But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 HCSB)
These two verses hold out for us 3 vital components for us to understand what God is doing in this world, and by extension what He calls His people to be a part of. Like 3 legs of a stool, they come together and support what God’s kingdom agenda is all about. And if you take away one leg of the stool, it falls apart – Gospel, Church, and Mission.
The gospel is put on display in these verses. Peter says, “you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
As Christians, the gospel is where we find our identity. The gospel is the good news that though we are sinners and rebels who are born in sin and don’t deserve God’s mercy, God has been merciful! The gospel is the good news that Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh and walked among us. He lived a life completely devoted to God. Where we were sinners, He was sinless. Where we have fallen to temptation and gone astray, He did not!
And so Jesus, out of love for His people, purposefully goes to the cross and lays down His life. And what He experienced was the judgment, the wrath, that we deserve for our sins. And because He was the perfect Son of God, He completely absorbed God’s judgment on our behalf, in our place, and paid for it in full, crying out – “It is finished!” God was pleased with this sacrifice, and as a demonstration of His satisfaction with Jesus’ payment for our sins, He raised Jesus up from the dead and offers eternal, resurrection life to all who will believe in Him and turn from their sins.
THAT is the good news! There is a “sweet exchange” that takes place when we become Christians. We come to the cross, and we give to Jesus all of our sin, all of our brokenness, all of our inability to save ourselves… and He takes it! And does away with it by shedding His blood for those things. And in exchange, He gives us His righteousness – His record of perfection is actually credited to our account. So that when we stand before God, we are not defined by our sins, but defined by His righteousness.
Our new identity is as people who have died to our old selves, and have been raised to a new life with Jesus… “Called out of darkness into His marvelous light…” “Once without mercy, now receiving mercy.” What amazing grace! This is the message that must mark the church, and constantly be at the center. Because when it is, it keeps Christ at the center and not ourselves.
Why is it vital to keep the gospel at the center? There are several reasons. Firstly, a Christianity without the gospel as center, is a deficient Christianity. If the lives we live as Christians don’t flow from a deep understanding of an identity in Christ and a deep understanding of what God has saved you from and to – you won’t have humility; you won’t be a thankful person; you’re “faith” will be marked by legalism or laziness. A genuine Christian spirituality is one that understands that we are great sinners, but that Christ is a great Savior. And that gospel-centeredness flows out into all of life.
Another reason why the good news must be central is that no church has a future that strays from it. Christian sociologists have often noted how generations affect upcoming generations. It’s been noted that in the church, the 1st generation often loves the gospel, the 2nd generation often assumes the gospel, and the 3rd generation often abandons the gospel. We must love the gospel and realize that it is the fuel for all of the Christian life.
But the good news isn’t only that God has saved us as individuals, but it’s that He has saved us into His people.
Peter says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession…” Verse 10, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.”
Jesus loves His church. Peter articulates it here with the Old Testament, covenant language that God used for Israel – a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession. The church belongs to Jesus. He loves it. And it’s why we should love it to. The church is the “ekklesia” – “the called out assembly.” And Mount Hope Church has been called out for 3 primary reasons.
Firstly, the church is God’s appointed means for how we are to live out the Christian life. Think about Matt. 28:18-20 for a moment. Jesus has died for sins, risen from the dead, is about ascend to heaven and He says this to His disciples, and to us: “All auhority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” What’s the first thing required in making a disciple? BAPTIZE them! And baptism in the New Testament is always about entrance into the church community. We are saved, then baptized, and we enter the church where we are taught to observe the ways of Jesus. The Bible knows nothing of a lone ranger Christianity, where it’s just me and Jesus. He has saved you into His people, because He is up to something that is bigger than yourself.
Secondly, the church is called out to display God’s glory in the world. In Ephesians, Paul says that in the church the mystery that’s been hidden for ages has now been revealed. And in 3:10, he says this: “This is so God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made know through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens.” The Church is called out by God to display His glory! How? If you back up to chapter 2, we see that it’s by bringing together Jews and Gentiles into loving unity with one another (Eph.2:14-16). Two groups that hated one another, now worshiping Jesus together and loving one another. And as the church embraces this kind of vision, we display God’s glory. The church is a community of diversity unified in the gospel. And as we pursue this kind of vision, the power of the gospel will be displayed through us.
Thirdly, the church isn’t just called to display the gospel, we are called out to declare it. Peter says that we are called out “so that [for the purpose] we may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
The church is given a mission. And it is to proclaim the good news about what Jesus has done. It’s to talk about the One who has saved us and brought us into the light. This is the 3rd leg of the stool. The 1st is the gospel. The 2nd is the church. And the 3rd is the mission.
Bristol needs the gospel. Therefore, Bristol needs the church – a community that will display and declare the gospel. What Bristol needs is a network of Christians who seek to understand and love their neighbors for the sake of the gospel. It’s why it should be an aim to be a church that is in Bristol, of Bristol, and for Bristol. In short, a group of “plodding visionaries” who are seeking to be faithful to display and declare the gospel. This is a long term vision, but it’s also a way of life – planting seeds and allowing God to bring the growth (Mark 4).
Why plant a church? Does Bristol really need another church? The Answer is YES! Two reasons:
Firstly, because church planting is a major means of evangelism and conversion. There are several studies that have shown that 60-80% of new church’s members come from the ranks of people who are unchurched (new Christians!). The average newer congregation will bring 6-8 times more people into the life of the church than an older congregations. And the reality that a church is being planted in Bristol means that God is seeking to save people in Bristol. This is exciting!
Another reason Bristol needs a new church is because church planting is a means of God providing an ongoing witness in a community. Not all churches are guaranteed a future. Though Jesus said His Church would prevail, He did not promise that every local church would prevail (Matt.16:18). Planting gospel-churches is a means of seeing the ongoing witness of Christ continue in a community.
The aim of Mount Hope Church is to be a church in Bristol, of Bristol, and for Bristol. We are called to be a church that keeps the good news of Jesus at the center and share that message with others.