The Completed Sermon - Priesthood of Believers

With the election going full-steam, all that is on the news is pieces on John Kerry or George Bush. So it got me and my wife talking, something we probably need to do more often. And I decided to send an email to President Bush. I hopped online. Went to And found the President’s email address. Typed up the email and sent it. Off it went while I wondered if I would get a response. Within seconds, lucky me, I received the only response I have yet to get.

Thank you for e-mailing President Bush.  Your ideas and comments are

very important to him.

Because of the large volume of e-mail received, the President cannot
personally respond to each message. However, the White House staff
considers and reports citizen ideas and concerns.

In addition to, we have developed White House
Web Mail, an automated e-mail response system. Please access to submit comments on a specific

Additionally, we welcome you to visit our website for the most
up-to-date information on current events and topics of interest to you.

Now, if you would, please turn in your Bible to 1 Peter. We’ll be reading from the beginning of chapter 2. A portion of Scripture that sets up a concept about God that gives him a completely different leadership style than our President showed when I received the automated response.

1 Peter 2:1-10

1 Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander.2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.6 For it stands in scripture:

“See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

7 To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner,”
8 and “A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

10 Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.

Today, I want to focus on the last section of this passage. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.” Jeff focused last week on the concept that we are the temple. That we need to be holy. The first half of this passage deals with that. The second half deals with the subject of what being the temple of God changes concerning our role in the world.

Too often we have turned God into a being that is so distant from us that we designate men or women to become intermediaries between us and God. Somewhere along the journey from the time of Christ until now we have made God and his truth into such a mystery that we need specialists to interpret it; we need professionals to head up loving those that need to be loved. We have, albeit not consciously, turned many of the things of God into things that can only be done by the experts, the trained clergy, the "priests" of the church. And we might not label our pastor's with the title "priest", but we still give them all the power, authority, and responsibilities that the pagan cultures give their priests. We have created a god who is like the wizard from Oz, a god where only trained people can look behind the curtain and see the reality. However, unlike in the Wizard of Oz, when the curtain comes down, everyone will see the face of God. There is no gimmick here. Being the priesthood of believers is about taking that curtain down, about bringing God to the world.

When I was a youth pastor, there were multiple parents who came to me and asked me to talk with their children about making a decision to follow the Lord. I remember having teens in the youth group asking me to go and talk to their grandparents in the hospital about coming to the Lord. Although I don't mind being given the opportunity to talk to someone about Jesus, these instances tell me that we have a serious problem. And I don't think these experiences are unique to my ministry. They tells me that we have either a serious education problem in our churches or a dangerous misconception of the priesthood - or even worse - we have a dangerous misconception of the priesthood and a serious education problem. If you are a believer, you are just as qualified as an ordained minister to be a witness for Christ. And if you are in a relationship with the person that needs to see and know the Lord, you are more qualified. Let me repeat that because it is important. If you are in a relationship with the person that needs to see and know the Lord, you are more qualified than people like me who have been trained for years on how to be an effective minister. Each one of us is a priest, a member of the priesthood of believers. Just like the priests in the Old Testament were used in making sacrifices to make people right with God, we are called to sacrifice ourselves to help people see God.

Paul wrote, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Paul doesn't appeal to just the paid pastors or the leadership in the church. He appeals to every brother and sister. He asks them all to present their bodies as a living sacrifice. We were told by Peter to come to Jesus, the living stone, to become a royal priesthood in order that we will offer up spiritual sacrifices to God. And here we are told by Paul that our spiritual act of worship is to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. What a different place the church would be if the believers really did that. What a different place the world would be if the church was as God planned it to be.

But we are held down, oftentimes, by our misunderstanding of the priesthood. We leave the sacrificing to those paid to do it. But we see here that we are all called to be part of the priesthood. We are all called to sacrifice.

And before I get too far into this, I want to give a disclaimer in order to not be stoned after this sermon. Living out being the priesthood of believers and still accepting the role that the leadership plays is a tough concept to grasp. I still wrestle with balancing the two on a regular basis. But I do not want to be clear that by no means am I denigrating those who give their lives to serving Christ by being in the paid ministry. Most of them are where God has called them. I'm not talking about them or to them here today. If I was, I would have a different message. I'm talking to a group of believers who are not paid ministers yet have the potential to change the town of Antwerp by standing up and being the priesthood of believers.

One of my favorite deceased authors, Elton Trueblood, wrote in 1952, "A way in which the ministry is unique is that, in performing it, the amateur often has advantages which are denied to the professional practitioner. In many fields, such as natural science, the increased professionalism of the individual makes him more trustworthy whereas in the life of religion the increased professionalism may make him less trustworthy...Most words of a clergyman are minimized simply because he is supposed to say them. A pastor's convictions are discounted because he is supposed to have a professional stake in the effort to make them prevail. Sometimes people sink so low as to remark that this is what he is paid for; he is on the side of the angels by virtue of his employment. The contrast in effect is often enormous when a layman's remarks are taken seriously, even though he says practically the same words. His words are given full weight, not because he is more able exponent, but because he is wholly free from any stigma of professionalism."

And what Elton Trueblood wrote in 1952 is still true today. As I've said, I've been on the other side of the fence. I've been a paid youth pastor. But I want to be clear to get this across. I think there is a role for a pastor. I'm not saying let's stop having pastors. What I'm saying is let us stop exalting pastors above everyone else. Pastors have an important role to play in equipping and training the flock to be the priesthood, and with that role comes some weaknesses that a healthy body of Christ can remedy.

I noticed when I was a youth pastor that people, oftentimes, disregarded what I felt led to share. They disregarded my loving actions. In the back of many people's minds, I assumed, was the thought that I was being paid to do what I was doing, that I was being paid to say what I was saying. That wasn't true. Most people go into the ministry, not for money, but because they are trying to be faithful to the call God has placed on their lives. The fact that many people disregard the actions of a paid minister shows us how important it is for us to live in such a way that Christ is shone through our lives where we work, play, and live. The message we share with our actions and our words cannot be misconstrued as us being paid to do it. The gospel of Christ needs to be proclaimed in the streets, not only by those paid to do it, but by everyone that is a follower of Christ, by every member of the priesthood of believers.

So what does this change? Maybe you already live your life as a believer who views the pastor as another brother in Christ rather than an exalted superior that is absolutely necessary for us to hear and communicate with God. If so, sorry for wasting your time, but thanks for enduring this sermon patiently without throwing rotten tomatoes at me.

But if this is a concept that is new to you, the fact that you are as a much of a priest as the ordained ministers filling the pulpits of this town this morning, as much as the ordained ministers that have spoken from where I stand, then it should probably change some things.

First, you will realize the importance of your relationship with God. You are a priest responsible for sacrifices to God. And what you should be sacrificing is yourself daily, so that others will be able to see God through you. One of the biggest misconstrued concepts of the Christian faith is the idea of freedom in Christ. I will touch on it very briefly here because it is important to this point, but it could be a whole sermon in itself. Paul wrote in Galatians, “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love becomes slaves to one another.” Priesthood does not give us freedom to use for self-indulgence. We are given freedom to be slaves one to another. When you think of the ideal pastor and how he should be a servant to his congregation, that is what you are supposed to be to those around you. Being in a right relationship with God is essential to being an effective priest.

Second, your calling to be a factory worker, an office worker, a retail worker, or whatever else God has called you to is just as high of a calling as someone called to be in the paid ministry. The only thing that makes your calling less important is a lack of faithfulness - if you are where God didn’t intend for you to be. And that can also be true of pastors. It matters whether we are being faithful to God rather than the importance of our position or being exalted by others.

Third, all of us are first, priests of God. That needs to consciously be our primary occupation. When we’re at work, we need to have the mindset of a priest and seek the kingdom of God. When we’re shopping, we need to have the mindset of a priest and seek the kingdom of God. Whether we are entertaining ourselves, hanging out with friends, getting ready in the morning - whatever it is that we are doing – we need to have the mindset of a priest and seek the kingdom of God. Priests are in the process of making those around them right with God, and that needs to be our focus. Our primary role in life as a Christian is living out our role as a member of the priesthood of believers.

And if you’re sitting out there today and are not in a relationship with God. This message should bring hope to you. You don’t need to depend on people like me or the other people who get up and share to have a relationship with God. God wants you to be one of his priests. He wants you to have a direct link with him. And he has provided the power for that through the sacrifice of Jesus, the high priest of God. No matter what you have done, how long you have strayed, God says that he wants you to be a priest for him.

There's a story about an extremely wealthy man who possessed vast treasures of art. The man had only one son who was a very ordinary boy. The child passed away in his adolescence and had little effect on anyone. The father greatly mourned his son's death. Within a few months after the death of his son, the father died as well.

He stipulated in his will that all his possessions and art treasures were to be auctioned. And, strangely enough, he added that one particular painting had to be auctioned first. It was a painting of his son done by an artist whom no one really knew. The auctioneer in accord with the man's wishes, directed the assembled crowd to the painting of the rather obscure son of the wealthy man. He started the bidding there. Since no one knew the boy or the artist, the bidding was silent.

After a long time had passed without any bid at all, an old man who had been a servant in the house of the wealthy man came forward and said he would like to place a one-dollar bid on the portrait. He wanted to buy the painting because he had loved the son very much. At that point in his life, however, a dollar was all he could afford to pay. There were no other bids and the servant was able to purchase the painting of the son for one dollar. Then the dramatic moment came as the auctioneer read the next portion of the will. It said this: "All the rest of my treasure shall go to the one who loved my son enough to purchase his portrait. "

Each one of us has the opportunity to be fortunate like that servant. God has placed a high calling on each of our lives – to be a member of his priesthood. And each one of us can become a member of the priesthood by being like the servant in the story and giving God our all. And unlike our being American citizens unable to communicate with our President, God wants us to be in a relationship with him. He wants us to know him. He wants us to share our thoughts and desires with him. He is there for us any time we need him. We never have to go through another human to talk with God or to learn what God wants for our life. We are the priesthood of believers. And, the greatest thing is, he wants us to join in on his work of redeeming the world. So, fellow priests, let’s go serve.