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  • Writer's pictureLou Hernández

21-04-24 - BORN AGAIN TO A LIVING HOPE - 1Peter 1:3-12



General Douglas MacArthur, regarded for his military brilliance and strong leadership observed, Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair; these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust. Whatever your years, there is in every being's heart the love of wonder, the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing childlike appetite for what’s next, and the joy and the game of life.  

If you were to summarize in a word what MacArthur was describing, it would be living with hope.

Researchers, wanting to see if they could understand hope’s impact on those undergoing hardship, conducted an experiment with 2 sets of laboratory rats that they placed in separate tubs of water. One group drowned within an hour. Rats from the 2nd group were periodically lifted out of the water, then returned.  These rats swam for over 24 hours. Why? Not because they were given a rest but because they suddenly had hope! Those animals somehow hoped that if they could stay afloat just a little longer, someone would reach down and rescue them. 

It’s been said that a person can live  40 days without food, 4 days without water, 4 minutes without air, but only 4 seconds without hope.  And it’s this picture of hope that Peter wants to anchor us in to see us through life when times are hard.

When the Bible speaks of hope, it’s not used with any sense of wishful thinking, no sense of ambiguity that, ‘IF things work out, then perhaps’.  No – the hope the Bible speaks of, is used like a legal ‘trust’ - something that’s secured and put away for a legal recipient to claim at a later date.  It’s what Peter speaks to when He writes, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be BORN AGAIN TO A LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 1 Pet 1:3.

As we consider hope, don’t remove it from the one who writes because there are few better that can speak to the subject than Peter.  Think of the journey he’s been on.  Before meeting Christ, he is living the routine, throwing out nets then repetitively pulling them back in again. Doing the same, day after day and then Jesus appears, plucking him out of that life and giving him a purpose beyond anything he could have imagined.  Not different, not better, but unimaginably new.  His first reaction? – skeptical of his brother’s claims, We have found the Messiah.  I mean how credible was it that the long awaited Messiah would come to people like them?  

But the next Peter we see is no longer the skeptic but the, I left everything to follow committed Peter; the impulsive, ‘first one out of the boat’, courageous Peter, the walking on water, and wildly swinging, poorly aiming knife wielding loyal Peter.  This one, who collected and scaled fish now re-commissioned by Jesus as a fisherman to catch people.  This fisherman who later was witness to Jesus’ heavenly glory, no doubt filling him with hope about what would come next 

And then - Peter in free fall.  Hope not just shattered but obliterated. How do you come to terms with all the things he’d witnessed, including a glorified Jesus; he making his declaration, You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God! and then in the face of a servant girl’s accusation, you deny even knowing Him?  Knowing you had done the unthinkable. Denying the One he had just confessed to be the Son of God.  How do you live with that?  He watching Jesus die and in that, losing hope in a way none of us ever will. 

But now as he writes, this same man was speaking of a living hope in a way only he can. Hope so alive in him, so real, so tangible that he is a completely different man. All changed because he had seen Jesus, his resurrected, living hope. It’s living in that which gives him  -the assurance of his very real hope that there is so much more to come. 

And it’s the power of this hope that Peter wants us to hold onto.  Because the resurrection changes everything.  As Paul states, If Christ be not risen, then our preaching is vain, and your faith is also vain 1 Cor 15:14. 

Peter describes what he has witnessed as nothing less than being, BORN AGAIN into a living hope.  That when we come to Jesus, we truly have become a new creation.  Ephesians 2 tells us, You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air ... but[ God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. Eph 2:1,2,4.  That is to say, alive with a resurrected Jesus.

Before being born again, it was trying to make ourselves right with God by a life of being good enough or religious enough.  By earning or doing.  Yet God telling us, all those attempts fall short.  Instead God doing what we have no power to do, making of us new in Jesus.

Because of Jesus, we have also been BORN AGAIN into a new family where everyone shares an entirely different DNA, yet a DNA whose source code is Jesus written, Jesus in-dwelt.  Romans tells us, The Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead is dwelling in you Rom 8:11.  Which is to say, that by His power, the values we choose to live by are to be different, the priorities we go after are to be different, the behaviours we are to live by are to be different.  

And being BORN AGAIN into a new future where we been given the promise of a new inheritance, To obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away 1:4. Years ago Joanne’s grandfather left the family a substantial inheritance of properties and resources worth many millions of dollars at a time when being a millionaire was no small thing.  The only problem was, despite what was indicated in his will, in the end the estate was worthless. Its value had been correct but because of circumstances too complicated to explain, those treasures hadn’t been secured as they needed to be – the millions turning into zeroes. Not so with this inheritance - this estate is imperishable – there is no ‘best before’ date that renders it of no worth, there are no outside forces that can steal its value; it is undefiled – which is to say it will never be subject to conditions that lessen its value; and it will not fade away – meaning, that no matter how long we enjoy what we’ve received, it will never lose its lustre. 

I want to stay with this idea of our inheritance a little bit longer.  When it comes to heaven most descriptions we hear are things that will not be – there’ll be no sickness, no death, no pain, no sorrow.  All of these are correct but that’s like saying a lion has fur. That statement is true but it in no way can describe what a lion is.  In the same way, we describe heaven by the absence of things that we know because we lack adequate reference points for what we don’t know, what will be.  As we’re told, Eye has not seen, ear has not heard nor has it entered into the mind of man the things God has in store for those who love Him 1 Cor 2:9.

And finally, being BORN AGAIN into a new protection, Reserved in heaven for you .. protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time :4,5

The term used here for protection is a military term.  The idea connects with what we have just read, that nothing can jeopardize what we’ve been given.  Unlike Joanne’s inheritance, what we have been given in Christ has been secured. Circumstances can’t ruin.  Invaders can’t steal.  Enemies can’t destroy. No action on our part can undo.  Because it is Christ protected, Christ assured - the picture having similarity to when Elisha was surrounded by the Aramean army but around that invading army, God’s heavenly, chariots of fire army 2 Kings 6.

All this - our inheritance, our future, our new life is held in trust – it’s been entered into by a Cross, secured in a Cross and unsealed and presented by a Cross defeating Resurrected Saviour.  When we have truly repented of our sin and given our life to Jesus through His saving blood, Philippians tells us, God is a keeping God, Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus  Phil 1:6.

IN THIS you greatly rejoice :6.  Peter wants us to be rooted in these truths.  Wanting us to firmly hold on to all that we’ve been given but far more importantly, to understand that our living hope isn’t based on what we hold onto, it’s based on knowing that the Resurrected One holds onto us, His salvation to be revealed in the las time :5 He guarantees our inheritance to come. Our grip of Him at times may get slippery due to disappointments felt or pain endured, but His grip on us never let’s go, never slips.  This is why Peter can write, In this you greatly rejoice even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.  

The truth is now there are things that will cause us difficulty.  There are the obvious - more disappointment than celebration, more struggle than comfort, more month than money.  Things that are familiar to all of us at one time or another.  And then there are things that hit us at an entirely different level – the devastating things when the bottom drops out.  Times of heartache when questions are many and answers are few.  Faith shaking times - when tears won’t stop, when diagnoses speak final word, when grief won’t lift. 

So are these the trials to which Peter is referring when he says, Now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials? :6  In some respects they are because they do speak to a world far removed from what God intended us to have.  It’s a world that doesn’t leave us with just the fingerprints of sin, it has massive footprints that have stomped on the good God created for us.  

But while I think trials like these are definitely included in what Peter is speaking to, these are not the ‘trials’, first recipients of his letter would understand.  As a reminder of what we saw last week, the first verses speak to Christians who have been blamed by Nero for setting the fires that have ravaged Rome.  The result? - many persecuted and killed for their faith.  This persecution has resulted in many who have scattered to various areas of what we now know as modern day Turkey.  

And with these words, Peter takes us into the very real world of suffering that Scripture tells us we will often face because of our faith in Christ.  Many in different parts of the world know this only too well.  For the most part, that is not the case for us in the west, though we are seeing a far greater divide as surrounding culture increasingly turns against what Scripture teaches.

To this, Peter says, Don’t be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings  1 Pet 4:12,13 Timothy tells us, All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted 2 Tim 3:12.  Paul says the same, It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for His sake, yet his assurance, The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us  Rom 8:18, Phil 1:29. 

This suffering comes because as followers of Jesus, what we believe and the lives we are to live put us at odds with the values and behaviours of the world around.  As Scripture tells us, We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places  Eph 6:12.    

To this point Peter has been directing where we’re to focus as we go through hard times but then he throws in something that seems almost impossible – that in these, we are to rejoice.  Let’s be honest, if there are two words that don’t belong together, rejoicing and suffering are it.    

Christ's Suffering

So is this to say we are to rejoice when life turns bad? – when diagnoses unexpectedly come, a relationship betrayal that devastates, a depression that cripples?  

As we look at this, first, let’s understand a few things Scripture is not saying.  It is not saying, we are to rejoice because of these things.  Events like these have fallen on our world because of sin and its ongoing mission to release brokenness, pain and death upon our world.   So there is no rejoicing when sin has delivered the destruction it is designed to do. To repeat, there is no rejoicing because of what sin has done.  There is also no rejoicing if we take this to mean that we will be laughing in some euphoric, ‘everything is wonderful’, high. The rejoicing Peter calls us to is rejoicing, even in our tears.  It’s rejoicing knowing Jesus enters into our brokenness.  It’s rejoicing knowing His comfort is given that is beyond our understanding.  It’s rejoicing knowing Jesus will work out His good purposes that are far greater than we anything we can know.    

It is also not calling us to deny the pain we feel, to cover over the questions we justifiably have, to minimize the trouble we are now going through.  Peter makes that clear when he says in :7, that the faith we hold to, will be ‘tested by fire.’  But in these times, we are to focus on the praise, and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ :7.  When we witness that, the hope that is ours, the inheritance that is ours, the salvation we’ve been given will make sense of everything.     

So not rejoicing because of our suffering but rejoicing in our suffering because of what we have. Unless we understand what Peter is telling us that we have been born again to a LIVING Hope, none of this makes sense.  Later he re-assures, We did not follow cleverly contrived stories when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty 2 Pet 1:16.  Knowing that, we can rejoice because our suffering is a result of remaining faithful to Him.  We can rejoice because God will use our suffering to fulfil His good in us and through us.  Our suffering testifying to those who look on, that the truth we hold to is true but more than that - that the One who holds us, is The TRUTH, The Life, The Way.  That is how we can rejoice in times of suffering – through His strength, not our own.  

But our suffering doesn’t just testify, it also refines – removing all the impurities that congest our life – as Paul describes, The sin that so easily entangles and everything else that hinders in our running the race that has been marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith  Heb 12:1,2   

We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities

and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world,

against spiritual wickedness in high places  Eph 6:12.    

And here in Peter, The proof of our faith, being more precious than gold :7.  Where suffering empowers as it refines, making us more and more like Jesus. And in  that place, rejoicing not because all is well, but rejoicing even in places of lament and suffering.  In large part, rejoicing not in what is but in what is to come.  This reality not dissimilar to both the lament and the song expressed in Negro spirituals like:  Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows my sorrows, Nobody knows the trouble I've seen, Nobody knows but Jesus.  Living in the ‘now’ but waiting on the ‘then’ when all wrong would be made right. 

And as hard it is to understand, God calls us to be a people who choose to rejoice. James tells us, Count it all joy, my brethren, when you fall into various tribulation 1:2.  Paul says, Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope.  And hope does not disappoint. Rom 5:3.  And far beyond what Peter, James and Paul say, Jesus says, Blessed are you when men persecute you for righteousness' sake, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For so persecuted they the prophets before you Matt 5:11-12.  

In short, a future focus giving present power which is what Peter centers us on, of a day coming when overwhelming glory is revealed to us, that we may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ :7 

In :8, it seems that Peter takes a momentary pause as he takes a step back and reflects on the wonder of what God is doing.  He writes, Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls :8,9.  

They and we not seeing Jesus’ as Peter has done – he seeing but who lost sight of Him when he looked down and saw that the waves were too strong; he, who lost sight of Him when he looked away, running as they led Him away; he, who lost sight of Him when eyes and heart closed tight as they sealed Him behind stone.  He seeing but all too often not seeing as he needed to. 

And yet these who had never seen – like each and every one of us, believing.  Yet there is something else in :8 that we dare not miss, where Peter writes, And though you don’t see Him now.  Which is to say, there will be times when our struggles feel too large, our suffering too intense, when we don’t sense God’s presence.  Yet in these times, holding onto faith, believing in Him.  Faith when we can’t understand, faith when we don’t see.  Faith when we are in places that are hard.

Called to be a people of faith in the One of whom the prophets wrote.  They writing of things they knew to be true but at the same time not understanding of what they wrote as we’re told, As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries seeking to know what person or time the spirit of Christ within them was indicating as he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow :10,11 Matthew reinforces this, Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see the things you see but didn’t see them, to hear the things you hear but didn’t hear them Mtt 13:17   

It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look. :12.

Which brings us back to where we began this morning – that we are people that because of Jesus’ death on a Cross and His resurrection, are a people of living hope.  Lasting hope as Matthew tells us, Then the king will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Mtth 25:34  

And in that we rejoice.

And as we rejoice, as we praise, as we worship - the One we love but have not seen, the One not seen now but believe, we will be filled with ever increasing joy.  Joy that is inexpressible and full of glory.  

How?  By directing our focus on Jesus, understanding the great love He has poured out upon us.  Rejoicing in the glory of Who He is, that this One, who is God, willingly took upon Himself our mess, our failure, our sin.  

This glorious One, this sinless One allowed our ugliness, our evil, our sin to be placed on Him so we could be forgiven and made clean.  And through this we have been born again so we could enter His world of glory where no evil can come.  Born again into a living hope - all ours because of the shed blood of Jesus.  

So as we worship, don’t sing some words or be carried along by some tune but praise Him, our eyes fixed on Him with joy.  The more centered He is in our praise, the more we will experience what Peter speaks of, 

‘joy inexpressible and full of glory’

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