2007 05 27 Hope- Where did it go 1 Peter 1 3-9
Hope – Where did it go?
What the World Needs Now
Why Christians should be the most hopeful people anywhere
1 Peter 1:3-9
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
Topic: Why we should be people of hope
Big Idea: Christians should be the most hopeful people in the world because our future is bright, secure, and present to us now.
aorist — The aorist verb tense is used by the writer to present the action of a verb as a “snapshot” event.
present — The verb tense where the writer portrays an action in process or a state of being that is occurring in the present time with no assessment of the action’s completion.
perfect — The verb tense used by the writer to describe a completed verbal action that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present (in relation to the writer). The emphasis of the perfect is not the past action so much as it is as such but the present ‘state of affairs’ resulting from the past action
In his book Telling the Truth, author Frederick Buechner describes a scene that could be unfolding on any given Sunday in any given church, including this one. The author describes the seen of different denomination, but I am certain the point of his scene is applicable to us as well. I'll offer it to you in his words:
The preacher hikes up his robe as he mounts the steps to the pulpit. He looks out on the congregation, and there they are. The 16-year old who feels life stirring within her body, but no one else knows. The bank vice-president who twice that week has contemplated suicide. The six-year old whose mother slips him a life-saver and magic marker. The college sophomore, home for the weekend, who slumps forward with his chin in his hands. The high-school math teacher trying to erase from his memory last week's trip to the peep show. He carefully folds the bulletin and slips it under his knee.
The preacher turns on the lectern light, deals out his note cards like a riverboat gambler. The stakes have never been higher. They're all there. They're all listening. Even the preacher is listening. But what will the preacher tell them?
And here we are—each of us potentially with our secret sins, our boredom, our quiet desperations. And here is the Scripture, open before us. What does it have to say to us today—with all its big words and lofty language: resurrection and inheritance, salvation and glory? Is there any word here that can make a difference in our lives? That can find us and speak to us right where we are?
Yes, there is such a word. One word in particular that is perhaps the word we need to hear more than any other. The word is hope. 1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope…
Last week we began a series of messages from the book of 1 Peter designed to help us live as God's people in a world that seems to be drifting out of control and farther from God. We asked: "who in the world are we supposed to be," and "what in the world are we supposed to be doing?" Last Sunday we learned that we are to be INTENTIONAL FOREIGNERS — people of purpose in a world that's not our true home. We're only passing through this world, but we wake up every morning with a mission: to live such good lives among the people that they may see our good deeds, and be ready to meet God on the day he visits them. This morning we're going to learn that we are to be people of hope.
On the closing night of the 2004 Republican convention, President Bush stepped out into the audience at Madison Square Garden and spoke of a more hopeful America. It was an interesting theme. His counterpart, John Kerry, a few weeks earlier had promised a stronger America, and most of us expected President Bush to strike the same theme. But instead, he spoke about hope. If we were to ask the American people if they were hopeful about the future, what would they say?
Are we hopeful about our nation's security? Do we feel safer with every year that passes after 9/11, or do we fear that it's only a matter of time before terror strikes again? Not "if" but "when." Are we hopeful about the economy? I was talking to a friend in the financial services industry. He told me that when he talks to his colleagues working in the stock market, they all tell him the same thing: They've got their finger on the sell button. They're waiting for something bad to happen, and they're ready to respond in an instant when it does. On a personal level, how hopeful are you about your financial future, about your investments, your job security, your retirement?
How hopeful are we about our children's future? Do we believe our children will be better off than we are? Will they be healthier, safer, more prosperous? What about our environment? Can we solve global warming? Will we save the rain forests? And what about the moral climate in our country? Are we going to drift further and further into the fog of relativism?
In 1990, 7 out of 10 people reported feeling hopeful about the future. In 2001, the number had slipped to 1 in 5. I have no current survey data, but I strongly suspect that it would be even less hopeful today.
And hope was what the early Christians needed in the year 63 A.D. or so, when this book of the Bible was probably written. It was a letter written by the apostle Peter to believers scattered throughout Asia Minor. They were far away from Jerusalem and Judea, where Christianity began. They were surrounded by pagans, people who worshipped no god (or the many gods of Greece and Rome). It had been nearly 30 years since Jesus left the Earth, ascending to heaven on a cloud. At first, they expected him to return almost any day. But now, after so many years, the believers began to realize that they might be in for a long haul. Some were beginning to wonder if he would ever return at all.
Not only that, the more time passed, the more uncomfortable it became for followers of Christ. As the church grew and expanded throughout the empire, the opposition increased as well. The Jewish population considered the Christians to be heretics, and the Romans viewed them as a threat and a nuisance. Nero hadn't begun throwing Christians to the lions yet, but the world was quickly becoming a scary and difficult place for followers of Christ.
So here comes this letter from the apostle Peter to these scattered, beleaguered believers. At last they have some words of counsel and instruction on how they are to live in this frightening, godless environment. And what's the first thing Peter writes? 1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope… Blessed be? Living hope? What's Peter so optimistic about? Doesn't he read the newspaper? Doesn't he watch TV? Doesn't he know what kind of world we're living in?
Of course Peter knows. Better than anyone, he knows. He's been jailed more than once for his faith, and has seen his friends and co-workers killed for following Christ. But he also knows that followers of Christ are to be people of hope in a world that's running scared.
Recently, some researchers at the University of Texas set out to determine why some elderly people tend to live longer than others, even when their physical conditions are comparable. They discovered that a key ingredient in the longevity of aging people was hope. Those people who had positive expectations about the future were more than twice as likely to live beyond three years as those who were not optimistic about the future. The researchers went on to suggest that physicians trying to diagnose a patient's condition should not only run the usual battery of tests, but should also learn to ask one simple diagnostic question, "Are you hopeful about the future?"
That's not only a helpful question for physicians to ask, but it comes in handy for pastors, as well. Are you hopeful about the future? The dictionary tells us that hope is "a wish or desire, with the expectation of fulfillment." We use the word hope when we want something good to happen. We hope for nice weather on the weekend. We hope the stock market will settle down. Twins and Viking fans hope that this is their year. We hope for things that we'd like to see happen. And there's a possibility that these things will happen, and maybe even a probability. But when we use the word hope, there's always an element of uncertainty (especially for Viking fans!). We won't know for sure until we get there.
But when the Bible uses the word hope, it is always with a sense of certainty. There's no question about the outcome. In the Bible, hope is a sure thing. So Peter is telling his readers, and telling us, that as followers of Christ we are to be people of hope—even when the world around us is becoming more unpredictable, more difficult, and more godless. Whether we live in the 1st century or the 21st century, we are to live with a sense of optimism, of confidence, and of ultimate victory. As people of purpose, we wake up each day with a sense of mission—pointing people toward God. As people of hope, we wake up each day with a sense of expectancy—believing that God is going to do something good.
But why? As we've already pointed out, there are plenty of reasons to fear the future. Nevertheless, I find at least three reasons why followers of Christ should be the most hopeful people in the world.
The future is bright v 3
First, for followers of Christ, the future is bright. I'm looking again at Peter's words in 1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
Living means that the believer’s hope is sure, certain, and real, as opposed to the deceptive, empty, false hope the world offers.
Begotten us again = Being born again. What's more hopeful than a new birth? As pastor I have had the privilege of visiting several new babies with their proud parents over the past few weeks. It thrills my heart to hear the parents speak of the newborn’s future with such confidence. That's how it is with parents of newborns: a great athlete, a great scholar, a great musician. Anything's possible! And so it is for those who are born again through faith in Jesus Christ to the Lord’s living hope.
That phrase "born again" which is translated “begotten us again” has been misunderstood and overdone, but it's a wonderful biblical truth. To be born again is to be born spiritually from the inside out.
It's a fresh start, a new beginning. You can become a new person, the person you've always wanted to be. You can become a great mother, a great neighbor, a great husband, a great friend. That fresh start is possible because of God's great mercy. He forgives us. Our sins and failures don't need to haunt us anymore.
Peter had experienced this firsthand. He'd failed miserably—denying his Lord three times. He went out and wept bitterly over it. The shame and failure was so deep that there was nothing in the world that could free him from it. Not a good night's sleep. Not the dawn of a new day. Not even the love and support of his friends. It would take a resurrection to release Peter from the pain and failure of his past. It would take the risen Lord, standing before Peter, forgiving him—not once or twice, but three times—and then speaking the words he longed to hear more than any other: "Follow me." It was like a new birth for Peter. Suddenly, the future was bright. He could be the person, the disciple, he'd always wanted to be.
And that's what we all want: freedom to become a new person, a better person.
When I think of hope, the baseball rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees comes to mind.
2004 World Series – The “curse” of the RED SOX was finally broken.
The 2004 Major League post-season witnessed perhaps the greatest comeback in the history of professional baseball. Down three-games-to-none in the American League Championship Series, baseball's perennial "bridesmaids", otherwise known as the Boston Red Sox, stood three outs from elimination courtesy of their hated rivals, the New York Yankees. With the game's greatest post-season closer on the mound, Mariano Rivera, Boston miraculously rose to the occasion to win the final four games and become the first team ever to comeback from a three-games-to-none deficit to take the league title. It had been one-hundred years since the Red Sox had last won a pennant in New York with a 3-2 victory in a doubleheader opener at Hilltop Park in 1904. For decades, New York had repeatedly dashed the hopes and dreams of the Red Sox faithful and many considered their so-called "rivalry" to be a "one-sided" affair. In 1949, the Yankees overcame Boston by winning the final two games of the 1949 season at Yankee Stadium. They also won a historic one-game playoff for the American League East in 1978 behind Bucky Dent's three-run homer at Fenway Park. More recently, Aaron Boone had hit an eleventh-inning home run to win Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS for the newly christened "Evil Empire."
And that's what we all want: to be free from the mistakes and mishaps and failures of the past. The divorce, the depression, the addiction; the hurtful things we've done and said. We can't rewrite history, but we can be released from it. We can move beyond it. And new birth makes that possible.
Is there something in your past that's haunting you? Some sin or failure or woundedness? Something that keeps you from being hopeful about the future? You, too, can be born again. You can be forgiven, healed, and set free to become the person you were created to be—have always wanted to be. That's the first step toward becoming a person of hope.
The future is bright v 3
The future is secure v 4-5
We can be people of hope because our future is bright and, secondly, because our future is secure. I'm looking at 1 Peter 1:4-5 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Peter used three words, each beginning with the same letter and ending with the same syllable, to describe in a cumulative fashion this inheritance’s permanence: incorruptible (aphtharton), undefiled (amianton), or does not fade (amaranton).
This inheritance is as indestructible as God’s Word (cf. 1 Peter 1:23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, where Peter again used aphtharton.
Kept (phrouroumenous) is a military term, used to refer to a garrison within a city. Philippians 4:7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus, uses the same Gr. word.
Peter speaks about an inheritance. Don't we all dream about one day receiving a letter informing us that some distant relative has died and left us a hefty sum of money? I don't, if you have any relatives like that, but suppose you did. Suppose, in fact, you knew that on a certain date this person's estate would pass into your hands. Think how differently you might live with that knowledge. Think about how hopeful you would be if you knew that a considerable sum of money would be coming your way.
The inheritance that Peter is speaking about is eternal life. A home in heaven. We don't know much about heaven, but we know it is a real place where we will enjoy fellowship with God and his people for ever and ever and ever and ever. It's a realm of beauty and belonging and purpose and love—no sickness or mourning or crying or pain. If you are a Christian, if you have been born again through faith in Christ, that inheritance is yours. It already has your name on it.
And that inheritance can never perish, spoil, or fade. No matter how much time passes, no matter what happens to you in this life, no matter how many mistakes you make along the way, no matter how corrupt the environment around you becomes, nothing can threaten or diminish that inheritance. Peter says it is "kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power."
In the last political campaign cycle one of the national candidates who was out on the campaign trail, while being covered on national TV, decided on the spur of the moment to get out of his car and shake hands with the crowd. People clamored to get close, to shake hands, or get an autograph. Any one of those people could have had a gun or a bomb. It was a chaotic scene, almost frightening to watch. But the candidate seemed unfazed, smiling away, working the crowd. You know why? Because he was surrounded by a team of Secret Service agents, watching the crowd, keeping them at bay, shielding the candidate from harm. So it is for us as we make our way through this world—this unpredictable, chaotic, and sometimes frightening world. We can be people of hope, smiling at uncertainty, working the crowd, knowing that we're shielded by God's power. Nothing can come our way without first passing through his protective hands. And if something does happen, we have a home in heaven that cannot be taken away.
It's not hard to determine whether or not a person is a Christian in the biblical sense of that word. All it takes is one question, "If you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven?" Some people will answer that question by saying, "I think so. I hope so." What they mean is that they hope they have been good enough or religious enough or sincere enough to pass the test. But there's uncertainty, isn't there? Considerable uncertainty. Because who's good enough to meet God's standards? What if they followed the wrong religion? How sincere do you have to be? No wonder people are afraid of death.
Ask that same question to a follower of Christ—"If you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven?"—and he or she will answer, "Absolutely." Not "I think so" or "I hope so," but "I know so." Because their entrance to heaven isn't earned by their good works or religion or sincerity. It is simply received by faith, when we turn to God in repentance and invite Christ to be the Savior and the Lord of our lives. It has nothing to do with pride or arrogance or presumption, because their salvation has nothing to do with us. It's God's work, accomplished by Christ, and made available to every human being through faith.
Do you have that sense of security? Do you know for certain that you are going to heaven when you die? If so, then you can be a hopeful person as you make your way through this world.
The future is bright v 3
The future is secure v 4-5
The future is a present joy v 6-9
Now, this could sound like a lot of happy talk—pie in the sky in the sweet by and by. It plays well in church on a Sunday morning, but the world can be a nasty place sometimes. It's nice to know we have a home in heaven, but most of us don't expect to be going there any time soon. We need hope for today, for our present circumstances, for the realities of life.
And in the final verses we discover that, for followers of Christ, the future is not only bright and secure, the future is already here. Look one more time at 1 Peter 1:6-9 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
Peter was no Pollyanna about the realities of life. He knew this world could be a tough place, especially for followers of Christ. He'd been imprisoned for his faith; he'd been ridiculed and ostracized and run out of town. But he also knew the joy of being God's servant; of living each day in fellowship with him, of experiencing God's presence in his most difficult moments. The glory and wonder of heaven was already his, the future had already arrived.
Remember that inheritance we talked about earlier? How hopeful we could be if we knew we had a sum of money that would become ours someday? Well, now imagine if that inheritance were available to you now. You could begin drawing on it right away, even though it's not fully yours yet. What a difference that would make in your life. Think about how bold you could be with your investments, how generous you could be with your giving, how free you could be in choosing your life's work. It would change everything.
So it is for followers of Christ. The joy of God's presence, the peace that passes understanding, the community of fellow believers, the power of the Holy Spirit, the wonders of God's creative hand, the wisdom that comes from above, the work of the kingdom—it's all ours to enjoy now, in this life. No wonder we can be hopeful about the future— it's already here! And that changes everything.
Some of you may be familiar with the story of Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was captured by the enemy during the Vietnam War. He was the highest-ranking officer in the infamous POW camp called the Hanoi Hilton. He was tortured over 20 times during his 8 years of imprisonment. At one point, he beat himself with a stool and cut himself with a razor, deliberately disfiguring himself so that he couldn't be put on a videotape as an example of a well-treated prisoner.
Stockdale was asked to explain how he managed to overcome such brutality, not knowing if or when he would ever be released. He explained that some of the prisoners fixed their hopes on arbitrary deadlines—getting out by Christmas or in a certain number of years. When that time came and went, they would lose hope and often die. Stockdale chose to focus on life beyond his imprisonment—returning to his family and career. He says: "I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted that I would not only get out, but also that I would prevail in the end, and turn the experience into the defining event of my life." That's hope, hope that reaches backward from the future to our present and gives us strength and courage for today.
And that's what Peter's describing in these verses. Though you do not see him now, you believe in him, and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving already the salvation of your souls. The believers' hope is not pie-in-the-sky; it's bread on the table. How does the great hymn put it? "Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside." For the follower of Christ, the future is bright, the future is secure, and the future is already here. We already know the end of the story. No wonder we can be people of hope in a world that's running scared.
So there they are: the preacher and the congregation, waiting. There are people waiting for a word that will make a difference in their lives. And the word they need to hear above all others is hope. For the pregnant teenager, hope means she can be forgiven, and she and her child can be born into a new life, a fresh start. For the depressed bank executive, hope means that life is worth living because God can do something good with his future. For the bored college student, hope means there's more to life than waiting around for the next fraternity party. There's truth to be discovered, a world to explore, meaningful work to be done to the glory of God.
For the frazzled mom trying to get a few minutes peace to listen to a sermon, hope means that every day, as she cares for her child, she and he are being formed into the people God called and created them to be. For the teacher or assembly line worker or construction laborer, hope means he can be released from his bondage to sin and begin to enjoy God's good gifts in ways that are ultimately satisfying and honorable. For the preacher, hope means a message for every person looking up at him from their pew—the forgiveness of sins, the promise of heaven, and the confidence that God is going to do something good in the days to come.
cf. confer, compare