Facing the Future by Faith
FACING THE FUTURE BY FAITH
August 7, 2005
Two weeks ago, we began our examination of 1 Peter by taking a close look at the first two verses of chapter 1. So far our discussion has only covered the issue of who Peter was writing to. We learned that he was writing to Christians who had been scattered throughout Asia Minor and who were facing persecution for the first time in their lives. This is a situation that most believers in the world today can relate to because the vast majority of Christians are undergoing severe persecution. The only ones exempt so far are those in North America and most of Western Europe, and I’m not convinced that’s a good thing for Jesus said in John 15:20 that if we follow Him we will be persecuted. Now, is our lack of persecution a commentary on our failure to walk in obedience or is it something we should be expecting? They say that Satan attacks only those who are a threat to him. Are you a threat to him?
Back to the subject at hand. To encourage these persecuted believers Peter told them that, on the basis of God’s foreknowledge, they:
1. had been chosen as His very own people,
2. they were just strangers and foreigners as far as this world is concerned and should not count it strange when they are disliked by the world around them. They were further told
3. that they were saints and that the Lord would constantly be working in them to conform them to the image of Christ, by His Holy Spirit, so they need not fear the criticism of the world in which they lived.
This week we’ll examine 1 Peter 1:3-17. In these verses Peter outlines three great facts about salvation that are a further encouragement to our faith in regards to the future. Would you open your Bibles and follow along as I read: All honor to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is by his boundless mercy that God has given us the privilege of being born again. Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him, you trust him; and even now you are happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy. Your reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls. This salvation was something the prophets wanted to know more about. They prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you, even though they had many questions as to what it all could mean.
They wondered what the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ's suffering and his great glory afterward. They wondered when and to whom all this would happen. They were told that these things would not happen during their lifetime, but many years later, during yours. And now this Good News has been announced by those who preached to you in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen. So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the special blessings that will come to you at the return of Jesus Christ. Obey God because you are his children. Don't slip back into your old ways of doing evil; you didn't know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God—who chose you to be his children—is holy. For he himself has said, "You must be holy because I am holy." And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites when he judges. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as foreigners here on earth.
Peter says that our salvation gives us ------
1. a living hope,
2. a certainty about life based upon God’s power,
3. meaning to life’s trials.
Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
A. The Believer's Living Hope
1. To begin with, it is a living hope (not any airy, fairy I hope so type wishful thinking but a hope based on certainty) because it is grounded on the living Word of God, and was made possible by the living Son of God who miraculously arose from the dead. A "living hope" is one that has life in it and therefore can give life to us. Because it has life, it grows and becomes greater and more beautiful as time goes on. Time destroys most hopes; they fade and then die. But the passing of time only makes a Christian's hope that much more glorious John 3:7 tells us that “we must be born again; born of the Holy Spirit into the divine family of God’ Corinthians 5:17 says that “those who become Christians become new persons.” They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! Ephesians 2:1 adds “Once you were dead, doomed forever because of your many sins.” And, in 1 Corinthians 2:14, we are told that “people who aren't Christians can't understand these truths from God's Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them because only those who have the Spirit can understand what the Spirit means.” Fellow believers, we have a living hope because we have been born into God’s family forever.
2. Our living hope rests on a solid basis or foundation. This marvelous hope that keeps the soul is founded upon none other than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As verse 3 says, “Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead.: It’s a living hope because we have a living Saviour. Because He lives, we shall live also.
3. It is a living hope because it is a glorious prospect it is: a. incorruptible – unspoilable b. undefiled – in Revelation 21:27 we read, “Nothing evil will be allowed to enter—no one who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.” In other words, no evil may enter. c. permanent and unchanging
The beauty of Solomon’s temple lasted only a short time – 30 years is all. But praise God we don’t ever have to say, ”I had high hopes.” Our hope is a living hope, a hope that is alive and unchangeable by time, weather, accident, health, or government. It is forever!
Some may call it “pie in the sky” and think we’re a little incapacitated upstairs, but it’s there, praise God! Let’s read verse 4 again, “ For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.”
In London, England, a woman took her husband to a psychiatrist, claiming that he was suffering from delusions of grandeur. “He keeps saying he is expecting one letter that will make him the owner of 1,000 acres in Surrey and another telling him he had inherited a diamond mine in South Africa,” she explained. The man had three weeks of intensive treatment ---then the letters arrived. So it is with us. Our letters will arrive! What we claim by faith now will one day be revealed in the end as that living hope that is ours in Christ.
“We have an anchor that keeps the soul, steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love!”
So, first, we have a living hope.
Secondly, our Great Salvation …
B. GIVES A CERTAINTY ABOUT LIFE
In verse 5, Peter says it is reserved in heaven: “And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see.” You and I are kept by God’s power through faith. And even our faith is kept by Him and is from Him. (Ephesians 2:8 makes it clear that even our faith to be saved is a gift from God) The New Living Bible puts it this way: “God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”
The word “kept” in the Greek means, “to build a fortress around.” You and I have a great God who has built a fortress around our faith. AMEN!
Having pledged that the believer's spiritual inheritance was permanent in nature, Peter adds to his readers' security by declaring that the believer's inheritance is reserved in heaven. Its nature is fixed and unalterable and so is its place. Reserved means "guarded" or "watched over." The perfect passive participle conveys the idea of the already existing inheritance being carefully guarded in heaven for all those who trust in Christ. Not only will that inheritance not change, but no one will plunder it. The reality of a guarded and imperishable eternal inheritance is precisely what Jesus referred to when He said in Matthew 6:19-21), “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Heaven is the securest place in all the universe. The apostle John characterizes it as a place where "nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Revelation 21:27; cf. 22:14-15). Now the big question is this, is your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life? If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, then you know you are headed for heaven. If you need assurance read 1 John where the word “know” appears some 30 + times.
Not only is the inheritance divinely guarded, those who possess it are also protected by the power of God from doing anything to forfeit it or be severed from it. God's power is His sovereign omnipotence that continuously protects His elect. If God is for believers, no one can successfully oppose them (Romans 8:31-39; Jude 24). All the details of this promise are to provide the believer with an undying hope of heaven, so as to provide joy and endurance.
I’m pretty sure I know what went through Peter’s mind as he penned this verse. It hadn’t been all that long ago that in his determination to follow Christ, he had boasted of his willingness to lay down his life for the master and then denied his wonderful Lord so pitifully when confronted by a little servant girl. But Jesus had reminded him prior to the testing that Satan desired to have him that he might sift him as wheat, but that He prayed for him that his faith would not fail. Did Peter’s faith fail? Never! Friends, if there is ever a time when Satan has attempted to make shipwreck of my faith it is when my works have not matched up with my words. I’m so thankful that even in our deliberate, under-pressure --- outright sinning, Christ keeps our faith by His prayers on our behalf. Peter didn’t lose faith, but he certainly did grow in faith because of that experience. Peter says to these scattered people seeking to stand up for the Lord where they were, “And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see.” Yes, we are kept by God’s power and even our faith is kept by His prayers for us.
Brothers and sisters, your salvation is not based on your own strength, but by the power of God unto salvation. All you need to do is trust Him to get you there.
So, we have a living hope which gives us assurance.
C. IF GIVES MEANING TO LIFE’S TRIALS
One of the things Peter attempts to get across in verses 5 and 6 is that we will profit from trials (as verses 6 and 7 say, “ So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.). 2 Corinthians 4:17 explains it as a purifying process :” For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever!” The result is that, in the end, we will be presented with praise, glory, and honor for our faith. Jesus Christ Himself will commend us – now that’s praise indeed!; He will cause us to shine as sparkling jewels in His kingdom! That’s glory!
So, why do we face the dark days of life? So that the beauty of Christ may be revealed in us as the brightness of the stars. We are refined in the fury of the furnace; not in fame and fortune God always has in mind to make us better people and to enable us to grow in faith and love. Dr. Steve Brown said, “Every time an unbeliever suffers a Christian suffers the same thing so the world can see the difference.”
Is you faith a proven faith? We know with certainty that the prophets could see only dimly for verses 10-12 say, “This salvation was something the prophets wanted to know more about. They prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you, even though they had many questions as to what it all could mean. They wondered what the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ's suffering and his great glory afterward. They wondered when and to whom all this would happen. They were told that these things would not happen during their lifetime, but many years later, during yours. And now this Good News has been announced by those who preached to you in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.”
Let me illustrate with a true story: “The story began one summer's day toward the end of the nineteenth century when an English city boy was on a visit to rural Scotland. That afternoon the boy went swimming in a small countryside lake. After swimming quite a distance from shore, a severe cramp seized him so that he could not continue swimming. He was in great pain and soon cried out at the top of his voice for help. A farm boy working in a nearby field heard the city boy's screams and ran as fast as he could to the lake. There the farm boy threw off his shirt, dived into the water, swam to the imperiled city boy, and brought him safely to the shore.
Several years later the two boys met again. The city boy, still filled with gratitude that the other boy had saved his life, was thrilled to see the farm boy again and asked him what career the boy had decided to pursue. The farm boy said he had chosen a career in medicine. Since the city boy's parents were quite wealthy and were greatly indebted to the other boy for saving their son's life, upon hearing of the farm boy's career choice they immediately promised to pay for his medical education. They followed through on their promise and the young man went on to have a brilliant career in scientific investigation.
In 1928 that farm boy, then both a physician and bacteriologist, discovered the famous wonder drug penicillin. In 1945 he shared the Nobel prize with two other scientists for the discovery and development of that antibiotic. That Scottish farm boy turned scientific researcher, who died in 1955, was Alexander Fleming.
The rescued city boy also gained great renown. During World War II he contracted a life-threatening case of pneumonia. He recovered at a hospital after receiving penicillin, which meant that indirectly the one-time farm boy Alexander Fleming had saved his life twice. The city boy's name was Winston Churchill, the famous wartime British prime minister and world statesman. Interestingly, just like Fleming, Churchill won a Nobel prize. But in his instance, he won the 1953 award in literature for his incisive writings on the history of the Second World War.
It is wonderful to save a life, and even more wonderful to save someone's life twice, especially when the one saved was such an influential person as Winston Churchill. But the hard-working, selfless contributions of Alexander Fleming are nothing compared to the greatness of saving people's eternal souls. That great salvation is the heart of the apostle Peter's concern in this passage. He wanted his believing audience to focus on that full, final rescue from sin, Satan, death, and hell that God so graciously chose to give them through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Peter celebrates salvation's greatness by reminding his readers that no matter how difficult the circumstances or how severe the persecution, they can confidently hold to the hope of eternal salvation. “
Let’s face it, we don’t understand our salvation! We can take some comfort in knowing that the angels don’t understand it either, but they undoubtedly wish they did. Old Testament saints could only look forward to it, but WE’VE GOT IT! Salvation is complete because it results in the salvation of your souls. It is according to God’s sovereign plan and purpose. As 2 Timothy 1:9 says, “It is God who saved us and chose us to live a holy life. He did this not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan long before the world began—to show his love and kindness to us through Christ Jesus.” The bottom line is that God saves souls. That’s what’s really important.
Our great salvation brings a
1. living, well-founded hope
2. a security to our faith based upon God’s power
3. an assurance that gives victory and joy in times of suffering
So, should we simply sit back and enjoy this great salvation God has given us? Never!
Two things we must therefore do:
1. Face life squarely without fear (verse 13, “So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the special blessings that will come to you at the return of Jesus Christ.” Get ready for action, be tough-minded, face life sensibly and confidently. Expect to triumph and determine not to betray the Lord.
2. Live lives marked by obedience (verses 14-16, “Obey God because you are his children. Don't slip back into your old ways of doing evil; you didn't know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God—who chose you to be his children—is holy. For he himself has said, "You must be holy because I am holy." True devotion to God expresses itself in holiness. “Be ye holy for I am holy”. Don’t be conformed any longer to former lusts and motivations.
Let me close with this illustration. After the death of the saintly Robert Murray McCheyne, a letter (which he had not shown to anyone) addressed to him was found locked in his desk. The writer said that McCheyne had been the means of leading him to Christ and it concluded, “It was nothing you said that made me wish to be a Christian; it was rather the beauty of holiness which I saw in your face. May it be said of each of us that people came to Christ because they could see Him is us!