A Peculiar People
Study Guide, September 20, 2015 – Pastor Clay Olsen
‘Let’s forget about ourselves and concentrate on God and worship Him.’
In speaking about connecting with God and changing for the better, we have often said that one of the clearest ways to do that is by living out the identity or identities which God has given us. And one of the most striking identities that God has given us is found in 1 Peter 2:9. And the King James Version puts it like this: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…” ‘Chosen generation’…my; ‘royal priesthood’…wow; ‘holy nation’…great; ‘peculiar people’…wait…say what?
‘Peculiar’? What do many people think about in connection with someone being ‘peculiar’? Right, they associate things like, ‘weird, odd, bizarre, off-the-wall’ and so on. And although some of us are rather comfortable with those descriptions anyway, generally, this is not the kind of personal identity most are striving for in their life. But the point is, being ‘Biblically peculiar’ is this the kind of personal identity that we as Christians are to strive to live out, especially since God has already identified us a being a ‘Peculiar People’! And so since we are ‘Peculiar People’, just what does that mean, Biblically?
Actually, even the classic definitions of ‘peculiar’ are pretty honorable. ‘Peculiar’ is defined as: ‘Beyond or deviating from the usual or expected’; ‘unique or specific to a person or thing or category’; markedly different from the usual’; characteristic of one only; distinctive or special’. Now, don’t you feel better about being described as a ‘Peculiar People’? ‘Unique, distinctive, special’…Yeah, that feels really good, doesn’t it? Well, Praise God that He thinks of us, His children, in such encouraging terms!
But there was one other description about being ‘peculiar’ that we need to flesh out a bit, and that was; ‘Markedly different from the usual’. In a article from Our Daily Bread Dr. Joseph Stowell was commenting about this aspect of the Christian life as ‘being different’. And he said: “Most of us don’t want to be different. We want people to like us, and the safest way to do that is to blend in. But following Christ has never been about blending in. Following Christ means to be like Him, to respond to life and to relate to people as He did. It’s a little risky and uncomfortable to be different. But that’s what being an “ambassador for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20) is all about—bringing the wonderful difference of your King to bear on the territory you’ve been assigned: your home, your office, your friendships. Representing the King is not just our calling; it’s a great honor.”1
So yes, it is a great honor and it’s a great calling to represent Christ. And we do this by becoming more like Christ. We have each been called not to be like everybody else, and contrary to pop psychology, nor to even ‘just be yourself’. No, we’re called to a much higher goal than to be like others or just be ourselves. We are called to be like Jesus! Note the command: Eph 5:1-4- “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” ESV
So now we have the goal of being peculiar, or the example of being different; it is to be peculiarly different like Jesus was peculiarly different. Particularly in what ways? Well, in that passage in Ephesians the Apostle Paul gave us some examples. And if you noticed, these examples primarily had to do with morality. Which, in our culture, whenever you act in the courage to obey this instruction of God’s here, as in, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving”; whenever you commit to obeying this in our society, mark it down, you will be peculiar. Why? Because sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, filthiness and crude joking have become the norm, not the exception. And even many people with some church connection either get confused about these things or many even get caught up in some of these immoral habits. And when confronted about it they often say things like, “Well, but wasn’t Jesus called the ‘Friend of Sinners’? Well, sure He was, but Jesus was never a friend of sin! Sinners had a friend in Jesus, but their sin never did. Jesus was always confronting sin in those He befriended, never condoning it.
The classic example of that is when the religious leaders brought the woman to Him that had been caught in adultery. By the way, I always wondered, “Why didn’t they bring the man as well?” Perhaps he was one of them…remember that part about, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone?” Anyway, Jesus’ response to her helped her to realize that Jesus did not see her as an enemy, rather He responded to her as a friend. But as a friend, what did He say? “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” John 8:11 NASU Jesus did not condemn her for her sin, but at the same time He did not and could not and would not condone her sin. He identified ‘sin’ as ‘sin’ and instructed her to repent of it.
Morality is, no doubt, one of the most misunderstood and twisted issues in our culture today. Our culture has become so steeped in sin that they cannot separate the activity of sin from the identity of the individual. And since many who are practicing sin in their lives no longer see nor accept any prospect of their practices as ‘being sinful’ they also will no longer accept any instruction that there can be such a thing as not condemning the sinner, but not condoning the sin. And when Christians try to clarify that there certainly is such a thing, in fact, that is just what Jesus did in not condemning the person, but not condoning the sin, they then just reject the Christian himself or herself as simply being a ‘bigot’ or a hateful person and they default to just writing them off as simply being ‘judgmental’ and ‘hateful’ and someone who goes around condemning people. How ironic that both the religious leaders in Jesus day and many immorally hardened people of our own day are actually the ones who are being judgmental and who are condemning any who dare to say to them like Jesus, “I do not condemn you for this, but go and sin no more.”
But regardless of the religious Pharisees then or the cultural Pharisees today, just like Jesus never condoned sin, neither can we, who are called to be like Jesus. We can never condone sin. Because like Jesus, the true friend is the one who seeks to help sinners come out of sin and to help them from ever being condemned because they will not repent of their sin. Or to be even more accurate, until a sinner repents of their sin and puts their trust in Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior they are still under condemnation. True friends are those who do the loving thing by trying to help them get out from being under that condemnation. However, again, many who love darkness rather than light will reject that description of friendship and love, and will charge them with being hateful and unloving.
And that is the cultural quagmire in which we find ourselves today. But it does not change our calling: “…Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people…” Pray for the courage and the contentment to be different for God’s sake, to be peculiar for God’s sake in the midst of a dark, decaying, and spiritually dying world.
Here’s a help in being Biblically peculiar people in the midst of culture that is conforming more and more to sin and immorality and the idolatry of self-hood. In all matters of morality, whenever the question or issue of morality comes up, make it clear to others that morality was never to be decided according to a person’s culture or by their civil courts, but by their Creator. Morality was never intended by God to be decided by anyone’s opinion, but by His revelation. And if someone asks you for your personal opinion about a moral issue, remind them of the fact that morals are not about man’s opinions but about God’s revelation, which has already been decided by God. It’s like the laws of nature, the laws of morality have already been determined, already been decreed. Regardless of anyone’s opinion, the laws of gravity are already settled and cannot be altered just because some people might want them changed. The Sun is going to continue to rise in the East and set in the West, regardless of anyone’s opinions about it. In the same way that God has decreed these laws of nature He has decreed the laws of morality. They are not open for change because of man’s opinions about them.
Be very clear on this in your communication with others: Morality has already been decreed by God; morality is not to be decided or altered by man. And God’s decrees about morality have already been revealed to mankind in the Word of God. Follow them and be blessed – forsake them and be cursed. Regardless of what societies choose to practice or to make into unlawful laws, when it comes to morality, the only thing that people can choose is the blessing or the curse. The consequences of sinning against God’s laws have already be determined.
The goal of Biblically peculiar people is to become more like Jesus, the Friend of sinners, who neither condemned people nor condoned their sin, but sought to help them find deliverance from the condemnation of sin. That’s the goal. And so what’s the purpose? The purpose of Biblically peculiar people is just what the Apostle Peter revealed: “…that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We are peculiar people with a purpose. You can say you are ‘Peculiar with attitude’ if you like that better, so long as your attitude is to carry out this purpose!
But think about that again: “…that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” One of the things that causes Biblically peculiar people to lose sight of their purpose is that they stop rejoicing over their redemption and so they lose their attitude of gratitude. And in doing so, they then stop showing forth the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. The day we take for granted what it cost for Jesus to rescue us from the condemnation of our sin is the day we stop showing forth the praises of Him who called us out of the kingdom of darkness and into the Kingdom of light and life. It’s also the day we stop acting like ‘peculiar’ people and instead start acting more like the carnal people around us; the worldly people around us.
A key mark of Bibically peculiar people is for them to live with the sense that they belong not to themselves, but to the One who loved then and gave up His life for them. And only the Cross can give you that sense day after day. That’s brought out in a song called “Lead Me to the Cross”, written by Brooke Fraser of Hillsong. It says, “Lead me to the cross where Your love poured out, Bring me to my knees Lord I lay me down, Rid me of myself I belong to You, Lead me, lead me to the cross.” You see, the Cross is not just the place that you go to in order to be delivered from your sin and receive Jesus into your life. The Cross is also the place you return day after day in order to be delivered from your self and to rejoice in the fact that you now belong to Jesus.
Peculiar people know that they belong to Jesus. Peculiar people know that when they look at others, but for the grace of God, there go I. Peculiar people know that Earth at best is a battlefield, Heaven at the least, is joy beyond measure, and that the Lord Jesus Christ is their Savior who has said to them, “I have redeemed you and you are Mine. I have called you by My Name. You are precious in My sight, and I love You.” Knowing this is cause to give God daily thanks and it creates the desire in us to “shew forth the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light.” In other words; it’s what ‘Peculiar People’ do!
Titus 2:11-14- “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all impurity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” KJV
- Dr. Joseph Stowell, Dare to Be Different, Our Daily Bread, Feb. 2008