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"Jesus, Our Living Hope": 1 Peter 1:1-13

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“A Living Hope” 1 Peter 1:1-13 Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020 Read verse 1: From the very beginning of this letter, we see that God moved Peter to write to Jewish Christians who were exiled and dispersed, driven from their homeland by force or by choice because of rising persecution against Christians in the Roman era. They were scattered people, often forced to retreat to their homes for secret worship meetings for fear of imprisonment or death. We can identify with a small part of their plight today. In this pandemic, we find ourselves scattered, not because of persecution and hate, but disease and death. And it’s a frustrating experience, not being able to gather publicly with God’s people as the Bible calls us to do. It is doubly so on this Easter Sunday, for to us Christians, this day is special. You might remember me saying last week that every Sunday, in a sense, is resurrection Sunday. But this particular Sunday is special, because it’s the one Lord’s Day on our calendar every year that corresponds with that first Lord’s Day, when our Savior shook off death and walked out the grave alive. Because of that, this is one of the few Sundays a year when almost all conflicts on our calendars are cleared, and just about every Christian makes an effort to gather with other believers and celebrate our risen Savior. This year might well become the most surreal Easter experience any of us will ever remember. Our calendars are clear, but wisdom dictates that we should avoid gathering. The day when Christians look most forward to celebrating with one another, where we put on our best and brightest for church, and often plan a big gathering with family and friends afterward, has instead become a day where I’m preaching to an empty room. Most of us will not gather and celebrate with extended family and friends. And maybe you were too afraid to make a special trip to the store for ham and deviled eggs. In short, for most us, this probably doesn’t feel like the victorious Easter we anticipated. It's different, disordered, maybe even disappointing. Like Jesus' followers that first Easter weekend, maybe right now you're feeling discouraged, distressed, and disoriented. But here’s some good news: Amidst all the disruption, none of this has taken God by surprise. In fact, it’s all going right according to His plan. Look at verse 2. Peter tells these scattered first-century Christians that these things are happening “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” That’s right, God in his infinite wisdom, foreknew exactly the circumstances we find ourselves in today and said put His stamp of approval on it. The coronavirus was, at least in some sense, His plan. Someone will naturally object, “Hold on, how can you say that a good, loving God would plan to allow circumstances like this? Don’t you know that people are sick and dying?” And to that objection, I’d say a couple things. First of all, all of us are dying. The death rate for our species is still 100%, and I don’t see that changing for as long as the Lord Jesus waits to return. And if it takes a global pandemic to remind us that our lives are nothing more than a vapor that can be gone in an instant, and that we are in far less control of our lives than we thought, and if such a realization causes us to consider our lives in light of eternity and fall on our knees in repentance and surrender to a holy God, then perhaps that’s a silver lining to this tragedy. Secondly, the Bible is clear we brought this on ourselves. All of us, at one time or another, have acted against God’s laws and gone our own way. We’ve violated God’s moral standards and sinned against him. And He doesn’t owe us anything. You say, we’ll I don’t even know the Bible and I don’t believe in God. It doesn’t change the fact that you’ve still broken God’s laws and sinned against Him. You see, the Bible says God’s many of God’s laws are written on our hearts. Go anywhere in the world and you’ll find that even the most godless societies have a moral code, an innate sense of right and wrong. And all of us, at some point, act against what we know deep down in our soul to be morally right. And we’re without excuse. God could render a guilty verdict against every one of us and we’d have no choice but to admit our guilt. And so because we’ve gone our own way, God would be perfectly justified in going on His way without us. But instead he comes after us. He doesn’t just rain down judgment on us, but in his mercy he sends rain to water our crops and sunshine to make them grow. He gives us life, and breath, and every good thing. He provides for our needs and many of our wants, too. But the effects of sin and its brokenness that continue to infect everything we touch are not His fault. We opened that can of worms on our own. Thirdly, to the person who is asking, “how can God allow terrible circumstances to happen to me?”, I’d say what I heard one writer say, and that is that “God is always doing ten thousand things in your life, and you may be aware of 3 of them.”1 Maybe the only thing we can focus on in the midst of our present struggle seems terribly bad. But if we could zoom out and see the whole picture the way God does, we would likely see that there’s a bigger plan unfolding all around us. Here in verse 2, God tells a group of scattered, fearful people who wondered why they were facing hardship that His plan is to use our trials to accomplish at least four things: 1. He wants to make us more holy: The word sanctify means “to make holy”. The devil wants to use hard times to destroy our faith, but God’s plan is to use difficult seasons to let His spirit rule in our hearts and make us more like him. 2. He wants to make us more obedient: Most anyone can follow God when times are easy and everything in life makes sense. The real test of obedient faith is whether we’ll continue to follow & obey Jesus when it’s hard and it might cost us something and we don’t understand. 3. He wants us to rely more fully on His grace: I think the phrase “sprinkled with His blood” means that one way God plans to use trials and tribulations is to peel away the idols that we are tempted to trust in until we see that our only hope is found in the blood of Jesus shed for us, and that He is the only firm foundation worth building our lives on. God wants to able to sing from our hearts, “This is all my hope and peace, nothing but the blood of Jesus.” 1John Piper, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-is-always-doing-10000-things-in-your-life 4. He desires to multiply blessings to us. One thing you learn in math is the power of exponential growth. For example, 2+2+2+2 grows a lot slower than 2*2*2*2. If you save $2 every day for a month, you’d have $60. But if you start with $2 and find a way to double it every day for a month, you’d be a billionaire. If you want slow growth add; if you want fast growth, multiply. God wants to multiply grace & peace to us, but sometimes that means multiplied trials so that He can meet each one with a fresh supply of His mercy. One hymnwriter described this truth this way: He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength as our labours increase, To added afflictions he addeth his mercy, To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.2 In the midst of our trials, not only does God want us to know that He has a great plan for our future, he also reminds us that hope is alive for us today because of what God has already done for us in the past. The second half of verse 3 through verse 5 is just one long, run-on sentence. And even though your grammar teacher may not approve, I think it may be one of the best sentences in the whole Bible. It says: “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Here’s the thing I don’t want you to miss today. All these great promises that God makes to us, they come to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ nearly 2,000 years ago. If Jesus is not raised from the dead, you and I could not be born again. If Jesus is not raised from the dead, we do not have a living hope. If Jesus is not raised from the dead, there is no inheritance waiting in heaven for you. If Jesus is not raised from the dead, there is no salvation to be revealed. In short, as 1 Corinthians 15:14-19 puts it, and I’m paraphrasing here “If Jesus is not raised from the dead, then our faith is in vain, and Christians should be looked at as pitied fools who have been duped and are just wasting their time.” But then I love what 1 Corinthians 15:20 says: “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead.” And since Jesus has been resurrected, the floodgates of God’s grace and mercy flow freely to us through the open door of the empty tomb. We have a living hope. We have an inheritance. We have a home in heaven. We have the promise of salvation through Christ. As disappointing as it is that we couldn’t gather together today, God’s power doesn’t depend on the strength of our numbers, but on the power of a risen Savior reigning in our hearts. As much as I would have loved to sense the presence of God’s spirit moving among us in this room this morning as our voices united together in songs of praise to Him, and our hearts were stirred by the preaching of the Word, here’s the truth: God’s grace never Annie Johnson Flint, “He Giveth More Grace”: https://hymnary.org/text/he_giveth_more_grace_as_our_burdens 2 flowed to us because of an emotional experience we created, but because the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead saw fit to breath life into our weary hearts (Romans 8:11) . As much as I hate not to see your well-dressed families lingering after the service for a photo together, God’s mercy was never bestowed upon us because we cleaned ourselves up and made ourselves presentable to God, but because the resurrected Jesus makes dead hearts alive (Ephesians 2:4-5). As much I miss sharing the Lord’s Supper with you all today, the truth is our salvation is NOT mediated through the sharing of some crackers and juice, it was purchased by a Savior who suffered, died, and came back to life. And though it’s right and good that Christians should miss gathering with God’s people for worship and communion, and it’s ok that we are a little sad that some of our favorite Easter traditions have been changed this year, here’s something we need to be clear on today. None of the pomp and circumstance we add to it make Easter, Easter. Not the egg hunts and bunny photos. Not the pastel flowers and deviled eggs. Not the frilly dresses and Vineyard Vines shirts. And not even the most moving worship experience with flawless singing and inspired preaching make Easter, Easter. We can strip all that away at a time like this and we still have something “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us”. The coronavirus can tarnish our Easter plans and cause us to tear up our social calendars, and even tank our economy, but it cannot touch what God has in store for us. We still have a living hope, because Jesus is alive. And if we have Him, we have it all. But without Him, we have nothing. So at least one question God is asking us in this pandemic is, “Is Christ enough for us?” If we took away the social gatherings with friends, fun programs for our kids, music that suits our taste, and sermons that keep us on the edge of seat filled with entertaining stories & engaging illustrations, if we stripped all the “fluff” out of our Christian experience, would Jesus be enough for us? If not, then may I suggest today that maybe God has given us Easter 2020 as a gift. Maybe we needed this time to peel away the layers of personal preference that we’ve added to the Gospel and remind ourselves that it’s all about Jesus Christ, who “died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, & that he was raised on the third day” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). The bible promises in verse 8 and 9 that if love & believe in this Jesus for who He is, turning away from our sin and placing our faith in Him for salvation, that the outcome of that kind of faith is the salvation of our souls. Do you know Jesus in this way? Have you turned to him as your only hope, your living hope? Have you ever clearly perceived that it’s only because He died a death that was meant for you at the cross and then rose to life in victory three days later that you have salvation? If not, I want to invite you to do that today. You can pray right where you are at home, calling out to God for mercy, asking Him to forgive your sin and to save you on the basis of what Jesus has done for you through the cross and the empty tomb. This truth, that God freely gives mercy, salvation, and eternal life to all who stake their hope on the death and resurrection of His son is the best news mankind has ever heard. Verses 10-12 tell us that this good news is what the Old Testament prophets longed for & spoke of year after year after year, always knowing it would come but never knowing when. It’s the message that inspired Christ’s apostles to continue preaching and writing about what they had witnessed, even at the cost of their own lives. And it’s such a precious truth that even God’s angels wish they had the opportunity to receive God’s offer of salvation for themselves and make it known to others. But that’s a privilege God reserves for you and for me. You see, God isn’t inviting the angels to put their hope in Him today. He’s inviting you. All that is left to do set your hope fully on Jesus Christ as your Savior & King. Verse 13 calls us to be “sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” To be sober-minded means to think straight. Ask yourself, “If a little virus can disrupt so much of the life I’ve built for myself on earth, have I really been playing my cards right? Am I really prepared to stand before God in judgment? Have I truly and fully set my hope upon Jesus? Or is it possible that God has led you to this moment as part of His plan to draw you to Himself, to peel away the layers of false hope you’ve surrounded yourself with, so that you would become an obedient follower of Jesus and set your hope fully upon His grace? If cannot answer those questions with certainty, I pray you will not rest today until you’ve taken some time to do some soul-searching and say, “Lord, help me to set my hope fully on your grace. Search me and know me, and burn away anything in me that does not result from genuine faith in Jesus, so that I might be born again to a living hope that comes through a risen Savior, and that I may inherit a salvation that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, a place reserved in heaven for me.” If you’ve already trusted Jesus, perhaps today God is calling you as verse 7 says, to “test the genuineness of your faith”. Perhaps you’ve realized in this strange Easter season that what really thrills your soul is all the stuff you’ve erected around Jesus rather than Jesus Himself. Maybe today is a time to reflect on the cross and the empty tomb and to preach to your own soul that Jesus is enough, and to fall in love with Him all over again. However God is dealing with you today, I urge you to respond to the leading of His spirit today. And once you do, I’d love to hear from you this week and rejoice with you over the steps you’ve taken toward Jesus Christ, who is and will always be, our Living Hope. Let’s pray. Father, we thank you that you have not left us helpless and hopeless. But through the act of His atoning death and His victorious resurrection you have established for us an eternal inheritance that will never spoil and will never fade. Oh Father, I pray Thank you for joining us today. The early church had a greeting they would you where one person would say, “He is risen!”, and the respondent would say, “He is risen indeed!” So, when I say “He is risen” I want you at home to respond “He is risen indeed!”
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