Stop looking at yourself in carnival mirrors. This is one plea from Paul Tripp’s book, Dangerous Calling. Carnival mirrors give us a distortion of who we really are, and they’re everywhere we look. While this is certainly true of ministers (whom Paul Tripp is addressing in his book), it is equally true of all people. The danger is to mistake our work to be what defines us — to be so fixed on the “carnival mirror of ministry” that we buy as our true identity the twisted depiction it reflects. Paul Tripp explains:
I like the metaphor in Scripture of the word of God being this perfect mirror that I look into and see myself as I actually am. What we tend to look into is carnival mirrors. They show me me, but they show me me with distortion, like the carnival mirror at the fair. I see myself, but there is distortion. This identity thing in [life] is one of those carnival mirrors.
Here is where you see something that is a normal human struggle. The normal human struggle is to look for identity horizontally when I was hardwired by God to get it vertically. I look for something in creation to define who I am, whether that is a marriage or my work or my athletic body or whatever that is. And success in an area powerfully provides that: I am a successful person. This can provide a sense of identity that is marvelously distorted.
I am not something because I am successful — I am something because I am in Christ. Bottom line. And when I need achievements or accolades or things to be something, I have forsaken the gospel in the way that I am living.
We have seen that 1 Peter 2:4-10 shows how the identity of Christ establishes the identity of believers. But two of Peter’s statements press deeper into the Christian’s identity. Because Jesus chose us, Peter informs us, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (v9).
Peter reaches back into the Old Testament book of Exodus 19 when God constituted Israel as a nation, and Isaiah 43, when God promised to reestablish Israel after the exile. These are foundational statements about Israel. By applying them to his church, Peter tells Gentiles that the privileges of Israel are now theirs. They may be aliens and exiles, cast out and rejected by their former people, but God has taken them in. They are a ‘chosen people’ (v9). The phrase ‘a chosen people’ (Isa. 43:20), also takes us back to 1 Peter 2:4 and 2:6. As God chose Jesus, now he has chosen us. All of God’s people, whether Jew or Gentile, are one community by faith.
The privileged state of God’s people leads to privileged action. Because God has redeemed us and we are his, we are heralds who ‘declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light’ (v9b). Peter concludes this section by noting a set of amazing contrasts in 2:10. Let the contrasts resonate: once darkness, now light; once alone, now in God’s family; once awaiting judgment, now receiving mercy.
Today the questions of identity are paramount. At one time, a man or woman belonged to a certain city and family, a certain social group and guild. Today, most of us live far from our hometowns and families. At one time, roles and livelihoods were set from birth or adolescence. Today, we have multiple jobs, even multiple careers. All of this erodes confidence in our identity.
In our culture, our identity and our achievements are often confused with one another. We define others – and let others define us – by our strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments. So we live with the pressure to perform. We are measured and measure ourselves by this, even though so much rests on forces outside our control.
In Peter’s day, identity came from externals: town, occupation, lineage, and gender. That is more stable, but not necessarily better, than our way. It was especially painful for Gentile converts who were reviled for leaving old customs and associations; they lost much of their identity. Further, in following Jesus, the Gentiles chose a leader of dubious paternity from an impoverished city. He was a landless artisan and untrained itinerant preacher who died by public execution.
But the Father reversed all of that and crowned Jesus with honor by raising him from death. Now, Peter, says, those who follow Jesus receive his honor.
It is foolish to find our identity in uncertain things such as wealth or accomplishments or, even fame. If we build on Christ, our worth cannot change, since it rests on his unchanging honor, given to his people. Where do you find your identity? Is it unchanging?
Join us this Lord’s Day as we consider the identity of being in Christ. Would you invite someone to join you this Sunday? I hope to see you in person.
For His Glory,