Self-image is how we think about ourselves. We draw our self-image from what we see in the mirror, what our friends think about us, what our employer thinks about us, what our parents said to us over the years, the job we hold, the things we own, the expectations we have for ourselves. All of these things impact how we see ourselves.
Counselors tell us that many people suffer from low self-esteem. Self-esteem is the conclusion we draw about ourselves based on our self-image. One figure said over 95% of all people in our society feel inferior.
When we battle low self-esteem we feel isolated and unlovable; we are less inclined to disclose ourselves to others; we lack energy to move forward (what’s the use since we are probably going to fail anyway?); and we are just generally miserable.
Some people say Christian belief contributes to low self-esteem because we talk about our sin and failures and emphasize that we can do nothing to save ourselves. Such people do not understand the message of the gospel. Though we are sinners, we are made new in Christ. In 1 Peter 2:4-10 Peter reminds us of who we are in Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the Foundation of Our New Identity (4,6)
In the previous verses Peter reminded us that we should live differently because we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. He continues the discussion but adds the reason we should live differently: because we are new people.
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him
The “living Stone” image seems to be drawn from Isaiah which Peter quotes in verse 6,
For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”
Peter called Jesus the “Living Stone”. You need to contrast this with the dead “stones” or statues of other faiths. We do not follow a man who is now remembered by some monument . . . we follow a living Savior.
When we think of Jesus as the “living stone” we need to think of Him also as the “vital stone”. Jesus is the cornerstone (or the capstone). Whichever is the correct translation it means the key or vital part of the structure. The cornerstone determined where the walls would be built and made sure the building was plumb. The “capstone” was the stone right in the center of an arch . . . it kept the archway (and the walls) from collapsing on each other. It carried all the pressure of the opening.
If we are going to have a proper view of who we are in Christ we need to understand that Jesus is the vital piece of our life. Our value and our purpose are drawn from our relationship with Him.
Many people draw their identity from their parents or family. Think about the Kennedy’s, the Rockefellers, the Bush’s, the Roosevelts, the Hiltons or the Kardashians. These people draw their significance from their family name. If they change their name they lose a good deal of their influence. The same is true for us. We are the family of Jesus Christ! We belong to Him. We are Christ-followers. If we disconnect from Him we lose most of our significance.
Peter reminds us that the “church” is not the building that sits on a corner. The church is people! You don’t go to church . . . you ARE the church. This is a building where the church meets. When you leave, this place this place is no longer holy. It is holy because it is inhabited by the people of God!
James Montgomery Boice wrote,
Any assembly of people founded on any other foundation is not the church, no matter what it calls itself. On the other hand, all who are united to the crucified but risen Christ by faith are part of his church, regardless of their background or denominational labeling.
The effectiveness of the church is not determined by
Our denominational affiliation
Our style of worship
The way we embrace contemporary culture
The kind of building in which we worship
The Vision of our local leader
Or the political affiliation we embrace
These things might draw a crowd, but they are not a church! The church is anchored to Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul calls Jesus the “head of the church”. The problem in many churches today is that they are trying to move forward without the head! Our identity as a church, and as individuals is tied to our relationship with Jesus Christ!
There are Only Two Responses to Christ
For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,
8 and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
The point Peter makes is that you cannot be indifferent about Christ. You will either become part of His building or His life, or you will stumble over Him.
Peter says there are only two responses to Jesus. There are those who trust in Christ and as a result are made new. These people will never be put to shame. They recognize that they cannot possibly earn forgiveness, grace, or the mercy that is needed for new life. These people have embraced Christ and have also let Christ take hold of them. Real change is evidenced in their lives because of this encounter.
Then there are those who reject the offer of salvation. They stumble over the teaching of the gospel. They believe they can make their own way. And, of course they will make their own way to destruction. The Bible is clear: those who reject the message of new life in Christ will fall. Those who disobey the message (to repent and believe) will stumble. They will face God’s eternal punishment.
There is no other choice! We must either embrace Jesus as the risen and perfect Savior and Lord; becoming His passionate follower; or we reject Him. Half-hearted discipleship is not a middle option . . . it is unbelief! The idea that Jesus is one of many options is unbelief! The idea that Jesus was merely a good teacher is unbelief! Scripture is clear: we either receive Christ as Savior and Lord (or ruler) of our life or we are rejecting Him (stumbling over the rock).
Those Who Believe Have a New Identity
5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6
Those who trust in Christ find a radical shift in their self-esteem. We see ourselves differently. We now see ourselves through the eyes of Christ. Listen to how Peter describes us. . . how he describes you!
We are like living stones. The first thing we are told is that we will begin to resemble THE living stone: Jesus. We are part of God’s great building project. Chuck Swindoll writes,
He has quarried you from the pit of your sin. And now He is chiseling away, shaping you and ultimately sliding you into place. You are a part of His building project.
We are not worthless! Our life DOES matter! We have a role to play in the growth of God’s Kingdom. God is bringing us together to build something special. We are part of His great work of redemption! You may not see what God is doing. You may feel that your life has no purpose. However, if you are a child of God, you can be certain that you are “being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood”.
Think about being part of a championship team. You may not be the star player. You may get more work in practice than you do in a game. However, you are still part of the team. You have a role to play. You are part of the victory. You too receive the prize that comes with the championship. As you talk to others you will rejoice in telling people that you were a part of the championship team.
As children of God we are part of a championship team! Our roles may be different on the team but each role is important. We are not losers . . . we are champions through Christ!
In verse 9 we read more about our identity in Christ,
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praise of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
A Chosen People. Were you ever one of those people who were picked “last” for some team? You may have been picked last for an athletic event; maybe you were picked last for a team of classmates for a school project. Maybe you were even picked last to have some honor everyone else had already been given.
When you are in that position it is no fun. You don’t feel special or wanted; you feel you have been forced on others. Some of us feel that way much of the time. We’d love to feel special but we are convinced we are not special.
Peter says we are ”chosen”. God picked us . . . not because He had to but because He wanted to!!
I’ve always remembered this simple statement: “The truest thing about you is what God says about you.” Other voices may be critical and call you worthless but God says you are specially “chosen”. He picked you! And He picked me! We aren’t “leftovers” we are “chosen”!
A Royal Priesthood The priests were the people who offered up prayers, offered appropriate sacrifices, and encouraged people on the spiritual side of life. God has called us to be ambassadors to a lost and dying world. We are given the privilege of introducing others to Lord of life. We have been granted access to God both for ourselves and on behalf of others.
If someone is given access to the President it shows that this is a person of significance. Access is granted to family members, close staff, and significant political leaders at home and abroad. These people are significant by virtue of their access. You also are significant because of your access before God.
A People Belonging to God. Sometimes a person who has been spoiled all their life will say, “Do you know who my Father is?” (Usually the person is trying to evade responsibility for some action or pleading a special privilege). Others are given unique opportunities because of their parents and the unique access they are granted. We are children who belong to God! When someone attacks us, they attack Him! We are granted a unique and special position in Christ.
Let me quote Swindoll again,
Possessions of the powerful, wealthy, or famous, no matter how common, can become extremely valuable, even priceless. Napoleon’s toothbrush sold for $21,000.00 Hitler’s care sold for over $150,000. At the Sotheby’s auction of Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s personal belongings, her fake pearls sold for $211,500 and JFK’s wood golf clubs went for $772,500. It was not because the items themselves were worthy but because they once belonged to someone else.
Are you ready for a surprise? We fit that bill too.
We are valuable not because of our accomplishments but because of our relationship with the Lord of life.
We Are Recipients of a Great Mercy. Peter says, “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.” (v. 10)
Before we can fully appreciate what we have been given, we need to appreciate what we deserve. The Bible says sin is an offense to a Holy God. The Bible says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In Romans 6:23 we are told “the wages of sin is death (physical and spiritual).” That is hard to hear . . . very hard. But harder to hear is this truth: this is what you and I also deserve. If life was like a job and the Day of Judgment was like payday, our salary would be eternal devastation!
We were lost but Jesus found us. This is what John Newton understood when he wrote the words “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me”. He knew he deserved God’s wrath but instead was given amazing grace. Charles Wesley affirmed this same truth in the Hymn “And Can it Be?” In the second verse he wrote,’
Tis mercy all, immense and free, For, O my God, it found out me.
Amazing love! How can it be That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!
You may feel deprived and poor . . . but you are not. You have received the most desirable gift there is: the grace and mercy of God!
Have you noticed how differently someone walks when they believe they are significant? They stand tall. Their shoulders are back. They have an air of confidence. They are not surprised that others look at them or want to talk to them.
This is the way we should be. We are children of the King of the Universe. We belong to His family. We are part of His work. We are valuable in the womb and valuable in the last stages of life. We are valuable not because of what we have achieved. We are valuable because of who we are in Jesus Christ. We have been made new.
Peter says we should spend our lives “offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ.” What does it mean to give a “spiritual sacrifice”? From other New Testament passages we know that it means at least that
- We offer our bodies and lives to the Lord (Romans 12:1)
- We give of ourselves to love others as Jesus did for us (Ephesians 5:2)
- We give gifts to God’s work and those engaged in that work (Philippians 4:18)
- We offer praise to God (Hebrews 13:15)
- We do good and share with others (Hebrews 13:16)
Basically, if we know who we truly are in Christ, then we will serve Him with all we have and all we are. Knowing Jesus changes us. It changes the way we view ourselves. It gives us a self-esteem that is not dependent upon press clippings, physical form, income or the opinions of the world. Our value is tied to who we are in Jesus Christ.
When we see ourselves this way, we won’t believe what we see. Instead of flaws we will see potential. Instead of seeing someone beaten and bruised by daily life, we will see someone who is loved and cherished by the One whose opinion is the only one that matters. Jason Gray writes,
Too long have I lived in the shadows of shame
Believing that there was no way I could change
But the one who is making everything new
Doesn’t see me the way that I do
He doesn’t see me the way that I do
I am not who I was, I am being remade, I am new
I’m chosen and holy and I’m dearly loved, I am new
When this sinks in we will stand taller, worship more passionately, believe more fully, love with more abandon, and we may even find ourselves smiling with wonder when we look in the mirror.