Identity is a precarious and complicated thing. One moment we think of ourselves as capable of accomplishing anything we set our minds to, and the next moment we are in turmoil over our tendency to trip up and fall flat on our faces. The person we believed we were fails us. This, in its various forms and expressions, is the anxiety of our fallen human condition. While we secretly know something deep within us is wrong, we don’t want to believe it. We have a God-given urge to think better of ourselves than experience has shown us to be. We want an identity that is internally consistent—that relieves us of our angst.
God, who is the author of our lives, knows this. He knows it and He has the solution to our identity quest. The solution is tied up in God’s Son, Jesus, and our response to Him.
When we allow Jesus to step into our lives, He begins the process of turning everything right side up. Coming to Him and giving up the struggle of trying to be who we are not, causes something deep within us to change. We think of ourselves differently. We become part of a process of transformation from the inside out. Façades drop. The reality of who we really are comes upon us like a light. Our true identity emerges.
We’ve explored this in the first four parts of asking “Who Are You, Really?”: We discover we are children of a loving Heavenly Father, citizens of another place, and living stones. What else are we?
“You,” explains Jesus’ disciple the Apostle Peter, “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
That’s an earful. Peter employs a Hebrew idiosyncrasy in his writing here. He is saying the same thing four different ways—a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God—they all mean “a specially God-focused group.” Let’s use the term ‘royal priests’ simply because it is so unique. Not many of us would have called ourselves that naturally. Does that mean we need to change our vocation and start wearing the robes and vestments of the clergy in order to identify with our new office?
Let’s look at what Peter says. He explains that this new identity and purpose as priests is to enable us to “declare the praises of him.”—that is, of God. Why? Because he “called (us) out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
We each have a story. We each have our own anecdote of darkness we’ve experienced. When we take God’s hand, He moves us out of that darkness and into the wonderful and awe-inspiring light of His presence with us. That’s a story of God’s amazing grace in our lives.
“The chief privilege of a priest,” explain the footnotes in the NIV Bible for this Scripture passage in I Peter, “is access to God.” Believer-priests are those for whom God removes the barriers between Himself and them. He reveals Himself, His character and His great truths to His priests. He hears their prayers. He makes His presence known to them in innumerable, meaningful ways throughout their day. That is the privilege given to each person who comes to Christ, entrusts him/herself to Christ’s salvation, and chooses daily obedience to His teachings found in His Word, the Bible.
Not only that. Christ Himself is the great High Priest, the One who has intimately known the presence of God by virtue of being one part of the Trinity of God. So He becomes our identity-model, the same way He does with the other identities we’ve observed: the only begotten Son models our filial relationship with the Father, the Firstborn of Heaven models our new connection with God’s kingdom, and the great Cornerstone enables us to be living stones in an eternal home with God. Jesus, the High Priest, qualifies us to be priests, and teaches us how to offer up the sacrifice of praise to God by our daily lives.
The office and position of royal priests is not exclusive, but it is conditional. It is open to every one of us who surrender our lives to Jesus. It means giving up our false identities that in any way exclude Jesus as primary identifier. That’s the part about being “called…out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
We were created to be like Jesus—nothing less. “Come to me,” He invites us each day, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29).
(Photo Credit: NormanB [[File:Rome – St.Peter’s Basilica – Small Dome 0461.jpg|thumb|Rome – St.Peter’s Basilica – Small Dome 0461]])