Each month we’ll be hearing from one of our Regional Ministers, to encourage us along the way as we continue empowering missional disciples in our communities across the West of England.
So what are you chosen for? Sally’s only been to the church gathering on a Sunday a few times, so it’s a very sensible and obvious question to ask. How would you answer?
I suspect Peter had in mind Silas and Sophie, rather than Sally or Steve when he was writing the first of his two books included in our New Testament:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, 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. 1 Peter 2:9-10
A part of my answer needs to focus on the fact we are chosen to be recipients, beneficiaries, of the mercy of God. That’s the word Peter uses, although I might use others too, such as ‘love’ and ‘grace’. God is love and so his very nature is to love and you can rejoice in receiving just that. What is it that marks Christians out from the crowd and distinguishes us from the tidal waves of cultural trends? Knowing the mercy of God first-hand can transform anyone into being among the most secure and confident people in the world. This is one of the key factors which has led a whole variety of people since the dawn of the pandemic to ask their Christian colleague or friend ‘what is it about you, which makes you different?’ It’s been terrific to hear of some of these subsequently being baptised into our Webnet churches and becoming a part of ‘the people of God’.
Another part of my answer wants to pick up on what follows. We are chosen for a purpose. We are chosen, not solely for our own blessing, but for others also that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
We have been called out of darkness into light. When I became a Christian there was an immediate impact. I felt I became different overnight, so I can identify very easily with this imagery. As a gardener too I see the transformation when I recognise a plant is struggling because it’s planted in the wrong place with not enough light. Bring it out of the darkness and into the light and it’s as if it comes alive again. My wife Maggie was brought up in a Christian home and didn’t notice such a dramatic change because she’d absorbed so much already. Her ‘normal’ looked a lot more like Jesus than mine! However, it makes no difference how much darkness we were in, what matters now is that we are in the light and we are all called to declare the praises of Jesus who brought us there.
Peter was thinking more about how the church was growing then in the first century, by people declaring his praises in one’s and two’s, in homes and working alongside one another in the fields, as well as living lives that were a contrast to the normal. Like the contrast between light and darkness. I recently attended the launch of HOPE 23-24 which will be a more intentional year of mission from September 2023-August 2024. HOPE 23-24 is a call to us all to offer again the hope of Jesus Christ to everyone in the UK. Justin Welby was present as one of our Patrons and said: ‘There is a growing hostility against Christians speaking out about anything other than private morality and we need to stand up against that’. When we declare with our words and live in the light we shall stand out. As we take confidence in God and declare with our words, let us remember there is no law against the fruit of the spirit: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22
I am so encouraged by hearing stories from around our region of people coming to know Jesus. Since the pandemic began the overwhelming majority are as a result of people hearing God speak to them without any previous Christian connection, or through a Christian friend or college. So in this moment in time, when people are more open to the gospel of Jesus Christ than ever in living memory, you have been chosen!