140427 I Peter 1:3-7

Last Updated on Monday, 28 April 2014 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: I Peter 1:3-7
Theme: Where There Is Life, There Is Hope

A man lies motionless in his hospital bed. A terrible accident has brought him to the edge of death. The doctors say that he has almost no chance of survival. His wife is in the room with him. She holds his hand. She knows that doctors have been wrong before. She believes that nothing is impossible with God. As she talks to him, she feels his hand squeezing hers. Where there is life, there is hope.

A person is flirting with a dangerous sin. He has fallen before. He could fall again. There are days when he just wants to give up. But then he remembers that Jesus died to take away his sins. And then he remembers that God will give him the strength he needs to fight temptation. He understands that his inner spiritual struggle is actually a sign that the Holy Spirit is living in him. And where there is life, there is hope.

In and around the city of Jerusalem, people were trying to understand everything that had just taken place. Darkness covered the land in the middle of the day. The massive temple curtain had been torn in two. Witnesses had seen Joseph and Nicodemus bury the body of Jesus and roll the stone in front of the tomb just before sunset.

But then there was an earthquake. And somehow the massive stone had been moved from the grave's entrance. Some people went to see for themselves what had happened. Among them was Peter, who wrote the words we will consider this morning. Peter ran to the tomb and saw that it was open. He went into the tomb and saw that it was empty. That could only mean one thing. Jesus was alive! And...

WHERE THERE IS LIFE, THERE IS HOPE

I. Christ gives us life by his resurrection
II. Christ gives us hope for our resurrection

Sometimes Christians can be affected by what we might call post-Easter jetlag. For weeks we anticipate Jesus' resurrection. And when that day finally comes, we rejoice. We celebrate with triumphant hymns and beautiful decorations and family gatherings. And then it's over. In the days after Easter there can be a letdown statistically, in the number of people who attend worship, and even emotionally, in the way people feel.

If the words of our text give us any indication, post-Easter jetlag did not appear to have any effect on Peter. Even though years had gone by since the first Easter, the very thought of the empty tomb still filled his heart with joy: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (3).

From the very start of this letter Peter gives all glory to God because that is exactly where the glory belongs. GOD deserves our praise because he accomplished our salvation. God deserves ALL of our praise because he accomplished our salvation completely. He did it because of his love and mercy. He did it through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

It is no coincidence that Peter connects the resurrection of Jesus with the new birth God gives to us. These words bring to mind a conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus, the same Nicodemus who buried Jesus. The Lord told him: "No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3). Jesus wasn't talking about a physical rebirth. Jesus wasn't referring to a second birth from the mother's womb. Jesus was calling for a spiritual rebirth.

This rebirth, or as Peter puts it, this "new birth," comes through God's Word and sacraments, the means of grace. God touches hearts through his Word. The Holy Spirit miraculously creates faith through water connected with the same Word.

But baptism would be meaningless and God's Word would be powerless without the resurrection. If Christ had not been raised, our faith is futile. If Christ is still buried in the tomb, then we are as good as dead.

But because Jesus is risen, God has given us "new birth into a living hope." Our hope is living because our Savior is living. And our Lord gives us even more. He gives us "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade" (4).

An inheritance is something of value. Sometimes that value is monetary. Sometimes it is purely sentimental. But no matter what is included in an earthly inheritance, it cannot last forever. A large sum of money slowly gets chipped away by taxes and inflation. Possessions eventually lose their value due to the effects of aging.

The inheritance God has in store for us is radically different. It is so amazing, so beyond our human comprehension, that Peter can't explain what it is. He can only explain what it is not.

Our inheritance can never perish. It is incorruptible. Like the body of Jesus, it is not subject to death and decay. Our inheritance can never spoil. It is 100 % pure. Our inheritance can never fade. No matter how beautiful the spring flowers are, they will eventually wither and die. But our heavenly inheritance will never fade away. It is just as real, just as glorious, just as valuable now as it was when Peter wrote these words.

How is this possible? How can anything last that long? How can anything hold up so well over time? Because it is not kept on this sinful earth. Our eternal inheritance is being preserved for us in heaven. Our eternal inheritance is being kept by God in perfection. And not only is it being kept for us. We are also being kept for it.

"[You] through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time" (5). God uses his power to "shield" us, to protect us from danger. Sometimes he employs the services of angels. Sometimes other people serve as his agents of protection. But no matter how he does it, God promises to watch over us until we take our places with him in heaven.

As an eyewitness of the resurrection, Peter was able to speak with authority. None of us has seen what Peter saw, but we have the same confidence. By faith we believe Peter's testimony to be true. By faith we believe that Jesus is alive. And where there is life, there is hope. Our living Lord gives us life by his resurrection, and he gives us hope for our own resurrection.

The tone of Peter's first letter can be described as joyful. But as much as Peter rejoiced, he also recognized that the life of a Christian is not without challenges. "Though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials" (6). Make no mistake about it. Trouble will come. In fact, a recurring theme in 1 Peter is perseverance in the face of adversity.

Few people would say that they enjoy suffering. And the word "grief" brings to mind all kinds of negative images. But for the Christian who is forced to suffer, for the child of God who is put through all kinds of trials, there is still hope.

We can be hopeful because these afflictions are only temporary. Another translation puts it this way: "There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here" (Living Bible). God doesn't hide the fact that at times the going will be rough. God doesn't promise that our lives will always be smooth sailing. But God does assure us that the time of trouble will come to an end.

We can be hopeful because God will use our present struggles to strengthen us for the future. God sends us trials because he cares about us. God sends us trials to remind us that we are not in control. God sends us trials to remind us that we need him. The fires of affliction are not designed to reduce our faith to ashes. They burn away our self-confidence and drive us to our Savior.

We can be filled with hope when we are suffering because even the worst persecution is nothing compared to what will follow. Our present sufferings are so small that they do not even show up on the radar screen of eternity. Our earthly struggles are not even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us on the Last Day (Romans 8:18).

Finally, we can be joyful in the midst of our present afflictions because our faith will result "in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (7). The text doesn't specifically say who will be on the receiving end of this honor and glory and praise, but it wouldn't be wrong to apply these words to ourselves.

At the Last Judgment God will say to the faithful: "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21)! When Jesus returns, he will give the faithful a crown of eternal life. When the end comes, God will give the faithful seats of honor in his kingdom.

But our glory is merely a reflection of God's glory. When we are honored, God is honored. We are God's faithful servants only because God has given us the faith to believe. The hope we have for our own resurrection is only possible through Jesus' resurrection.

When you read passages like this one, do you sometimes feel guilty? Do you feel guilty because you can remember times when you felt like God was not being fair to you? Do feel guilty because sometimes you think that your trials and struggles are doing more harm than good? Do you feel guilty because you have trouble feeling joyful about the future with so many problems in the present?

Or do you feel guilty because you have somehow failed God? You know how much God has done for you. You know that God will always be there for you. But you haven't always stood up for him. Maybe you let a golden opportunity to witness go by to avoid a potential conflict. Maybe you quietly went along with something you knew was wrong just to avoid any kind of abuse.

If you are shouldering a heavy burden of guilt, who better than Peter to help you remove it? Peter was a leader among the disciples. He saw Jesus' miracles. He saw Jesus' glory. This was the same man who denied Jesus. He denied his Lord to avoid persecution. He swore up and down that he didn't even know who Jesus was because he was afraid.

This is the same Peter that Jesus gently restored. This is the same Peter who later became a pillar in the church. This was the same Peter who faced very real threats because of his faith. And when Peter was ordered to stop speaking about Jesus or else, he was up to the challenge. "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29)! he said, without fear of the consequences.

What the Lord has done for Peter, he has also done for us. Like Peter, we sin. Like Peter, we fail. We let down our guard. We let down our God. But God has not given up on us. He forgives us. He restores us. He strengthens us. And he empowers us to live our lives for our living Lord.

There is a saying that goes: "Life without Christ is a hopeless end. Life with Christ is an endless hope." I don't know who wrote those words, but they definitely help us put life into perspective. For the Christian, Easter can be summed up in two words: Jesus lives! And where there is life, there is hope. Jesus gives us life through his resurrection. Jesus gives us hope for our own resurrection. Amen.

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