The Hope of God's People

In His Steps  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  46:57
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1 Peter 1:3-5

Making the Right Choice

Ashley George, an unmarried businesswoman, started a retail store after college. After several years of hard work, her business venture failed, leaving no money or clear path forward, until one day the phone rang – twice.
The first caller was a former college professor offering a stable, middle-management role in a new retail chain, a role which would require a lot of hard work and long hours.
The second caller was a lawyer representing a distant uncle who had died, leaving her as the inheritor of his entire estate.
Ashley had never heard of this uncle and her parents were deceased, so she couldn’t ask about him. The lawyer told her this man had been king over a large African tribe and since he never married, he had no close heirs. As the closest kin, she was now in place to be the sole recipient of his estate on one condition. She must travel to the village to be crowned queen. Only then could she receive her inheritance and know its worth.
Believing she would receive a fortune, she closed her apartment lease, sold her car, and scraped together what little money she had left to purchase a passport and intercontinental airline tickets. When she arrived, throngs of people greeted her in the streets, ushering her to a throne at the center of the city.
After a lengthy feast, a man stepped forward to read the deceased chief’s will. “The estate of I, Mr. Leopold Long, is hearby given to my heir and includes sole right to sit on this tribal throne and possession of all my riches – my hut, wardrobe, and an acre of land. I also give my money, 10,453,000 tokens, to care for the people of our tribe."
How much was 10,453,000 tokens? Ashley asked this question, feeling she’d just become rich. “When converted to U.S. dollars, madam,” he replied, “you’ll receive a large sum of $163. Ashley’s heart plunged to her feet, and further if that were possible. $163 wasn’t enough to recover 10% of the cost of her trip. She should have taken the retail job instead!

Do you feel the same way?

While this is not a true story, it illustrates what followers of Christ may truly feel about their futures, wondering whether our future with God is worth suffering for now. When we do pass from this world to the next, will be truly enter into the presence of Christ in heaven and spend forever in a sinless new Earth freed from sin, evil, and pain and more enjoyable, magnificent, and satisfying than anything this world offers today?
Thankfully, the source of our future, eternal inheritance is not a distant relative with whom we have no contact or meaningful relationship. When we follow and suffer for Christ in this brief and temporary life, we are not taking so big of a risk as it may feel. We may feel that our future with God is a risk, but it’s as certain as the character of God himself.

God the Father is the source of all blessings.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
As the famous and historic hymn exclaims, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!” Do you feel this way about God today? Or do you find it difficult to praise God in such an enthusiastic, confident manner because you feel as though following Christ has or will cost you more than you bargained for and brought about more suffering than blessing?
To bless God is to acknowledge and praise him as the source of all blessings, with an enthusiastic gladness and joy that permeates the rest of the passage, whether that be a letter like this one or an OT psalm. So, whatever we read in this letter we should read it with enthusiastic, grateful joy towards God as the source of all our blessings.
By praising God as the source of all blessings and calling him the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ Peter does not diminish the equal and total deity of Christ, as though Christ is somehow created by the Father or inferior or less divine that the Father in some way.
This description of God as the Father of Christ emphasizes Christ’s full, willing submission and obedience to the Father. In this way, Peter presents Christ not only as our Savior but our example – an important thematic thread which will weave throughout the fabric of this letter. He is our example in life and death and he’s our hope in life and death, as well.
Christ is the one, same God as the Father yet a distinct person from the Father. He is also equal in deity, power, glory, and goodness to the Father and yet is submitted and obedient to the Father, too. Astounding?
Submission to an equal is a hard, humbling thing to do. Yet Christ models it for us perfectly and by doing so, not only successfully suffered, died, and rose again to deliver us from our sins, but provided an example for doing the same. He enables us by his example and encouragement to submit to God as our God and to one another as our equals.
As Peter explains later in this letter, Christian citizens of any nation should – of all people – be the most submissive and compliant. Even when treated poorly and improperly.
Christian children should be the most obedient toward their parents.
Christian wives should be the most submissive toward their husbands.
Christian husbands should be the most loving and sacrificial towards their wives, giving honor to their wives as Peter will later explain.
Christian employees should be the most reliable, good-natured, compliant employees.
Christian employers should be the most servant-minded employers in town.
Since Christ is our Lord, he is both God and master of our lives and deserves to be such because he is our Savior, perfect sacrifice, and coming King. Therefore, we should submit ourselves to the Father and the Son just the same, no matter how badly we may suffer, because God alone is the source of all blessing.

Our Heavenly Father guards our future, eternal inheritance securely.

who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away,
reserved in heaven for you,
Here Peter tells us precisely why we should bless God – or at least the reason why from the standpoint of this letter, for God’s blessings cannot be reduced to one or two factors.
Peter wants us to praise God and be encouraged by the fact that he has caused us to be born again – giving us a new birth. “New birth” emphasizes God the Father as the source, cause, and initiator of our salvation. Just as infant children cannot take credit for their birth, so followers of Christ cannot take credit for their new relationship with Christ. Though we make the choice to believe on Christ, we do not make that choice apart from God’s supernatural intervention into our lives, overcoming our sinful, rebellious nature.
Peter further emphasizes God’s initiative in our salvation by explaining the reason of our new birth as being “God’s abundant mercy.” So, not only did we not cause our salvation, but we didn’t deserve or earn being saved, either.
Abundant here means something like “extensive” or “expansive.” It describes the size and scope of God’s mercy towards us. His mercy refers to how he is entirely committed and loyal to us even though we deserve for him to abandon us instead. He is like that parent or friend who sticks with you through the ups and downs, the twists and turns of life.
As Hebrews 13:5 tells us, God “will never leave you nor forsake you,” even though and when you don’t deserve for him to be there, to be faithful to you.
This “new birth” also emphasizes entering a new state of existence, a new reality, a new life experience – a new, permanent, and close relationship with God.
Before this new birth, you were a hostile enemy towards God but now you are his close, beloved child.
Before this new birth, you were destined to go away into everlasting torment in the Lake of Fire, but now you are destined to go into a sinless new Earth forever.
Though you may still look the same in the mirror the day after you believe on Christ, you are still quite radically different.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor 5:17)
What is the basis for this new life, existence, and ID? “The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” If Christ had not risen from the dead, then our new relationship with God would be impossible. Yet because Christ has done the most improbable, impossible thing – resurrect from the dead – we now have a “living hope.”
Living here connects our hope to the resurrection of Christ and reminds us that our hope is not a wishful or dead hope. It is a living and real hope.
Hope describes some future experience or outcome which we cannot see yet we know is coming, and we know this with great certainty and confidence. Biblical hope is not wishful thinking (like I hope it will happen – fingers crossed) but is confident thinking (like I know it will happen – period).
Why can we have such certainty and confidence? Christ rose from the dead. That’s why.

Your inheritance is out of this world – literally.

What is it that we hope for? An inheritance. What exactly is this inheritance? Inheritance refers to a portion of something that belongs to you, a possession, your personal property.
Why does Peter refer to our future, personal property here? Consider this following, helpful spotlight that Karen Jobes shines onto the background of this concept in 1st century Judaism and Rome:
“The inheritance of land was the major source for increasing one’s wealth, social status, and security … In light of the role that land played in inheritance in both the Greek and the Semitic worlds, Peter’s teaching about the nature of their new inheritance invites a comparison of the new ‘land’ in which they hold inheritance (their share in the kingdom of God) with the land rights of their birth. This comparison might have been especially meaningful to Christians displaced from their homeland (in the Diaspora).”
The great thing about our future inheritance in the New Creation – in God’s eternal kingdom – is not only that it will be there, but that it will be in mint, peak, perfect condition.
Incorruptible. This means that death cannot affect it.
Undefiled. This means that sin cannot devalue it.
Does not fade away. This means that time cannot deteriorate it.
Do you know of any other inheritance like this? Money, investments, cars, animals, houses, businesses, even land – it all loses value, quality, and even dies, deteriorates, or disappears. This is true of even those things which we value most in this life, those things we’re afraid to lose for following Christ. Christ himself taught this to his followers:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:19-21)
So, unlike real estate and capital holdings today, which are negatively affected by the laws of thermodynamics, our inheritance as followers of Christ and children of God – though not visible now – is as certain as yesterday’s sunrise.
Paul adds one more description of certainty, “reserved in heaven for you.” In this one small phrase, there are four factors which each increase the degree of certainty of our future inheritance – our future place and possessions in God’s eternal kingdom. It is being:
kept, guarded, preserved, reserved. These are actions of preservation
reserved by God, the best of all possible guardians
reserved for you, which means that no one else will displace you in receiving it
reserved in heaven
Why was this certainty of a future inheritance so crucial for the original audience of 1 Peter to understand? Because they had been sent away, dispersed, and scattered far away from their original homesteads, leaving them without a place of permanent property for them and their succeeding generations.
Listen to how two Bible commentators (Jobes and Grudem) explain this helpful background from the Old Testament:
“Jewish Christians remembered that the land of the old covenant had been ravished, defiled, and defaced successively by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Ptolemies, Seleucids, and Romans and that the Jews lived in the Diaspora away from the benefits of their inheritance. Grudem (1988: 58) explains: The ‘inheritance’ of the New Covenant Christian is thus shown to be far superior to the earthly inheritance of the people of Israel in the land of Canaan.” (Peter Davids)
Many immigrants to the U.S. can understand this difficulty when they leave long-held properties in their country of origin to relocate to the U.S., where they begin with limited resources, no property holdings, and no guaranteed place to call home. What does this kind of suffering look like in a spiritual sense for those who follow Christ today?
Some Buddhist, Muslim, and even nonbelieving Jewish families will disinherit family members from the family estate because they chose to follow Christ and turn away from their inherited religion.
Perhaps less dramatically, other believers will experience a loss of friends, expressions of disappointment from close relatives, and the loss of a job or career for following Christ.
Peter is assuring these scattered followers of Christ that their real estate and inheritance losses were not as big a problem as it seemed. They would receive an inheritance from their heavenly Father – unearned, undeserved, fully reserved for them in a place out of this world and unaffected by its traumatic circumstances, events, and forces.
While the Christians’ adversaries might destroy all they have in this world, there is a reward that no force on earth can touch. This inheritance should give them hope in the darkest times.
This inheritance is being carefully watched, guarded, and reserved for you by God the Father himself.

Our Heavenly Father guards us securely in this present life, too.

who are kept by the power of God
through faith
for salvation
ready to be revealed in the last time.
With these words, Peter assures these Christ-followers that their heavenly Father was doing two things at once. Not only was he guarding their future inheritance securely, he was also guarding their current lives in this present world.
This may seem like a rather simple point, but it’s actually incredibly crucial. I mean, pause to think about it. What good is buried treasure if your ship sinks before it gets there? What good is a retirement plan if you never get to retire? And what good are season tickets to your favorite ball team if you can’t get to the stadium?
Why do we feel unsure about our future with God after death? Because we can’t see it.
Why do we feel unsure about our present life with God? Because we suffer and sin.
That our Heavenly Father guards us in both dimensions gives us confidence to follow Christ whether we suffer or die. He guarantees that our relationship with him is secure in this life and our inheritance with him is secure in eternity, too.
“There is a conscious balance between God’s action in heaven, protecting their future, and his action on earth, protecting them in the present. The picture is that of a fortress or military camp. They are within. Outside the evil forces are assaulting them. But on the perimeter is the overwhelming force of ‘the power of God.’ He it is who protects them.”
This promise of present protection mirrors the action of reserving your future inheritance in that it is another “divine passive,” meaning it is something that happens to you not something you do yourself, and the one who is doing this for you is God the Father.
This statement is one of many evidences in Scripture for the permanence of your salvation. As we’ve already heard today from Heb 13:5, God “will never leave you nor forsake you,” even though and when you don’t deserve for him to be there, to be faithful to you. Romans 8:31-38 is yet another clear statement of God’s faithfulness to us in life:
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Not only does being foreknown by God as his child guarantee that you will become his child (1 Pet 1:2), so being kept by the power of God guarantees that you will never cease being his child. A child of God can neither relinquish his or her relationship with God nor be relinquished by God for your salvation rests entirely upon the capability, might, and strength of God and not on yourself.

We receive this security from God by faith.

So, how do we access this kind of complete security from God? Through the simplicity of faith:
“They receive his protection simply “through faith,” that is, through committing themselves in trust and obedience to God. They may seem vulnerable to themselves, and indeed in themselves they are, but God’s goodness and protection surrounds them. He will do the protecting.” (Peter Davids)
This trust is more than a feeling or sentiment of trust. It is full-orbed trust, the kind of trust that doesn’t just say you trust boats to float and planes to fly, but the kind that actually rides them.
Remember how Peter previously described our decision to follow Christ “obedience”? That idea continues. Faith is a faith that follows, as Christ himself taught (Luke 6:46-49):
“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.”
Finally, we are trusting God for something that is better or greater than we can imagine. It’s something that has not yet been revealed. We cannot see it now and we cannot fully comprehend what it will be like until then.
This last week, Ford unveiled the all-new Mustang for the upcoming model year – and it’s nice. Months and weeks before, they leaked clues and censored photos of the new design, just as movie producers leak trailers before a movie’s debut. These “leaks” get everyone curious, interested, and excited about what is coming, but they don’t give away everything. We have to wait until the day the movie debuts or the car is unveiled.
Our salvation is this way. Yes, we know our sins have been forgiven, we have a close relationship with God, and we have a future place in God’s eternal kingdom. But what that all entails – well, we only know the previews, trailers, and limited reveals. There’s so much more we don’t know and that’s waiting to be revealed.
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)
As Warren Wiersbe says so well: “The assurance of heaven is a great help to us today. ‘As Dr. James M. Gray expressed it in one of his songs, “Who can mind the journey, when the road leads home?’ If suffering today means glory tomorrow, then suffering becomes a blessing to us. The unsaved have their ‘glory’ now, but it will be followed by eternal suffering away from the glory of God.”
Until then, may the complete certainty of your future place in God’s eternal kingdom motivate you to follow Christ by faith through the sufferings of this life.
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