosen to join the glad procession of people on pilgrimage to meet him face to face. This is what it means that we are “a chosen people.” And the mystery of the Gospel is that though we are on our way to meet him, he is with us every step of the way. It’s why Peter, in chapter 1, said this:
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9
The Christian faith is not an ethereal, fluffy philosophy. It is the concretized, mystical union between Jesus Christ and his people. The meaning of our chosenness is waking up to the face of his choosing us and responding by reorienting our entire lives around seeking him and his Kingdom.
The big question we must reckon with is this one. Will we understand the Church Jesus is building—a chosen people— as a centered set or a bounded set? In other words, will we focus our attention around the center or the circumference. There is a great deal of fear and anxiety around determining the circumference. We fear if we do not nail down the boundaries, we will lose the center altogether. The opposite is true. If we do not fix our gaze on the ever clear and clarifying center of Jesus Messiah and his Kingdom, all boundaries will become confused, irrelevant and ultimately distract people from the central pursuit.
Will we focus our energy around a shared pursuit of our common center or will we fix our attention on the circumference and defining the boundaries of who is in and who is out. Far from some kind of fuzzy universalism, we are calling for a crystallized Christocentrism. (aka Christ centeredness) After all, didn’t he say something like, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)
It is time for the chosen people to give everything they have to lifting up the one who chose them. Here’s the secret. If you clarify the center, the center will gently and graciously form the circumference. The conversation will cease to become about who is in the circle and who is outside of it, but who is moving toward the center and who is moving away from it, and how to encourage and embrace both. This naturally raises the whole point of the next mark of the Church Jesus is building—a royal priesthood.
I believe the witness of the Scriptures and the Spirit is that the Church Jesus is building is not a bounded set but a centered set. This is at least, in part, how I understand this mark of the church as “a chosen people.” Does this mean everyone will wind up in the Church Jesus is building. Likely not, but it’s time to stop asking that question. It’s the wrong question. The question that pleases Jesus is this one: How might everyone in my sphere of life and influence find and be found by Jesus? And, of course, this has no hope of happening through my agency lest Jesus become the defining center of my life.
Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Thank you for choosing us. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for the grace you keep giving to continually choose you, come what may. Be lifted up today, in our hearts, our homes, our churches and yes in our towns and cities. Our greatest concern is that everyone come to the place of choosing you, which is to know they have been chosen by you. Could that begin with us letting them know that we choose them too? Holy Spirit endue us with this grace of choosing others before they choose us. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen.
What is it about us that fixates on drawing the boundary lines, defining the insiders and the outsiders, and otherwise, policing the circumference? What would it mean to become fixated on the center instead? What might happen? What might not happen?
For the Awakening,
In response to your first question: Human pride.
To question number two::To become obedient to the Gospel, repent and believe; for the kingdom of God is at hand.
To question number three: We might actually grow more into the mature corporate stature of Christ.
To question number four: Many who now claim to be Christ followers might turn away, saying “ this teaching is too hard”. This would not be the first time this happened.
I love your phrase, “the concretized, mystical union between Jesus Christ and His people.” Unless we have that union with the living, present-day Jesus, we’re merely blowing spiritual smoke. A google search indicates that there are more than 40,000 Christian denominations in the world. What a huge circumference–such an unimaginable amount of divisiveness that directly contradicts Jesus’ prayer that all His followers be one! If Christians would center on and get fixated on the risen Jesus, we’d long for and seek out personal, open-hearted connection with every other person that we meet with that fixation. We might get so carried away that we begin to pray, worship, share scriptures, and give testimonies house to house and wherever we encounter such people. We might grow to such spiritual maturity that we no longer need to be lectured by a man every week, but instead begin to rejoice in God’s teaching that flows directly from Jesus through our heart.
When it comes to the question of boundaries, I see it from two different perspectives: When it comes to individuals who are intent on working out their own salvation in a group setting, then there is no clear-cut boundary defining who is in and who is out. But when it comes to how a group of Christians collectively function together then yes, there needs to be boundaries that are tempered by grace.