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Good morning everyone, thank you for joining me again. As you know, we’ve temporarily asked that people only attend services in the meeting house where they are a member of the congregation. Even with this restriction in place we still can’t fit everyone in. So, I am continuing to put these messages and some other resources online.
Last week we began this series on 1 Peter and covered just the first two verses. But these verses are important. Peter in just those two verses, reminded the people he was writing to – a selection of churches scattered around what is now modern-day Turkey – who they are and what a remarkable thing has already happened to them to make them Christians. They were chosen by the Father, sanctified by the Sprit, cleansed by the blood of Jesus, the Son, to live lives of obedience to God. If a person is a Christian, it’s not just one of those things, it’s not ordinary, it is the result of the extraordinary work of all three persons of the Holy Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Today, we’ll be continuing in the first chapter and looking at verses three to 12. In these verses Peter reminds these Christians that because of this extraordinary thing God has done, and is doing in them, they have new life.
In verse three Peter talks about the new birth that God the Father has given Christians. A fresh start and a new identity. Imagine starting again with God, your old sins, your regrets and mistakes washed away, a new identity given to you, all is forgiven. You can start over, but not just to repeat the same mistakes again, you are born again and empowered by God’s Spirit to live out your new identity, to become what you were always destined to be. Not only does God call you to be a new person, he makes you a new person, a person who knows the joy of walking with their God, of experiencing life as it was meant to be.
Christians have a real, living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus is for us the proof of what God is doing in us and what he will bring to completion, he will make all things new, giving them real life, setting things right. Proof that death is not the end, that God has a better plan.
The hope that Christians have is not in some ideology or philosophy that someone came up with long ago. It is a hope which comes, as Peter writes at the end of verse 3, “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Our hope is grounded in in a real historical event that happened in this world. When the Apostles like Peter went out to spread the Good News about Jesus, they preached about something that had just happened. People didn’t like what they were saying. They persecuted them, but they wouldn’t shut up, they beat them, but they wouldn’t shut up, they killed them, but the message carried on and spread around the world. Christ died to rescue sinners and he is risen, he is alive.
Nothing can tarnish this new hope or inheritance Christians have as a result of their faith in Christ, nothing can take away their identity as children of God, nothing can take away this blessing, it is kept safe for them in heaven. Even if those who persecute the church should do their worst and kill them they cannot destroy their inheritance and in the end the Christians will be brought fourth again in glory when God makes all things new. This amazing gift from God came for free from a God who didn’t owe us anything but punishment for our sins. And that’s why Peter begins verse 3 with praise:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
(1 Peter 1:3a, NIV)
This gift is all from God’s mercy and grace, we didn’t earn it and we don’t have to pay for it, we couldn’t ever earn it or afford it anyway. If you are a Christian, rejoice in the hope that God has given you, be encouraged that it is safe and that your hope is not in something vague but in a real event that happened and that you follow a living Saviour. If you are not a Christian the invitation is there, to know God, to trust in what Jesus did and follow him, to be set free by the amazing love of God to be born again as the person you were always meant to be, to know true life, true love, true hope, true peace, true joy… even in the midst of trials
These Christians are suffering for their faith. Peter compares these trials to gold being tested in a furnace. When Christians go through trials, when we suffer even lightly because of our faith – because we want to honour God and live this new life – that faith grows. Your faith is proven true and becomes stronger and purer when you cling to it in the face of trials. Gold is refined in a furnace, you don’t get stronger or fitter by lying on the couch all day, and it is just like that with faith. Your faith grows in the hard times. Nobody was ever pampered into being strong. Even gold will perish but your faith secures for you an eternal salvation and results in praise and glory and honour for God and for you.
These people know what is truly important – knowing God and the salvation Christ has won for them – they have been liberated from the slavery of sin and the punishment of death and they know that nobody can take that blessing away from them. Therefore, they rejoice even though they are grieved by various trials. Peter calls their joy “inexpressible and glorious” in verse 8 – this is a righteous joy; they are celebrating what is truly worth celebrating. These Christians have their priorities right when it comes to hope and joy.
What is your hope and joy in? Our priorities can often get shuffled around by all the distractions of this world, so we should all ask ourselves “Do I have my priorities right?” Are you miserable and stressed out about lesser things while forgetting the things that are most important?
This is a short letter but Peter paints some very vivid pictures for us in the next few verses (verses 10 to 12). Peter writes of the Old Testament prophets who prophesied about the coming Messiah, his suffering and the glory that would follow. These prophets spoke of the grace that was to come to these people saved by the Messiah. These prophets were so captivated by what had been revealed to them about this work of God that they longed and searched intently to find out the details. Christians can look back at the cross and see more details than the prophets knew, they can tell more of the wonderful story of what God has done, a story that involves us personally.
Even angels, Peter says in verse 12, long to look into these things. Think about that for a moment. Angels long to see what God has done and is doing in you. Angels can see and behold God, his beauty unhidden, they worship him constantly, and yet what has happened and is happening and will happen to you, because of Jesus, has captured their attention so much! The word translated “long” here, used to described the angel’s longing to look into salvation, that word means “desire” and it is even sometimes translated “lust”, although the word in itself has neither good nor bad connotations. Picture that, angels craning their necks desiring to see the details of salvation, longing to see what God is doing with Christians, with you. This is because our gracious and merciful God is glorified by what he is doing in us. The transformation that takes place in a Christian is glorifying to God. It’s an understatement to say that this is a big deal!
All who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour have been given new life, a new relationship with God as their Father and a new and sure hope. That’s what we need in times of suffering: not just wishful thinking, but a sure hope. Something solid. In Christ we have that solid ground. An unshakable refuge in uncertain times.
Jesus said it himself. John 10:27-30
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
(John 10:27-30, NIV)
No matter what happens you are Christ’s. He lives and reigns and because of what Jesus has done you have new life and an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. If you belong to Christ, then nothing in this world can take you out of his hand.
This was true of Peter, it was true of the Christians that he was writing to as they endured their trials, and it is true for us today.
Lord as we are separated from each other today, some at home and some sitting far apart in a church building, we pray for a spiritual unity and a great sense of our fellowship with one another in Christ. We thank you that no matter where we are, we can worship you. We can read your word. We can pray to you, and we know that you are always with us.
Help us all to be as careful as we can be out of love for one another. Protect us from infection and keep us in good health. We pray for those who are especially vulnerable that you would relive their anxiety with the knowledge of your love and faithfulness to them
We pray for those working to fight against COVID-19 in hospitals and care homes and labs all over the country and the world. Protect them and bless their work. We pray for protection for those who are made vulnerable by their jobs.
We pray for an end to this pandemic, for powerful treatments, vaccinations and wisdom to reduce the spread and effectiveness of the Coronavirus.
We pray that in times of stress and uncertainty, people would seek assurance in you.
In Jesus’ name we pray.