The title of this essay comes from the KJV of Titus 2:14. Peculiar, as used here, doesn’t mean weird or unusual, but special. Most modern translations render this “a people for His own possession” or something similar. Of course, if Christians are to be a people especially His, this would mean that we are different from most everyone else.
We often talk about what it means to be holy. We are commanded by God through Peter to be holy. (1 Pet. 1:15-16) Being holy means being set apart. Holy things are used only for the purposes for which they have been set apart. They aren’t used for everyday, common purposes. Holy people, likewise, don’t just do whatever pops into their heads. We are set apart for God’s purposes. I’m reminded of Romans 6. In the first eleven verses we are reminded no less than six times that we have crucified the old man, buried him in baptism and we are now dead to sin. Instead we are living new lives to God (mentioned four times). Then verses 12-13 hammer the point home:
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”
We are no longer to obey sin or to present ourselves to it as its instruments. Instead, we now are God’s and present ourselves to Him to do His will. This will, naturally, make us different from most and they won’t always like that:
1 Pet. 4:3-4 “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you”
Peter says that the past is where our sinning belongs. And we all have a past, don’t we? But when we decide to follow Christ and live as one of His people, our old friends will be surprised when we no longer join them in revelries. Not only surprised, but upset. “Malign you” is translated in other versions as “speak evil of you”. We will be accused of being holier-than-thou, of judging them because we don’t participate, of being hypocrites, and possibly worse. A word of encouragement for those times, straight from the Lord:
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:11-12)
The ancients didn’t have much good to say about Elijah or Jeremiah or Ezekiel, did they? That’s some pretty good company to be in.
Of course, before our former running mates can berate us for being different, they have to notice that we are different. Remember verse 3 of 1 Pet. 4: “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” These are the things that are supposed to be left in the past. Are they?
SENSUALITY & PASSIONS. I like the word sensuality better than the old word lasciviousness. Sensuality is easier to understand. Anything in which the senses are overindulged. People given to sensuality are chasing whatever feels good and is pleasurable. Not all these things are wrong in and of themselves, but these people put pleasure first in their lives and all else later. You might recall Philippians 3:19 in which Paul refers to some whose “god is their belly”. They’ve given themselves over to their appetites. While slavery to all passions is in view, illicit sexuality is what is commonly thought of regarding “sensuality and passions”. As a Christian, I’d never go out to the dance clubs and dance the grinding, sexual dances of today with whatever barely dressed women are also attending, but boy is it fun to watch Dancing With the Stars! With barely any exaggeration I can say there is only one reason any heterosexual man watches that show: the professional dancing women in their peekaboo gowns. That is why I watched it religiously for years; seeing those women and wishing I was the “star” who got to handle them during the dance. That is why all my male friends at work watched it. I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t watch that show. That’s not my point. I am saying we are to be a special people, a people for God’s own possession and, as such, we need to consider what we are watching and why we are watching it.
DRUNKENNESS. Surely this isn’t a problem in the Church, is it? Three things about that: First, there are quite a few recovering addicts in the Church and we, as loving brothers willing to bear one another’s burdens, need to be aware, ready and willing to help them out in any way they need. Second, it is probably a bigger problem in the Church than many are aware of or willing to admit. So, yes, it needs to be explicitly stated that one of God’s own people should not be getting drunk. And third, there are many Christians who believe that there is nothing wrong with having a glass of wine, or a beer, with a meal. My point is not to argue that right now, but rather to ask a question. Do your worldly friends know that you are the kind who only ever has one glass of wine with a meal or do they know that you are the kind who SAYS you only have one, but half the time you take a second glass followed by a third and sometimes even crack the second bottle? Or finish off the six-pack? Can your friends tell that you are different from them in your alcohol consumption?
ORGIES & DRINKING PARTIES. Now this is one we can cross off without any worry, right? None of us would ever participate in orgies or drinking parties, right? No, but they sure are fun to watch on Game of Thrones aren’t they? And that Spartacus remake is a lot of fun, too. I’d never have an orgy, but I've got to make sure I re-up my subscriptions to HBO and Showtime!
LAWLESS IDOLATRIES. Now, we don’t have anyone bowing down to Baal, but idolatry is more than worshipping idols. It is putting anything ahead of God or my service to Him. I was thinking about the rich young ruler to whom Jesus said that he only lacked one thing: to sell his possessions and follow Jesus. He went away sorrowful. I started wondering about my reaction if Jesus ever came to me and said I had to give up college football permanently. For you, maybe the challenge would come if He demanded you give up your fishing boat, or your golf clubs. Whatever our sticking point might be, we can’t allow anything to get between us and God. Otherwise, we are guilty of lawless idolatries.
Peter doesn’t mention all the ways we should be different from the world, of course. Paul, in Eph. 4:29, tells us to “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths”. Corrupt, or corrupting, talk comes in many varieties. There is cursing and vulgarity, of course. One thought on that: there are no such things as words that are bad in and of themselves. The typical four letter words are generally considered bad because they are usually used for cursing and/or vulgar purposes, but I can express the exact same evil sentiments using other, more acceptable words. Are my evil sentiments less sinful because I changed my vocabulary? Can people tell we are different by the ideas we express in our speech?
Then there is taking the Lord’s Name in vain. Surely that is corrupt speech, and it is common in the world. Our Lord’s Name is now mostly used as a curse or expletive. “God” is mostly used now in sentences like “Oh my God, that restaurant was really good!” Can anyone tell that we never besmirch His Name and that we often wince when others do? Or do we talk like the world?
The final thing I’m going to bring up in reference to us being a people for God’s own possession is our life’s priorities. Have I ever denied myself something that was good and right to do because there were more urgent duties that God demanded? When I make career choices, do I consider what God would want me to do? Am I willing to part ways with worldly friends who are not good for my spiritual walk with God? Am I truly one of His people, or am I living in the world?
When thinking about these things, try to be as honest as possible with yourself. One of the hardest things to do is to objectively evaluate yourself. I once heard a preacher say that man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal. Part of being a Christian is testing ourselves, to see if we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Try to view yourself as an outsider looking at a stranger. And then work to make the needed improvements.
We are to be God’s own people.
Can anyone tell?