Strangers Passing Through

Strangers Passing Through

Opening Illustration:
I have had the opportunity to travel to some pretty fantastic places over the years. I have visited several foreign countries and seen some of the wonders of the world. I have seen the Mona Lisa and stood on the Great Wall of China. I am traveling to Paris, France in just a few days on a Mission Trip with members from this church in a few short days. I love traveling. 

Do you know what this is? That’s right, its a passport. Specifically, it is my passport. In order for me to enter into another country, I have to have a passport. I can remember that when I traveled to China that not only did I have a passport, I also had to have a temporary visa. Many of you have traveled before. You have gone though customs. You have had to produce that passport and visa. They look you over, ask why you are coming into the country and then they stamp your passport and grant you access. 

Friends, do you know what it means to have your passport stamped? It means that they are giving you temporary access as a foreigner to the country.  

Can you stay there forever? No!

Can you make yourself a home in that foreign land? No!

When your passport is stamped, it is expect that you will pass through, not plant roots. 

Brothers and sisters, do you realize that you have as spiritual passport? No, you cannot see it but its there. That passport allows us to pass through this world but only with the understanding that we are not planting roots here.  When we become Christians, we become a citizen of a spiritual Kingdom that trumps any earthly citizenship. 

We are a part of a perfect Kingdom, with a perfect King!

So answer this question this morning…

Are You Passing Through or Planting Roots?

Background and Context
Just before Peter wrote his first letter to his Gentile brothers, the emperor Nero set fire to Rome. Nero had a lust for building and expansion so in order to satisfy his desire, the burned the entire city to the ground. Everything was gone. Homes were rubble. Pagan temples were burning heaps on the ground. Thousands of people died. The Roman people were discouraged and angry. It seemed that all of their household gods and idols could not prevent this terrible thing from happening. People are pretty predictable. When people are frustrated and angry they look for someone to blame. Nero certainly was not going to take credit for the arson. Instead, he turned the Romans against Christians. Persecution broke out all over the Roman Empire against Christians. Peter addresses this persecution throughout his letter. 

Imagine that you are a believer in Christ and you were going through the same harsh treatment. Perhaps you had been beaten. Maybe you had a family member crucified. Perhaps your Roman neighbors had stolen your property and taken your home. You would be upset. You would not be feeling the Christian “victory” Im sure. 

Peter addresses these issues and longs to encourage his fellow believers. When you first read I Peter, you will see that he is writing the letter from Babylon. Most scholars believe that Peter was using a code word for Rome. Peter was not in some foreign distant land, he was right there with his brothers and sisters in Christ. He was aware of their suffering and hardships. He wanted to let his friends know that if he was aware, than God was also aware and that God had a purpose for this suffering. 

I Peter 2:9-11 ESV
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies 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.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

As Strangers We Have…

I. A Heavenly Citizenship vs. 9
I Peter 2:9 ESV
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession…

Now you must remember the audience that Peter is writing to. He is writing to Gentle believers in Rome. His letter would have spread far and wide and new converts would be encouraged by his words. 

These believers would have been familiar with the idea of citizenship. I say idea because not everyone living in Rome was a citizen. Women could be considered citizens but they could not participate in government. Freed slaves were often never granted citizenship. Slaves certainly were not going to be citizens. If you were a conquered people living outside of Rome, you were almost never granted citizenship. If you did not fit into any of those classes, you might be able to be a citizen of Rome depending on your family, your wealth or your education. 

Here’s the deal, everyone wanted to be a citizen of Rome but not many could afford it. To be a citizen of Rome meant that you had certain rights and privileges that others simply did not have. 

Case in point, do you remember when Paul was going to be whipped and beaten because he was talking about Christ in Acts 22? The soldiers strapped Paul down and they were about to lash him. Then Paul said this in Acts 22:25-29.

Acts 22:25-29 NLT
25 When they tied Paul down to lash him, Paul said to the officer standing there, “Is it legal for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried?”
26 When the officer heard this, he went to the commander and asked, “What are you doing? This man is a Roman citizen!”
27 So the commander went over and asked Paul, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
“Yes, I certainly am,” Paul replied.
28 “I am, too,” the commander muttered, “and it cost me plenty!”
Paul answered, “But I am a citizen by birth!”
29 The soldiers who were about to interrogate Paul quickly withdrew when they heard he was a Roman citizen, and the commander was frightened because he had ordered him bound and whipped.

You see, citizens had rights that no one else had. Rights to due process and a fair trial. My point being…everyone wanted to be a citizen of Rome! However, not just anyone could be a citizen of Rome. 

Peter points out that this is not the way it works in the Kingdom of heaven. Heaven is filled with worldly immigrants. Heaven is filled with people that Rome may not have wanted but Jesus wants completely. No, they may not be citizens of Rome, but they are citizens of a greater Kingdom with a greater King. 

Where Rome did not choose them, God would choose them.

Where Rome would not grant them access to the governor, God would give them access to the King of Kings. 

Where Rome might simply cast these Gentile believers aside as trash, God accepted as heirs, adopted sons and daughters with special rights and privileges. 

Their citizenship was not stamped on temporal paper, it was secured through the blood of Christ on the cross. 

They may have no privileges or rights on earth, no matter, they were saved and justified before God and forgiven. 


Friends, Paul uses the words “sojourners”. People traveling trough. Not a people planting roots but a people moving on, moving out and moving up. 

The NASB states it like this, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers…”. 

The word here in the Greek is πάροικος pároikos, par'-oy-kos. It means foreigner, one who lives in places without the right of citizenship. Brothers and sisters, thats what we are here on earth. 

We have a heavenly citizenship that should take priority over all other ties and bonds. Our first thoughts should be about the Kingdom, how we can honor the King, and how we can expand the boarders. Listen to Paul’s words in Philippians. 

Philippians 3:20-21 ESV
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

As Strangers We Have…

I. A Heavenly Citizenship vs. 9
II. A Holy Calling vs. 9
I Peter 2:9 ESV
that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Have you noticed that every citizen has a job? Here in America there is an expectation of her citizens to participate. Some participate in the military, others as firefighters, the police, teachers, lawyers, or even ministers. There are lots of important jobs here in America. What about the folks who keep the water filtered and running? What about the garbage collectors? These jobs seem small but without them, our city and community would be a bad place. Everyone is expected to bring something to the table her in America. 

Friends, there is the same expectation in God’s Kingdom. Our main purpose it to grow it beyond our wildest imagination. We called to share the Gospel, the Good News. We are commanded to pull people from darkness into His marvelous light.  

Our calling is all about the Kingdom. 

Tony Evans, one if not my most favorite preacher had this to say about our calling and God’s Kingdom.

“The unifying central theme throughout the Bible is the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom. The conjoining thread from Genesis to Revelation – from beginning to end – is focused on one thing: God’s glory through advancing God’s Kingdom.”

Friends as believers in Christ, we are to be about His call to glorify Him and expand His Kingdom. This means that we grow God’s Kingdom at home, at work, at school, at the gym, on the ball field. 

When we take part of being an active citizen of God’s Kingdom, lives are saved. 

Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

As Strangers We Have…

I. A Heavenly Citizenship vs. 9
II. A Holy Calling vs. 9
III. Been Forgiven Completely vs. 10
I Peter 2:10 ESV
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.

Friend, do you know that you have been forgiven? Seriously, you have been forgiven. I know you hear what I am saying but so many of us choose to live in the shadow of guilt. That is not what it means to be citizen of God’s Kingdom. When we choose to live under guilt and shame, we choose to be a citizen of the world and Satan is our king. 

Brothers and sisters, we are strangers in that world. We don’t belong there. Don’t plant roots in that place. You are just passing through.  

Let me share with you a powerful story.

I have a pastor friend who counseled a woman who, some twenty years before, had been unfaithful to her husband. For years that sin had haunted her. He was the first person she had ever told about it. After they talked and prayed for a long time, my friend recommended she tell her husband. (That, by the way, isn't always the advice he would give. In this case, he knew the woman's husband and knew that her revelation, after the initial shock, would probably strengthen their marriage.) It wasn't easy for her, but she promised she would tell him. "Pastor," she said, "I trust you enough to do what you ask, but if my marriage falls apart as a result, I want you to know I'm going to blame you." She didn't smile when she said that, either.

That's when he told me that he would pray with a high degree of seriousness. (We pray best when we are scared.) "Father," he prayed, "if I gave her dumb advice, forgive me and clean up my mess." He saw her the next day, and she looked fifteen years younger. "What happened?" He asked. "When I told him," she exclaimed, "he replied that he had known about the incident for twenty years and was just waiting for me to tell him so he could tell me how much he loved me!" And then she started to laugh. "He forgave me twenty years ago, and I've been needlessly carrying all this guilt for all these years!" Perhaps you are like this woman: you've already been forgiven years ago, but you don't know God's forgiveness. Instead, you've been haunted by a load of guilt for years.

Perhaps the best gift of being a citizen of the Kingdom of God is forgiveness. 

Psalm 103:12 ESV
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

IV. A Fleshly Conflict vs. 11
I Peter 2:11 ESV
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Point: The Struggle

We have a family in our church with a son who struggles with autism. This young man is a remarkable person and is a blessing to his family and certainly a blessing for me to be his pastor. I have had the joy of watching him grow, laughing with him, and loving him. I did not know much about autism before I came to Eastern Shore Baptist Church. However, this family has taught me so much.

One of the things that I have discovered is that this young man’s behavior is often tied to his diet. His father told me over the phone that if he eats correctly, his behavior is stable. If he eats sugars and carbs, basically all the stuff that we love, he behavior become unstable. 

He is blessed because he has parents that help him, guide him towards food that is beneficial for him and help him become the very best he can be. 

Here’s the problem, even though he knows the right food to eat, he still wants the sugar, the candy, the cupcakes and the pizza. You see, there is a war in his flesh that will never go away. Honestly, I have the same struggle. We all do don’t we? We know what we should do, but there is something inside of us all that cries out for the opposite. 

Some of us struggle with physical needs tied to the flesh that are sinful. Others of us struggle with spiritual and emotional issues that war against us. We know the truth, but it is hard to internalize those truths. 

Just like this young man who has parents that help him and guide him, we have the Holy Spirit to lovingly guide us towards Christ-likeness. 

Friend, let me tell you this morning that if there is no struggle, there is no growth. This young man is growing. He is becoming mature. When we struggle with our spiritual and physical desires, we experience growth as well. We grow closer to Christ. 

Friends, are you committed to waging war against you flesh? As strangers living in a strange land, we are not bound by the rules of this world. We are not commanded by our flesh but we are guided by our faith. 

Our students just engaged in their disicple now weekend. The theme was “strangers”. The idea is that we are all just passing through this world and on our way to a greater Kingdom. My prayer is that each of us will be committed to that Kingdom, accepted the calling that Christ has given to each of us, embrace the forgiveness through the cross, and commit ourselves to purity and holiness. 

Romans 8:6 ESV
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Whose Kingdom Are You Building?


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