Dressing in this old-fashioned way reminds me of a bit of humor I heard when preaching a retread back a couple years ago. A new pastor came to the First Methodist Church in July, about the same time a new attender arrived in overalls and a flannel shirt. The chief Deacon said something to the Pastor about the fashion of the man with the suggestion that the Pastor mention to the man that we don’t dress like that in our church before the next Sunday. Well, the Pastor tactfully indicated this to the man by telling the man to ask God what he should wear.
The next Sunday, the middle-aged man wore the same thing. Again, the Deacon said to the Pastor, “I thought you were going to tell him how we dress at FMC?” The Pastor responded, “I did, but I’ll tell him again to ask God how he should dress for coming to our church.” Well, the man continued to come and upon arriving the next Sunday was dressed the same way. The Deacon being a bit frustrated inquired from the Pastor once again if he had informed the man and with affirmative indication said, he would ask him again in the aisle as they greeted one another.
So, with the Deacon standing to his side, the Pastor stated less tactfully, “I thought I told you to ask God what you should wear in FMC?” “I did,” the man responded. “But God said, “He didn’t know, He’d never been in your church!” Well, I hope how we dress is not so much a part of our Heritage, but I do believe a part of our Heritage is God’s presence has been with us throughout our 107 years as a people of God. Let’s read more about our Heritage as a people of God from 1 Peter 2:1-10 . . . as we consider Celebrating Our Heritage Today.
This year will make the 107th anniversary of the Elm Park United Methodist Church and we have a great heritage to celebrate. Thousands of sinners and saints have been touched through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ by way of the people first known Elm Parkers. A line in Psalm 44:1 says, “We have heard with our ears O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.” That’s what we celebrate today, the work that God has done among us over the years, we celebrate our Christian Heritage.
When you heard the good news of Jesus Christ, that God loved you and accepted you and that He had a worthwhile and important purpose for your life – He called you out of the world and brought you into a relationship with Himself. He then set you apart and brought every one of us together as a body of believers into Elm Park UMC to become a Kingdom Focused Church.
So, what is our Heritage as a people of God being built into spiritual house to become a kingdom focused church? In verse 9, Peter takes 4 titles ascribed to Israel as the people of God and applies them to us as the New Testament Church of Jesus Christ. This gives us our biblical and spiritual heritage. So, the first description is:
I. GOD’S PRIVILEGED PEOPLE
We are a “chosen generation,” Peter writes. In the OT Israel was called God’s chosen people, a chosen race, an elect race. This had to do with divine election. It had to do with God’s doing, it was a choice that God made, an initiative that God took out of divine love to bring a people into relationship with Himself to love them and accept them and bless them and give them meaning and purpose in life.
We too are chosen people. Paul writes in Ephesians 1:4 “he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him, in love.” It’s our heritage to be an elect people, which indicates God’s initiative to bring us into a privileged relationship. Jesus clearly said in John 15:16, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you . . .” He said again in John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him.” I shared the good news and I pray that God will so take the initiative and, in His love, draw him to Jesus and make him a part of God’s Privileged People.
We are God’s designated, elected, prized, and privileged people. However, the other side of that privileged coin is the responsibility to take the good news to all people. The rest of John 15:16 says, “and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” It’s part of our Heritage to be God’s Privileged People, but we are also:
II. GOD’S PRIESTLY PEOPLE
We are a “royal priesthood,” Peter writes. In the OT Israel got hung up on the privilege part of being God’s people and failed in the responsibility aspect of their privileged position. That’s why God called them to be literally “a kingdom of priests,” priests in the service of God who was their king. Of course, you’ll remember the time came in their life as a people that they refused God as their king and wanted a king like the other nations. But what God wanted was for them to be a kingdom of priests to represent Him to the peoples and nations around them.
A part of our Heritage is to live out the “priesthood of believers.” Under God, we are to be priests in the service of the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s Jesus Christ. We’re to stand before the world as witnesses of the good news that God loves and accepts every person on the face of the earth just as they are, when they put their trust and faith in Jesus Christ. We’re not just to bask in the privilege of being God’s privileged people, but we are to bear the responsibility of being God’s priests to stand before and go to this lost and dying world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
But hold it just a moment – that’s not all there is to our heritage of being God’s Priestly People. The other side of that priestly coin is to stand before God and pray, plead, and intercede on behalf of people who do not know God. In a conference week before last that several of us attended, our Missionary in the Office of Leadership and Church Growth stated that in addition to the Five Fold Function of the Kingdom Focused Church which includes: Worship, Discipleship, Fellowship, Ministry and Evangelism – he said that our state leadership believes Prayer is to be an area of Focused Function in order to carry out the Desire, Design and Direction of God for the Kingdom of God. Every church ought to have a functional prayer ministry as a part of our heritage of being God’s Priestly People. A third thing to celebrate as our Heritage is, we are:
III. GOD’S PURELY PURPOSEFUL PEOPLE
We are “a holy nation,” Peter writes. God is a holy God. He is other than. He is different from what we are.
A part of our heritage is to be a pure people – that’s why we emphasize our Church Covenant. It has some very practical ways in which we covenant together to be different from the culture and world around us. In 1 Peter 1:13., we’re given exhortation as to how to set ourselves apart. We’re to be different from, to consecrate and dedicate ourselves to purifying ourselves or as the Bible calls it, purging which leads to a pure heart as in 2 Timothy 2:19-26.
Of course, to be pure is to be holy and to be holy is to be set apart for a purpose, which is what Paul is talking about here. And that’s what Peter was talking about. We are God’s Purely Purposeful People set apart to be servants, literally bondservants – which was a slave whose price of freedom had been paid, but once freed he chose to remain under his master to live out the remainder of his life in obedience.
As God’s purely purposeful people, we must put off the flesh, come out from among the world, walk in the Spirit and commit ourselves more precisely to God’s purposes – to the 2 Foundations of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. If we are to be pure and holy it will only come out of an intimate, meaningful, personal, real, dynamic, vital, and vibrant relationship with God through being in Christ and Christ being in you. And out of the holiness of prayer, worship, and fellowship in relationship with God there will come renewal and revival in your relationship from which will come a lifestyle of discipleship, evangelism, and ministry in obedience to the Spirit and purposes of God. As we celebrate our Heritage, finally we do so as:
IV. GOD’S PERSONAL PEOPLE
We are “God’s peculiar people,” Peter writes. And some of God’s children are quite peculiar – wouldn’t you say? But strange, different, and unique is not what Peter had in mind. What this phrase means is that Israel was, and we are a people belonging to God. The OT has “peculiar treasure” which carries the idea of a special treasure, that is uniquely His. We have a special place in the heart and plan of God. We are a people of His own, a people belonging to God. This tells us we are truly treasured by God. We are a people for God’s own possession and purposes. We are God’s special possession that He might possess us and do with us what His perfect will is. Titus 2:14 tells us therefore that we ought to be a people possessed with a passion to be on mission with God – a unique mission.
The Message Bible translates verse 9, “But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for Him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he makes for you – from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted." We truly have a great heritage to celebrate. May the Holy Spirit move among us as we celebrate in the spirit of holiness and fellowship.