"You ain't from around here, are ya?"
Locals—of any locale—know their own. Transplants sooner or later give themselves away, even if they don't care to—it’s their accent or their food preferences, or sometimes simply how they dress. Aliens (foreigners, not E.T.) have an even harder time blending in with a new community, with different language, culture and habits.
God's people are resident aliens wherever we live; wherever we live is not our home. Our main citizenship is in heaven.
In His mercy, God calls out people from the world to be His own and then leaves them here to testify of His greatness. Rescued from darkness, we are to be on mission to those still in darkness: speaking of Him and showing Him in how we live our lives.
A long-known truth
The apostle Peter wrote about this in a letter encouraging scattered, persecuted believers. Thrust from their homelands, they were people stripped of national rights and roots—foreigners in every sense of the word. Yet, God gave them a radical new identity, hope, home and mission.
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." 1 Peter 2:9-12, NIV
Peter's prompting makes for a good riddle: "What group of people is chosen from, yet left in, called out of, yet sent into, the world?" God's 'mercied' people! We are in the world as aliens on a mission. Abstaining from our own sinful desires, we are to live God-honoring lives among the people of the world.
We are wise to know and live our new identity. It is lofty to say the least.
We are royal priests—children of the King, regal and God's representatives, priests. That is a position of double privilege and power. No small honor or responsibility; heady stuff, eh?
Called for something great
A holy nation—us? Indeed! (Note: this is not referring to America, but the Church Universal.) God's varied vagabonds have a standing of righteousness thanks to Christ (Rom 1:16, 17; 5:1-11; 2 Cor 5:21). We are our Savior's saintly citizens, by His grace, fit for heaven yet left here to serve—starting even with just meeting pressing needs in your immediate circle, like feeding the hungry, visiting the lonely and helping those who lack, God shows us specific needs so we can be part of meeting them.
We are a people belonging to God. And He jealously guards His own. Quoting Peter again: "In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power..." (1:3-5). Such security!
With these credentials, no wonder we don't fit in here. Yet—back to our riddle—we are supposed to be dynamically involved in the world. We have been sent into, scattered out amidst, sprinkled among to share His supremacy: to "declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."
We were called out from to call out about Him, proclaiming our Savior's praiseworthiness. He snatched up our sorry, sin-sacked souls from sure death. Sing out, speak up, share; others need this news.
God’s accepted exiles
This requires redemptive engagement, rubbing elbows. Hermits need not apply (unless willing to change!). A bright light under a bucket is useless. Salt in the shaker is pretty but purposeless. God says shine, add savor, be a preservative (see Matthew 5:13-16; remember Rebecca Pippert's Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World?)
God mercied us to mission us. He left us behind enemy lines to invite others into His Kingdom, to tell of His rescue mission (see Col 1:12, 13; Matt 28:16-20). We were the miners, doomed, trapped underground, and God is the rescue team, digging us out of the caverns; we too have been pulled from darkness and death to light and new life.
Know with certainty: living out this mission means rejection, being misunderstood and even slandered. Jesus can relate. He knew rejection—by His very own people and creation (see John 1:12-14). Despite His family thinking Him crazy and opponents saying He was demon-possessed (Mark 3:20-35), Jesus stayed on mission. His faithfulness despite knowing the consequences is a template for us (1 Pet 2:21-24; Heb 12:1-6).
"As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:4-5
As sojourners and exiles, we remember that our truest home address is heaven. We are left here as His ambassadors to this foreign land. Though hopeless misfits in this world with its ways and patterns, we are to find and make ways to show and tell of God's excellent greatness and declare the gospel.
This year’s EFCA Theology Conference theme was Our Citizenship Is In Heaven: Exiles Who Are In But Not Of The World, where we learned together about the various cultural issues facing the church today and how to lead our churches. In the coming weeks, the EFCA will be releasing this recorded content on EFCA Helps for you to revisit or check out if you were not able to join us.
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