Text: 1 Peter 2:4-10 | Listen to Message
What’s the unrelenting story you tell yourself about yourself? What’s the narrative that plays over and over again in your mind? Maybe it’s something negative and self-deprecating, like:
- “I’m a dirty, rotten sinner.”
- “I’m a failure, a loser, a nobody.”
- “I’m unlovable, worthless pond scum.”
- “I’m a victim.”
Or maybe it’s something positive and self-affirming, like:
- “I’m awesome.”
- “I’m successful, I’m really good at what I do.”
- “I’m important, I’m a somebody.”
- “I can be whoever I want to be.”
We all find our identity, our sense of significance, in something (or in several somethings). We all have things about which we tell ourselves, “In order to be a somebody, I must . . .” Must what? What do you believe you have to achieve in order for your life to be meaningful and successful?
These questions are of vital importance, for identity is the reason we do everything that we do. Our identity defines our purpose. We act a certain way because we think a certain way – and we think that way because of the narrative we believe about what gives our lives meaning and importance. How we see ourselves, and especially how we see ourselves achieving success, shapes every little detail of how we live our lives.
For example, a businessperson may find his/her identity in perceived success or proficiency, or in reputation, or in financial security. So the guiding question is not, “How can I glorify God in my vocation?” or “How can I work for the common good?” The questions are more like, “What can I do today to prove myself? How can I look successful in my work today? What’s my next step toward a raise? What’s the best way to leverage my time and skills to achieve my selfish goals?”
You could find your identity in anything. A parent may find his/her identity in the academic, athletic, or moral excellence of a child. A student may find his/her identity in grades or popularity. An artist may find his/her identity in expressing a very nuanced individuality. A pastor may find his identity in the size of his congregation.
Here’s the problem: When you build your identity on your achievements, success goes to your head and failure goes to your heart. (Thank you, Tim Keller, for that simple but brilliant observation.) You use people, rather than loving them. Sadly, your whole life becomes one giant meritocracy where you are defined by your successes and failures. It doesn’t have to be this way.
In 1 Peter 2:4-10, the Apostle shares the paradigm-shattering good news that, in Christ, your true identity is received, not achieved. Significance is not something you have to work for, it’s a gift of God’s mercy. He’s called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. He’s placed you as living stones in the temple where his presence abides. He’s made you a kingdom of priests who have direct and immediate access to the Father. He’s formed you as a new people for his own possession. You didn’t earn any of this, and you’re not asked to earn it. God makes you who you are by his sovereign grace.
How would everyday life change for you if you really believed this? Imagine waking up each day and preaching to yourself this Gospel: “I will not be defined by my successes or failures today; I am defined by God’s love for me. I do not have to convince others of my achievements or even my morality; I am free to love and serve others. I’m no longer a slave to anyone or anything; I am who God says I am.”