When you were brought from darkness into God’s magnificent light, you were given marvelous power for a great task: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). You are a witness of excellence to a watching and dying world. Know who you are not, and live, in the power of the Spirit, in light of who you are in Christ — chosen, anointed, holy, loved, and sent.
Many of the problems that plague us as Christians begin with misplaced identity.
We forget who we are as chosen, purchased, and commissioned children of God, and think of ourselves primarily through the lens of something else — success at work, the well-being of our children, the fruitfulness of our ministry, our feelings of fulfillment, or our ability to achieve our goals and dreams. We may even see ourselves almost exclusively through our sin (we are defined by our greatest temptation or besetting struggle), or through our suffering (we are defined by the greatest distress we experience).
When the apostle Peter wrote his first of two letters, he was writing to followers of Christ under siege — with relentless affliction, with persistent persecution, with tenacious temptation. Suffering screamed that they were forgotten or unloved. Their opponents shouted that they had abandoned their faith, their families, and their communities, and that they’d fallen for a horrible fraud. And Satan whispered that nothing had changed, that they were who they’d always been.
As the believers were assaulted with these messages, Peter intercepts their missiles with promises from heaven: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). You are not who you were. You are not what you feel. You are not where you’re tempted to fall. Now, you are his.
- You are not who you were.
One of the easiest ways for Satan to lure you back into sin is to make you think you never left.
Peter says, “Once you were not a people. . . . Once you had not received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10). He’s honest about how bleak things were before they found Christ, when they were dead and rotting in their trespasses and sins, when they let the passions of their flesh have their way, when they were sons and daughters of never-ending torment (Ephesians 2:1–3) — separated from Christ, cut off from his promises, “having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). That was you, Peter says.
But God (Ephesians 2:4). He did not leave you hopeless in your trespasses and sins. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). Peter reminds us that we are no longer who we once were. “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10). Whenever Satan says, “Look at who you were,” we say, “Yes, I was, but God.”
If you are in Christ, you are not who you were. You have been chosen by God into the family of God. Mercy has made you new. As John Newton, a slavetrader turned pastor, once wrote, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”
- You are not what you feel.
If Satan cannot convince you that you’re who you’ve always been, he may try to make you question whether it’s even good news to be God’s. He may send all manner of suffering and adversity, if he’s allowed, against God’s loud and clear declaration in Christ, “I love you.”
We know Peter’s readers were suffering intensely and unjustly (1 Peter 1:6; 2:19). They were being tested by fire (1 Peter 1:7). And fire can make the love of God feel faint. Until it slowly produces a stronger, sweeter, more durable faith, a faith far more precious than gold (1 Peter 1:7).