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Sunday, September 05, 2021

"A Living Hope" [Matt's Messages]

“A Living Hope”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
September 5, 2021 :: 1 Peter 1:3-7

Who needs some encouragement this morning?

I don’t know anybody who would refuse some true encouragement. 

And I’m finding that these days many Christians need a big healthy dose of it. I know I do.

How badly do you need encouragement today?

What kind of a week have you had? What kind of a week do you expect? What are you facing right now and how do you feel about it? Who needs some encouragement this morning?

Well, get ready to be encouraged!

The Christians to whom the Apostle Peter was writing his letter definitely needed encouragement.

They were suffering.

They were suffering from persecution.

They were hurting.

And they were far from home.

We learned last week in the very first verse that they were exiles, resident foreigners scattered throughout Asia Minor in what is now Northern and Western Turkey. 

And more than just physical ethnic exiles, even more importantly, they were spiritual exiles. They were not in their spiritual homeland either. And neither are we.

This world is not our home. We are citizens of a kingdom that has not yet come in its fullness. We are emissaries and ambassadors of that kingdom, but we are not home yet. We might be in our homes, but our homes are not in our true homeland.

And when we live like citizens of that kingdom that is coming, we often get into trouble with the kingdoms in which we presently live.

That was what these believers in Jesus were experiencing. They were hurting.

And Peter was writing to encourage them.

And, boy, does he!

Peter busts out of the gate with some of the most beautiful and powerful words in the whole New Testament of the Bible.

There is nothing weak in these opening words of his letter!  

Peter tells these elect exiles exactly what they most need to hear.

At the very same time, he doesn’t downplay, at all, what they are going through. There is nothing false or minimizing about their pain.

Peter just gives them a great and shining hope that more than overshadows their suffering. Hope for the hurting. 

He calls it in verse 3, “A Living Hope” and that’ll be the title of our message for today. “A Living Hope.” And there is no hope greater.

Let me read it to you. Verses 3 through 7 of 1 Peter chapter 1.

Amazingly, verses 3 through 12 are one long run-on sentence in the original Greek. Yes. Verses 3 through 12 are one sentence in the original! But I’m going to divide it up into two messages, this week and next, to try to get down into the details a little more. So I had to cut off somewhere, and I picked verse 7 as the cutoff for this week. 1 Peter 1:3-7.


Just reading it is encouraging, isn’t it?

Peter is so positive. He breaks out of the gate with this blessing to God. V.1

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Before we get to talking about how hard it is, we need to start with blessing God for how great He is.

He is so worthy of our praise. "O For a Thousand Tongues to sing" His praise!

We bless His name because we have been so blessed by Him. Here’s what He did. Verse 1 again.

“In his great mercy [so He did something we could never do for ourselves] he [God the Father] has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...”

Now, if I slow down too much, we could spend a whole month on these verses!

This is such good news.

“In his great mercy he has given us [Christians] new birth into a living hope...”

So Christians, you need encouragement?

Start here. You have been given a new birth.

Christians have been born again. That’s something that we can’t do for ourselves. You can’t give yourself birth. But God has done it for us.

“In his great mercy he has given us new birth...”

Where did Peter get that language from?

Well, he was present that night that Nicodemus came to see Jesus, wasn’t he? The original Nick at Nite? John chapter 3. Jesus said, “You must be born again.”

And that’s exactly what’s happened to every genuine Christian in history.

We have experienced a new birth.

Which is really good news because we really needed it!

We needed a new identity. We needed a new citizenship. We needed a new potentiality. We need a new slate. We needed a new us!

You needed a new you.

I needed a new me.

Because we were dead in our trespasses and sins. We might have been walking around, but we were spiritually dead. We were the original Walking Dead.

And we needed a new birth. And God gave it to us. HOW? (V.3 again)

“through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...”

There is a lot of life here, isn’t there?

Jesus was also dead, physically dead, and God raised Him to life.

And that same resurrection power gives you and me new spiritual life, as well.

A new birth into...“a living hope.”

What wonderful words.

Now it’s important to understand what hope is in this context.

Biblical hope like this is not just a wishful feeling.

It is not just “I hope Heather Joy makes me a Texas Sheetcake this week” when Heather Joy has promised me no such thing.

That’s just a wishful feeling.

The only part of that that is hope is that it’s facing into the future.

Hope is always forward looking. Looking for something good in the future.

But this kind of hope is a sure thing.

This kind of hope is a certainty in the heart of something secure in the future.

This is like if Heather Joy promised me a Texas Sheetcake this week, and I know that she has all of the ingredients. (Which by the way, Sweetie, I’m going to the grocery store tomorrow if you want me to pick anything up for you!)

If Heather Joy told me that there would be a Texas Sheetcake some time this week, I would have this kind of hope. And it would be a living hope!

I love that word “living” modifying that word “hope.”

That shows just how powerful this hope is!

What would the opposite be? A dead hope. A cold hope. A stillborn hope. A lifeless hope. A hope that is not going anywhere.

But that’s not the kind of hope that God, in His mercy, has given us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! He has given us a living hope.

A dynamic hope.
A vital hope.
An active hope.
A vibrant hope.

This is a hope that does stuff. Right?

A living hope is a hope that does something.

It’s a hope that lives.
It’s a hope that changes your life.
It’s a hope that gives you life.

Anybody encouraged yet?

This hope is what is pictured in your baptism. Christian, when you went down into the water, you were picturing your death with Christ. And when you came back up out of the water, you were illustrating your new birth in union with His resurrection!

You were picturing your new birth into a vibrant living hope.

Isn’t that wonderful?

Now, how certain is this hope?

The degree to which this hope lives is the degree to which this hope is secure.

These exiles need to know just how much they can count on this living hope.

Because there aren’t that many things they know that they can count on.

Well, that’s where Peter goes next, and he goes all the way. He says that this hope is perfect and perfectly secure. Verse 4.

In his great mercy God has given us new birth into a life hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead “and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you...”

Now that “and” in verse 4 could also be translated, “that is.” I think that this “inheritance” in verse 4 is the “living hope” of verse 3.

A living hope THAT IS “an inheritance...”

That sounds good, doesn’t it?

An inheritance is a promise of a gift later, isn’t it? Normally, after someone dies.

But it’s something future (like a hope) that is something to look forward to. And it’s promised now for later.
 
The Greek word here was frequently used in the Greek Old Testament for the land promised to Abraham and his descendants. The promised land of the Abrahamic Covenant. 

But it’s not just land here. It’s every single promise that comes with belonging to Jesus!

That’s our inheritance. We don’t have it all yet, but it’s all promised.

And it’s all guaranteed!

Listen to what Peter says about it. Verse 4 again.

It’s “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade...”

That’s perfect in every way.

Name something else that can never perish, spoil, or fade.

Everything perishes.
Everything spoils.
Everything fades.

But not these promises!
Not this inheritance.

And this “kept in heaven for you.”

Exile, that’s your true homeland! And that’s where your inheritance is.

And it’s safe there. It’s perfect. And it’s safe. And it’s perfectly safe.

It’s like a treasure in the First Bank of Heaven guarded by the angels of God and safeguarded by God’s own omnipotent power beyond that. 

And who is going to break into that bank and steal your inheritance?

“Kept in heaven for you.”

Encouraged yet?

That sounds pretty safe and secure.

But I have a worry. Do you have the same worry?

I’m not worried that the inheritance is not safe in heaven.

I’m just worried that I might not make it there to the inheritance.

I’m a little worried because I’m suffering. And I’m worried that I might not make it.

I’m a little worried because I’m suffering. And what does that mean?

Does that mean that I’m doing it wrong?

That I’m lacking faith?

Does this suffering mean that God has abandoned me?

And that I’m not his?

Some of those TV preachers say that God wants me to be healthy and wealthy and successful and prosperous.

And if I’m not, then there is something wrong with me.

And maybe the inheritance is secure, but I am not going to make it.

And that’s why Peter wrote verse 5!

Peter says that the inheritance is being kept in heaven, and that you and I are being kept for the inheritance. Look at verse 5.

You “who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Do you see that? It’s not just the inheritance that is safe and secure from all alarms.

So are all of God the Father’s children!

We are “shielded” by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

It’s like we’re in a armed car from the First Bank of Heaven, protected by the same security force that guards the bank in heaven, and is safely delivering us through all of the foreign territory to get to the bank to claim our inheritance.

And that shield is in place “until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

That’s when Jesus Christ returns.

We have been saved when we were born again.
We are being saved as we’re being shielded.
And one day, we will be saved when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Anybody encouraged yet?!

“He will hold me fast
He will hold me fast
For My Savior loves me so

That is our hope.

And it is perfectly safe.

It is perfect. And it is safe. And it is perfectly safe.

Kept in heaven for us.

And we’re being kept for it.

BUT we are not being kept from suffering.

We’re being protected from apostasy. We’re being protected from Satan. We’re being protected from spiritual death.

But we’re not being protected from persecution.
We’re not being protected from suffering.
We’re not being protected from pain. V.6

“In this [living hope] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”

Peter knows.

Peter knows how much these Christians are hurting.

And he’s not minimizing their pain. He’s certainly not saying that it’s all their fault.

Or that they are doing something wrong. That’s why it hurts. No!

He’s saying that it’s normal to “suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”

Including persecution.
Including disease.
Including breakdowns in relationships.

It’s normal. Suffering is normal. It is to be expected in this lifetime.

Jesus went through it. Why would we think we won’t?!

“All kinds of trials.”

They are not a punishment.
They are not a surprise (or at least they shouldn’t be).
And they are not proof of unbelief.

In fact, these trials have come through the Father’s hand to do the exact opposite! They have come to show that you and I are real. Look at verse 7.

“These [various trials] have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold [what a phrase!], which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

In turns out that God has a purpose for our pain.

There is divine reason for this fire.

Satan may want us to hurt. But God uses the pain to refine us.

It’s a smelting process.

He is refining us through the heat of suffering.

The impurities, the dross, are being removed and what is left is Christlikeness.

I think that’s encouraging.

It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. It hurts.

It hurts.

But it helps to know that there is a purpose in the pain.

And that if it hurts, it doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong.

In fact, it probably means that I’m doing it right.

So, I grieve and lament, like we learned how to do in the Psalms.

But I also hope. I trust and I hope. And I rejoice.

Peter says that we have a living hope. And that means this hope lives and it does stuff. Living things grow and do stuff.

Here are three things I see that this hope does in you and me.

#1. IT MAKES US REJOICE.

The living hope makes us rejoice. Don’t miss the first words of verse 6 for all the pain and suffering!

“In this [living hope] you greatly rejoice[!]”

Yes, it hurts. But we have a hope that is greater than the pain. And we have every reason to be overjoyed, to exult, to dance.


Just spend some time today marinating in verses 3 through 5, and your heart will rejoice.

#2. IT HELPS US TRUST.

This living hope helps us trust God through all of the trials that we face.

That’s our part. God is supplying all of the power here. Our job is just to place our faith in Him.

Verse 5 mentions our faith. We are trusting in His work in us.

Verse 7 mentions our faith, and how precious it is. It’s of greater worth than gold!

So we need to exercise it. We need to trust in the Lord even in the face of terrible suffering.

And we can! Because of what God has done in the resurrection and in our new births.

What are you facing right now?

You can trust Him in that situation.

You can trust Him.

Hold on.

Hold on to Him.

It’s just going to be a “little while.”

Did you hear that in verse 6? These trials may come for a “little while.”

Now that little while might be 90 or 100 years.

But compared to eternity? Compared to an inheritance that can NEVER perish, NEVER spoil, and NEVER fade?

That’s just a second.

Hold on. Trust Him and hold onto Him.

Hold onto this living hope. Because...

#3. IT LEADS US TO GLORY.

Look one more time at verse 7. Look at the end result of trusting in this living hope!

This “may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

You know, it doesn’t say who gets the praise, glory, and honor.

It’s certainly Jesus that does because He deserve it all.

But I think from the grammar here, that we get to share in it, somehow, someway.

We are so vitally connected to Him that we get to somehow, someway enjoy the praise, glory, and honor with Him when Jesus comes again.

This living hope leads us to glory!

The enjoyment of His glory forever and ever and ever!

How’s that for encouraging?!


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