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So who do you think you are?

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-Acts 20:28
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. ESV

In light of my brother Brad’s preaching and teaching, this passage of Scripture is becoming more and more a passage that stings my spiritual self.  It stings because it is addressed to pastors and it stings because it is a compound statement and not a simple one.  It stings because it forces two activities at the same time.  It stings because it says pay careful attention, not just attention but careful attention, to yourself and to all the flock, again not some of the flock or your favorite within the flock, but all the flock.  Too many times we pastors are indeed paying careful attention to ourselves and we do it to the detriment of the flock or the flock’s attention is after one’s self.  We eisegete this passage by adding a word and change it from ‘pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock’, to ‘pay careful attention to yourselves and then to the flock’. 

Realizing that this is God ordain and God maintain, how can we obtain and sustain wisdom from this passage?  You know most of us can deal with a little stinging action but there are some stinging that makes you move and cause you to sit up and take notice.  The balance of this passage does that for me and it is here where I would like to set up camp.  “In which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”

With this understanding that the Holy Spirit has caused this and Jesus has purchased this, it is our job therefore to care for this. 

In this caring process, there is one conclusion that I have come to; the church today and especially in this country and that means most if not all of you who are hearing me today are deceived and are being deceived.  And living and existing within this deception allows you to question such things as the authority of the church, the role of the church in your “personal life”, the right to church shop or fellowship hop looking for the one who agrees with you or just won’t bother you, and the right to forsake the assembling of yourselves together or simply you will assemble when you are good and ready to assemble.  Deception allows you to come to the sanctuary, be in the worship service, surrounded by blessing after blessing, mercy upon mercy, and witness miracle upon miracle but leave without anything because of who is preaching the Word of God and see nothing wrong with that.  Deception tells you when you witness this and even more, to leave it alone and in God’s hands because God knows.  And probably the worse poison of deception is that it gives you the ability to begin now to look around or to mentally go through the fellowship directory trying to figure out who is the pastor talking about instead of saying that silent prayer; “Lord is it I?”

To all of this New Hope, I have one question and this is my topic; “So who do you think you are?”  And if forced to, every one of you could give an answer to this question but would that answer be the correct one?

So who, do you think, you are?

I confess to you that it is a difficult and serious task to just pay attention to myself, dealing with my own short comings and the sin that dwells within me.  Brother Brad has stirred up much that I stand in need of prayer about, and that is what good Bible preaching should do, but the same Word of God does not let me off the hook.  Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, New Hope, which He obtained (purchased in the ‘New King James’ version) with His own blood.  The Church is a blood brought entity!

And in my love and care for you as one of your overseer, I want you to leave here today knowing more than ‘who you think you are’, I want you to know for sure ‘who you are’.  And knowing ‘who you are’, is the first step in dealing with these other issues that face us as a Church.  Knowing who you are is the first line of defense to deception.  And knowing who you are reinforces the knowledge of whose you are.  Amen

Open your Bibles to 1 Peter 2:4-10 and let us stand together to hear the word of God

1 Peter 2:4-10
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the Excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. ESV

Today, my brothers and sisters, if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts as in rebellion.  (Heb. 3:15)

·        At the beginning of this letter, Peter showed the wonder of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ.  Listen in with me to the beginning of this letter.  After the salutation, we read these words starting with verse 3

1 Peter 1:3-25
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. 13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. ESV

·        Are you not reminded here that it is He who has made us and not we ourselves

·        Whose we are is vital to who we are

·        In our passage, Peter now wants to show the status that Christians have as the true people of God, so that he may encourage us to live before the world with that awareness

·        The honor, New Hope, is for you who believe, believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior but to those who do not believe and let me add going to church don’t help you here, to the disbeliever, “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone (some versions call this the capstone) and the stone of stumbling and a rock of offense and they stumble because the disobey the word as they were destined to do.

·        Now listen, you may have all ideas and concepts of who you are;

o       I’m old, I’m young

o       I’m black, I’m white

o       I’m republican, I’m democrat

o       I’m rich, I’m poor

o       I’m healthy, I’m sickly

o       I’m reverend doctor so-in-so, I’m Deacon so-in-so, I’m the choir director, I’m the church’s janitor

·        And this list can go on and on but now listen to what the Word of God says that you are

·        And this is what the Lord says about us church folks, about you New Hope

·        You are a chosen race, an elect progeny, a select ethnic group

o       Your ethnicity is Christian remember in the Old Testament the Jew was that by race and religion

o       And there is no need of a prefix to enhance it

§        It is not black Christian but Christian

§        It is not reformed Christian but Christian

§        It is not about Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, but Christian

·        We must first stop being deceived by everything and anything that pulls you away from being a chosen race, and it is not about skin color or geographic location any more.

·        You are a royal priesthood, royal implies on the level with kings and queens, they are special and elite people.  The priesthood being part of the class of priests, those who can have audience with God and those who God dwell with and communicate to.  Those who are blessed to make sacrifice, that is a special and unique worship to God.  Look at verse 5 of this chapter

 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

·        Are you reminded of Romans 12:1 and 2

Romans 12:1-2
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ESV

·        In other words you will not be deceived.

·        You are a holy nation; because our God is holy we are addressed as a holy nation.  In Chapter one, we are instructed to be holy and there the address is to the individual.  Not so here.

·        None of this is about the individual it is about a plurality of individuals, a race of people, a group of priests, a nation has never been a nation of one

·        We need to fight the temptation and destroy the deception that forces me to dwell on ‘me’, ‘myself’, and ‘I’.

·        Notice, you are a people for His own possession

·        I have a confession to make and this may not set well with some of you who are listening or hearing the tape.  I use to be dispensational in my thinking but as I have grown older and I pray wiser I realize that as I read and study passages like this 1 Peter letter, that there are not two sets of people as the dispensational thinker would say but actually we are connected to the Old Testament and the Old Testament is connected to us.

·        What am I saying well it is not me, it is said in this verse.  The New Testament church like the Old Testament Israel is God’s own special people

·        And listen to this statement; Israel was the church of the Old Covenant (they were the called out assembly) and the New Testament church is the Israel of the New Covenant (the chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, and a people for his own possession)

·        You are the one who may proclaim the excellencies (the praises) of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light

·        My brothers and sisters you can celebrate His goodness, you can Worship Him!

Psalm 34:1-3
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. 3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! ESV

·        Don’t words like that make you want to shout (hold my mule)

·        Called you out of darkness, ignorance, stuck on stupidness, couldn’t see, couldn’t hear and couldn’t understand

·        But He called me out of darkness just like Jesus called to Lazarus from the tomb, He called you out of darkness into His marvelous light and put you with a people for His own possession

·        Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

·        Once it was just about you and your stuff but if you are saved, all of that has changed

·        Application, well it is given to us in the very next verse

1 Peter 2:11-12
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. ESV

Most of us, rather baseball cardinal fans or not, witnessed something that all of the experts in the field said could not happen.  A team with only 83 wins on the season could win the World Series.  Players and coaches alike, individually did not amount to anything but as a team.  Why was that?  If you listen closely you will hear them say in their own words.  We as a team would not believe what they were saying about us individually.  And thus you have a Tony LaRussa getting a championship in both the American and the National league, rookie pitchers pitching the games of their lives, the come back of a washed out pitcher in Jeff Weaver and the MVP going to the smaller player David Eckstein.  They as a team refused to be deceived by all of the focus on the individual.  Now if a team of athletes can do that, and cause a town to be referred to as the ‘Cardinal Nation’, can you even imagine how much more the church of living God can do if we just obey His Word.

Leave here today knowing ‘who you are’; you are a chosen race, you are a royal priesthood, you are a holy nation, and you are God’s people His own possession.  And that is why we can say Hallelujah, praise God.

Let us pray.

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