Keep Your Identity

February 05, 2023 | Jess Rainer

Passage: 1 Peter 2:11-12

Losing $1,000 as a bank teller  - realization that the money was stolen.  Fraud was a regular occurrence at the bank I worked at. I should have known better.  I got comfortable and let my guard down; it cost me (and the bank) greatly.  We get a warning today in Peter’s letter.  Don’t let your guard down as a Christ-follower.  We can’t let our guard down because there is a war being wages against our souls.  So far in our Sermon Series: Hope Fully, Peter has been laying the foundation for what it means to have hope in Jesus.  I’ll keep repeating this as long as we are in this letter: hope is not a wishful thinking.  Hope is an assurance and longing for what’s to come.  Namely, Jesus coming back and completing God’s redemptive plan.  When we begin a relationship with Jesus, we are given a hope that is unshakeable.  We are to hold on to that hope, make sure it has the right characteristics, and make sure it’s in the right environment to grow.  Last week, we saw the hope that comes from our relationship with Jesus is what makes this life make sense.  Today we will see the reason that Peter is building this understanding of who we are and what we have is because Satan is going to do whatever he can to disrupt our hope and our identity.  Today, Peter begins a new section of his letter.  In just two short verses, Peter sets the tone for the next two chapters.  I want us to pause and look at these two verses.  Here’s what we see today:  Battle to keep your identity in Jesus.

1Peter 2:11-12 [ESV] 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

In these 2 verses, we see three ways we can battle to keep our identity.  Here’s the first one: Battle to keep God supreme in your life.

1) Dwell on heaven. (vs. 11a)  Peter consistently goes back to the theme of temporary residents in his letter.  Let me remind you that the original readers of Peter’s letter were either in the beginning season of hardships and sufferings or were about to enter a season of hardship and suffering.  Peter names several provinces at the beginning of this letter that included diverse people both geographically and ethnically.  As the gospel was spreading, these Christians would have been marginalized in every way: societal standing, economically, and relationally.  Put yourself in their shoes for a moment.  The gospel transforms your life and everything about your known world begins to change.  I know some of you have experienced that to a degree in your own life.  Some of you have lost a lot by following Jesus.  Peter feels this weight as he starts write verse 11.  “Dear friends”  This isn’t Peter using a moniker because he can’t remember their real names.  That’s what happens a lot in church when someone says, “Hey brother!”  BTW, just tell the person you forgot their name.  And let’s all agree not to get offended when someone forgets our names.  Are we all cool on that? Cool.  Peter is showing sincere affection for these people.  After Peter shows his affection, he once again uses a term we’ve seen already.  11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners”…  Why does Peter emphasize us as temporary residents?  This world as we know it will not be anyone’s permanent home.  God will come back and create a new heaven and new earth.  I’ve mentioned before we have 3 options to live this life:  

1) Immigrant – Someone who tries to make this world their permanent home.  They invest in this life with everything they have because this is all there is. 

2) Tourist - Someone who wants to remain superficial.  They just want to take in the sights and sounds. 

3) Temporary Resident - Someone who wants to make the most of where they are knowing they have a true and final home somewhere else.  That’s us as Christ-followers.  Or at least that’s where we are supposed to be. 

Why did Peter go back to reminding us of our position in life?  Why does it matter if we act as a temporary resident or no?  Because the danger of being a temporary resident is that we slowly start becoming a permanent resident.  It’s one thing to know your status.  It’s another to start living your status.  But what Peter is concerned about is maintaining our status day in and day out.  Here’s how we do it:  We maintain our identity by dwelling on our future home in heaven.  I have a “3-day rule with family”  If I’m able, I try not to spend more than 3 days at a time with family.  Why? Because the shiny wears off pretty fast.  I notice that after 3 days, I start to become more comfortable.  I find myself opening up cabinets looking for hidden candy.  I take over a place at the dining table as my office.  I start becoming comfortable in place that isn’t my own.  Recently, my mother-in-law got me a coffee mug that was for me when I was at her house.  And then I opened the medicine cabinet…I reminded myself that I was just a visitor!  That’s the danger that Peter is warning us against.  There’s more to the warning, but Peter starts by reminding us to keep our focus on God and heaven.  We are reminded of our status as temporary residents because it sets the framework for the warning Peter gives.  Here’s what we are called to do next to keep our identity: Battle for your soul.

2) Battle for your soul. (vs. 11b)  As temporary residents, Peter warns us to what?  Look at the second half of verse 11:  11b …to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.  This war that Peter writes about takes place in two ways: 

1) The first is the battle for your soul’s salvation.  Satan does not want you to believe that Jesus is Lord.  That Jesus is the only way to eternal life with God. Quote: “Jesus said, "What will it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul? For what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26). If the soul is lost, the whole person is lost. And there is no way to negotiate to get it back. When this war against the soul is over, it's over. There is a great gulf fixed and none can cross one way or the other—from heaven or from hell (Luke 16:26). If the anti-soul forces win this war, the soul is lost forever.” – John Piper.  Once the battle for your soul’s salvation has been secured by Jesus, it can never be taken away.  Satan knows this as well, which then leads to the second battle.

2) The second battle is the battle for your soul’s effectiveness.  I’ve said this before and it’s worth repeating: The worst mantra to live your life by is “follow your heart.”  That phrase has been updated recently to “you do you.”  And I’m sure there is another revision that has taken place even more recently.  Why can’t we live our lives by that standard?  Because your heart is a battlefield.  There are desires in this world that wage war against your soul.  Satan is consistently enticing us to do things outside of God’s design.  Satan wants you to focus on what doesn’t matter.  Quote: “Our modern world is massively preoccupied with the inconsequential.” – John Piper.  God has given us some wonderful gifts to enjoy.  Here’s an easy one to connect with: God designed for us to enjoy intimacy in marriage (mentally, emotionally, and physically).  God wants you to enjoy that gift! (Any amens on that one?!)  What Satan loves to do is to take that gift and distort it.  He will present a distorted version that is easier and cheaper.  The problem with Satan’s version is that you get what you pay for.  And Satan knows that if he can get you in the cycle of running after the next version of easier and cheaper, then you’ve lost the effectiveness of your soul.  Illustration: Haunted House in High School - It every turn, I felt something grabbing at me.  I knew it wasn’t good for me, yet I kept going because I wanted to see what was next.  I eventually got to the end and wish I never had entered in the first place.  It was a cheap thrill that left me feeling scared and dirty.  Keep your identity in God by keeping away from things not of God.  

Why is it harder to talk about “doing wrong” than ever before?  During my Community Group this past Wednesday, we got into a good discussion about our identity in Jesus.  Do you all remember what our identity is when we have a relationship with Jesus?  We are chosen, royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.  Let that continue to sink in! Dwell on that too.  Jody, our CG leader, said something that connected the dots between how we live out our identity with others who don’t share the same identity.  Jody said something to the effect, “The reason it has become so hard to talk about doing wrong things is because our identity has become wrapped up in doing the wrong things.”  Our culture has merged living out worldly desires with their identity.  So, when you say, ___(blank)____ behavior is wrong, it strikes someone in the core because their identity in that behavior.  Satan wants to strip away any notion that we are made in the image of God.  When that happens, Satan has won the war the wages on the soul.  Our job as Christ-followers is to keep away from the cheap distortions of Satan.  It’s those cheap distortions that wage war on our souls and rob us of our true identity in Christ.  We must battle to not let anything distort our identity in Jesus Christ.  Dwell on heaven.  Battle for your soul.  And then finally, battle for God’s glory.

3) Battle for God’s glory. (vs. 12)  Verse 12 sets the stage for the next sections of Peter’s letter.  The point for us to know Jesus, have our identity in Jesus, to live out that identity, and to battle against Satan is so that we can give God glory in the different arenas of our lives.  Look at what verse 12 says:  12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.   The goal of a Christian’s behavior is to give God glory.  And how does that work?  How does my (your) behavior give God glory?  When we live out the internal hope that we have – when we live out our identity in Christ – it draws the attention of people in a way that they see Jesus in us.  And that gives God glory.  Live in a way that intentionally draws glory to God.  There’s a line between drawing attention to yourself and drawing glory to God.  Here’s a tough question to ask yourself:  Does how I live my life and what I say leave people wanting more of me or more of God?  Do people walk away from conversations (or social media posts) with you saying, “I like what he said. I like what she said. I want to hear more."  Or do people walk away going, “God is good.”  And this should go without saying, but I need to say it:  Christians should act Christ-like.  Don’t claim Christ and act like a fool.  The world will naturally find a way to villain-ify Christianity. Don’t make it easier for the world to do so.


I remember the moment I walked over to the assistant manager at the bank to tell her that I had figured out what happened to the $1,000.  Losing $1,000 as a bank teller.  In one way, the person cashing the check was in the wrong.  They intentionally altered a check.  On the other hand, it was my responsibility to catch them.  The next day was my last day.  So, I had some options.  1) I could have walked out of the bank that day and quit; 2) I could have ignored it as if it never happened; 3) Fight for what was right.  What did I do?  I totally walked out that day… I hope you don’t believe that!  I tell my kids “There’s always time to do the right thing.”  I fought to get that money back over the next 24 hours.  Even though, I couldn’t recover the money, I battled to end well.  Battle.  As you go out this week, put your feet on the cornerstone of Jesus Christ.  See your identity as chosen, loved, wanted, and God’s very own possession.  And battle against Satan who wants to rob you of that identity and rob God of His glory.  Let’s be a church that fired up about the right things.  Let’s be a church that fights to against the war that is being waged against our souls.  Let’s be a church that lives out our identities in a way that is a sweet aroma to those around us.  Let’s be a church that fight for the hope of Jesus.  

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Series Information

This 13-week series focuses on 1 Peter where we will look at what it means to have hope as sojourners.  This chapter points us towards eternal hope.  The Christian hope is more than mere optimism that says things will “hopefully” work out. It is a sure hope, and so we “hope fully” (1 Peter 1:13) through every trial and test of faith.

Other sermons in the series

January 08, 2023

Hold on to Hope

1Peter 1:3-4 [ESV] 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus...

January 15, 2023

Ready and Holy

1Peter 1:16 [ESV] 16 since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am...

January 22, 2023

Hope Grows

1 Peter 1:25 [ESV] 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever." And...

January 29, 2023

Life with Jesus

1 Peter 2:9 [ESV] 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a...

February 12, 2023

Keep Going

1 Peter 2:24 [ESV] 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree...

February 26, 2023

Hope-Filled Marriage

1 Peter 3:1, 7 [ESV] 1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own...

March 05, 2023

Many Good Days

1 Peter 3:12 [ESV] 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous...

March 19, 2023

Life Choices

1 Peter 4:10-11 [ESV] 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve...

March 26, 2023

Continue to Rejoice

1 Peter 4:19 [ESV] 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God's...