By Donna Olivia Powell
1 Peter 2:1-10 (emphasis v. 9)
Two weeks ago, I was at a brunch, when a question was raised, “Do you know who you are?” Do you know who you are? It sounds like a simple question, right? Do you know who you are? I started to think about it, to myself, and the obvious answers came to mind. Do you know who you are? Donna Olivia Powell. Do you know who you are? Minister. Student. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Do you know who you are? African-American woman. I was so sure of myself, but then the Holy Spirit whispered to my soul, “Do you know who really are?” I have wrestled with that question for the last two weeks. In fact, it is a rather profound question. It’s deep y’all. And I would like to pose this question to you, the young people gathered in this sanctuary today: Do you know who you really are?
Young people, can we talk? The question that I’ve raised to you is not an easy one to answer, I know. It’s not easy to know who you really are when materialism runs rampant among young people. Folks are telling you what your body should look like, what you should wear, what kinds of gadgets and phones you need in order to be HOT! No, it is not an easy question to answer when society fills your head, heart, and soul with ideas—negative ideas—about who you are. You aren’t smart enough. You’ll never be anything. You’re too poor. You’re too black. Your accent is too thick. You are a girl. It’s not easy to know who you really are when the pressures of life wear away at you. Being a young person was much easier back in my day. We didn’t have to struggle, like you do. Gang activity. Violence and death all around. Stress. Loneliness. Despite having 1057 friends on Facebook or MySpace, your generation suffers disproportionately from feelings of loneliness. Depression. Hopelessness. Fear. Frustration. Failure. Young people, do you know who you really are? It is not an easy question to answer when you are living your life for Christ in the midst of a world that doesn’t get Him or you. Friends tell you, “You’re whack for being in church all the time.” “This Jesus stuff is lame,” they say. Have a drink, it’s all good. It’s just sex. It’s not easy. I know.
I was struck by a poem written some years ago, by a fifteen-year old young woman who was struggling to answer the same question. She wrote:
I care about that child/Who was picked last and left out/Who’s different from everybody else./The one who is alone/Beaten, molested, abused, raped/Unloved/Lonely and depressed./I care about that child who wakes up/Screaming in the cold, dark night./I care about that child more than anything…/Because that child is me.”
Do you know who you really are? Just as it may be a difficult question for you and I, it wasn’t an easy question for the Christians living in Asia Minor in the latter part of the first century, either. These are the folks that the Apostle Peter was writing to in the text I read earlier. These new believers were struggling with their Christian identity in the midst of a society that didn’t get them. The text tells us (1 Peter 1:6) that they suffered trials because of their faith in Jesus. They were being persecuted, talked about, abused, and even unwelcome in the very places they called home. They felt like strangers, aliens even. I wonder if anyone in here today knows what it is like to feel like a stranger. They were being discriminated against, much like you are today. They suffered, not under the hand of empire, or government, but at the hands of the people they lived with and worked with. Because they were different—they no longer participated in the pagan ceremonies or worshipped idols and false gods—the folks around them were harsh to them. Perhaps some of you can identify with this. Your faith in Christ has made you different from your friends. You no longer do the things that you used to do, and it makes you an outcast from your peers. Perhaps you don’t cuss anymore. Perhaps you don’t party with your friends. Perhaps you don’t drink or smoke or engage in premarital sexual acts. And perhaps, like the Christians in Asia Minor, you get a lot of heat for it.
Well, the book of First Peter is an epistle, or letter, written to encourage the Christians in Asia Minor. The Apostle Peter was writing to let them know who they really were in Christ. These folks were alienated and rejected, and needed a strong sense of identity. Our text for today begins with a list of what not to do. There is some behavior (2v1) that is not fitting for Christians, including being evil, lying, phoniness, envy, jealousy, and gossiping, to name a few. See, when folks are doing you dirty because of your faith, it is sometimes easy to act like they act. Some of Christians in Asia Minor may have fallen into this trap. Well, being a Christian calls us to a higher standard of being. The text goes on to tell us (2v2-3) to seek after God and grow in Christ. It is our seeking after God that allows our faith to grow. I would argue that if you aren’t seeking God you will not grow, and anything that isn’t growing is dying. Young people, don’t let your faith die. Do like Tye Tribbett says, and chase after God. Cause when we chase after God and we grow in Christ, our lives become, “living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto Him.” The next three verses (2v6-8) allow us to understand the differences between a life of faith in Christ, and a life lived in unbelief. As a believer, your faith in anchored in the Rock. If you accept Christ as Lord and Savior—believe in His life, suffering, death, and resurrection—you will have life, and though you suffer, you will hold your heads high. Whereas, those who do not believe that Jesus died and was raised for them will stumble and fall as they go about disobeying God.
Look, if you will, at verse 9, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Peter was letting the people know the real deal. He was saying to them, “you are God’s precious people.” Regardless of their circumstances, their status before God was as chosen, royal, holy, and special people! The Apostle Peter was quoting the Hebrew Scripture. God had spoken these very same words to Moses. When God spoke them to Moses, it was obedience that set the people apart as special. For us, it is belief in Christ and obedience to the Word that sets us apart, and makes us God’s own.
Now, the Apostle Peter, often called the hopeful pastor, was writing to let the people know that they could stand in their identity in Christ. They did not have to let folks tell them who they really were, but rather they could be confident that they were chosen, royal, holy, and special. I stopped by here today, young people, to let you know what God has to say about who you really are. You are premium goods!
I have a pink Kangol hat that I love to wear. I’ve always loved the style because it reminds me of my grandfather. My Uncle Howard can tell you, my grandfather would not be caught outside without his Kangol on. His favorites were tan and baby blue. He was wearing them before L.L. Cool J was rocking them! Well, when I saw this bright pink cap, I knew I had to have it. What makes the hat even more special to me is a pin that I’ve placed on the side of it. The pin, rather small and unassuming, reads “Premium Goods.” It speaks directly to who I am and whose I am. That is what this Scripture text today is all about. Premium means the best, the finest, top quality. To be premium is to be higher than normal. That sounds about right. For the Bible tells us in 1 Peter 2:9 that we are chosen, royal, holy, and special! Young people, you are premium goods and these ancient words, found in 1 Peter 2:9, is still speaking good news to us today.
Society may tell you one thing, but you are chosen! To be chosen is to be selected or favored. The Greek word used in the text is more than just about God choosing you, but it infers that God shows preference to you! My God! Young people, God shows you preference. God chooses you first! Your friends may reject you. Your parents may reject you. Your teachers may reject you. Society may reject you. But I’ve come by here to let you know that God chooses you!
Not only are you chosen, but you are royal! I like this! To be royal is to be clothed with dignity. In other words, you are worthy or respect and honor. Young people, you are royalty! Princes and princesses! Your bodies are royal, and are worthy of respect! Your hearts are royal and are worthy of respect! Your lives are royal and are worthy of respect! Another way to understand what it means to be royal is to be excellent and magnificent! Young people, you are excellent! If your self-esteem has been knocked down—pick it up, because God says that you are royalty!
Not only are you royal, but you are holy! I may lose some of y’all on this one, but I’m gonna go ahead and declare thus saith the Lord! Young people, you are holy. You hear me, holy. To be holy is to be dedicated and separated for God’s exclusive use. To be holy is to be different. As young Christian people, striving to be like Christ, it is important that you live holy lives. Whereas you are royal and deserve to be treated by others with respect, to live a holy life is to make choices for God. God gives us the power to be holy, but we have to walk in it. That means we have to treat our bodies as temples of God and not give them away or poison them with drugs and alcohol. That means we have to treat our minds as sacred and study to show ourselves approved. That means we have to watch our mouths and make sure that what we say is used to build up and not tear down. Holy. Holy. Holy. You gotta walk holy. You gotta think holy. You gotta talk holy. You gotta live holy.
Not only are you holy, but you are special! Some young people are fortunate to grow up in homes where they are told day in and day out how special they are, but many are not. Parents and grandparents, listen up. Tell your young people how wonderful they are. There is so much tearing them down and they need a reality check every now and then. They need to know that God made them special, and that you think that they are special, too. Young people, even if no one ever told you so, you are special. You are precious. You are important. You are valuable.
Young people, I don’t care what society tells you. I don’t care what your friends tell you. I don’t care what your family members might tell you. You are chosen! You are royal! You are holy! You are special! You are loved and cherished by God! You are valuable! You are worthy! You are beautiful! You are all Premium Goods!
I’m almost done. But I cannot leave you there. Young people, God didn’t chose you, make you royal, holy, and special in Christ so that you could be puffed up, or so that you could brag. It’s not about flaunting. No, No. You were chosen so that your life would always point back to God! You were made you royal so that your life, your words, yours actions, would be a praise unto God! You were made holy so that God would get the glory! You were made special so that your life would be a proclamation to God’s transforming power! You are premium goods so that you could be a witness for God. And you don’t have to wait until you are older to tell or show someone how awesome it is to be a follower of Christ. Do it while you are young. I met my best friend 20 years ago when we were freshman in high school. At fourteen years old, she told me about a man named Jesus who had touched her life. She showed me what it was to be chosen, royal, holy, and special! And I give glory to God that because she introduced me to Christ, that I can answer the question, “Do you know who you really are?”
So, young people, if anybody asks you, “Do you know who you really are,” tell them that you are chosen!
Let me hear you say it, “I am chosen!”
If anybody asks you, “Do you know who you really are,” tell them that you are royal!
Are there any royal young people in the house today?
If anybody asks you, “Do you know who you really are,” tell them that you are holy!
Say, “I am holy!” At home, look in the mirror and say, “I am holy!”
If anybody asks you, “Do you know who you really are,” tell them that you are special!
Are there any special young people in the house today?
If anybody asks you, “Do you know who you really are,” tell them that you are premium goods!
C’mon and give God some praise!