April 17, 2016
Do you know what it means to be a Democrat or Republican? I mean, we all get it that if you are a Democrat you will vote for a Democrat and Republicans vote for Republicans. But what does it really mean to be a Democrat or Republican? Can you articulate the principles and platform of the party you subscribe to? I imagine that many of us would struggle to explain what our particular affiliation means. Many people are not interested in that level of detail.
So let me ask this question. What does it mean to be a Christian? One would hope that those who profess to be Christians would be able to answer that question, but I wouldn’t count on it. When the meaning of being a Christian is reduced to bullet points and a prayer, a lot is lost.
Last week we looked at 1Pt.1:1-2 and spoke about the importance of being converted to Christ. This week we continue with v.3-12. Here Peter has something say about this question, what does it mean to be a Christian?
I. CHRISTIANS ARE GIVEN NEW LIFE. 1:3-5
Peter begins his letter in the same way we ought to begin every day. He blesses the name of God. He blesses the name of God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice it is not, “the” Lord Jesus Christ, but “our” Lord Jesus Christ. We have a stake in the Lord Jesus.
Peter tells us that through Christ, God has caused us to be born again to a living hope. He is talking about regeneration. It’s what Jesus said to Nicodemus in Jn.3. “You must be born again.” The idea behind regeneration is moving from death to life. We were all dead in our trespasses and sins, but in his mercy, God “made us alive together with Christ,” as Paul tells us in Eph.2:5. That’s what Peter says. Our being born again is through the resurrection of Christ. If Christ had not risen from the dead, his death on the cross would have accomplished nothing. So it is important to see is that salvation is about receiving new life. We are living a new life that derives from Christ himself.
Look again. Peter says that we’ve been born again to a living hope. Now this is very interesting. What is a living hope? Hope has a forward look. Often when we use the word, “hope,” it contains an element of doubt. “I hope I get an A in this class.” If we are certain of our grade we don’t say, “I hope.” Peter uses the word, “hope” but there is no doubt. Why is that? It is because we have a living hope. The hope we experience is grounded in the life Christ has given us. In fact since Christ lives in us, and since Christ is our life, Christ is also our hope. We have a living hope through Christ. We live our hope. It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” We are currently living out our future, our hope, in the present!
Peter goes on to say that we are born again to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us. This inheritance is the fullness, the completion of our salvation. When Christ comes again we will be with him in a new heaven and a new earth. Now many of us carry around a vague idea of heaven. What does it mean to be in heaven? We’ve all seen pictures of heaven where people are sitting on clouds playing harps and stuff. But no. We are not going to that kind of heaven. In 2Pt.3:13 Peter writes, “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” So when Peter writes that our inheritance is kept in heaven, I believe he means that our inheritance is safe with God. Heaven is where God is. Nothing and no one is going to destroy, spoil, or diminish our inheritance of eternal living with Christ.
A day is coming when we will dwell on a new earth surrounded by new heavens. So here is what I want to say. In Christ we have been given life to the full. In fact, it seems to me that as believers we have far more life from Christ than we can handle this side of eternity. We do not currently experience this new life in all of its fullness because we continue to live in a fallen world and we continue to wrestle with temptation and sin. But all of Christ’s life is in us now and so we look forward to the day when we can experience this life in its fullness. And as we look forward, the living hope within is revealed in the way we live. We are leaning into our glorious future by living righteous lives.
According to v.5 until this day arrives our lives are being guarded. Not only is our inheritance safe with God, but our lives are safe with God. Through the Holy Spirit, God has come to live in us and it all takes place by faith. When we live by faith it means we have confidence in God. We trust in God. Of course, we don’t see God guarding our lives, but we are confident that he is doing that very thing.
These verses have a present and future cast to them. They do not look to the past. And we do not live in the past. Christians are not people who continually look back to revisit the day they were saved. “Yes I came to Christ in 1958.” That’s good. But am I alive in Christ today? When we celebrate our birthday, we acknowledge that we were born on a certain day of the year, but we don’t make much of our birth. We’re glad to be alive and we are looking to the future. We who are alive in Christ are pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Because his life in us is eternal we are already living our future in Christ. We have already passed from death unto life and will never die according to Jn.11:26. We are already seated with Christ in heavenly places, according to Eph.2:6. We are alive forever in Christ.
II. CHRISTIANS FACE NEW CHALLENGES. 1:6-7
It seems that the believers Peter is writing to were experiencing various kinds of persecution. We are not told very much about this only that it was taking place. It also seems that Peter is referring to trials that come about because of one’s faith in Christ. Peter is not talking about having a bad day or being disappointed because things did not turn out as we had hoped. Rather he is referring to the kinds of situations that can arise when Christians live according to Christ in this world. This world is not a friend of Christ.
No one wants to experience social marginalization or outright persecution. But as followers of Christ there will be times when because of our commitment to Christ we will not be able to avoid it. So notice in v.6 that Christians are rejoicing on the one hand because of the wonderful salvation that is ours in Christ, but grieving on the other hand because of trials that come from the world because of our faith in Christ. Now Jesus knows all about suffering. He fully understands for he suffered.
As Christians we may experience trials because we are not able to give our approval to things that are approved of by our society. We may experience trials because integrity requires us to voice our disagreement with the prevailing view. We may have to refuse to participate in some activities at work or home. Sometimes when a person becomes a Christian and their behavior changes, they experience rejection from unbelieving friends. Christian professors on secular college campuses sometimes experience academic shunning just for presenting a Christian worldview. If and when laws are passed which require us to compromise our loyalty to Christ, we will have to disobey and suffer the consequences. These kinds of situations call for much prayer and wisdom. Jesus told us to rely on the Holy Spirit and speak the truth in humble love, not in pride or anger. Up till now in our country we have enjoyed a great deal of freedom, but those days may be waning.
So how do we look at these kinds of trials? Peter wants us to understand that God uses these kinds of trials to reveal the genuineness of our faith. When Christians experience trials because of their faith in Christ such suffering often strengthens our resolve to be all the more faithful to Christ. Suffering calls forth greater faith and trust in God. Where else can we go? And Peter adds that our faith is more precious than gold. Gold is one of the most indestructible elements and yet eventually it will perish along with everything else in this world. But not our faith.
Now why would suffering have this effect? I mean over the years of Church history there have been professing Christians who have renounced Christ in the face of suffering. How can suffering strengthen and purify our faith? Well, as we realize that Christ is our life, and that we have a living hope which is leading to fullness of life in the Kingdom of God, that enables us to remain faithful in persecution. If Christ is our life and we are rejoicing in our life with Christ, then we would never want to deny him. We would rather deny ourselves than deny Christ who bought us with his blood. Along with this Peter encourages us by pointing out that for those who persevere in suffering there will be a day in which we share in the praise, glory, and honor of Jesus our Lord and King.
You can see why it is important to have an understanding of what it means to be a Christian. When we understand the greatness of our salvation it becomes clear that saving one’s life in this world by denying Christ is only to lose one’s life in the world to come. So we expect persecution because of our faith in Christ.
III. CHRISTIANS LOVE CHRIST. 1:8-12
When we stop to think about the salvation that God has mercifully granted to us in Christ, seeing that it brings security not just to our present, but also to our future, we are amazed at the grace of God. Along with this we understand that if the world persecuted Christ it will persecute us and our faith will be strengthened. But these verses bring a different dimension to our understanding of life in Christ. “Though you have not seen him, you love him. You believe in him. You rejoice with inexpressible joy and you are already receiving your salvation.”
It is one thing to know the truths about our salvation in Christ, but it is another thing to love Christ with all one’s heart. Loving Christ, whom we have not seen is possible only as we seek to live in the presence of Christ day by day. I’m not referring to a legalistic reading of the Bible every day. Rather I’m talking about living life with Christ who lives in us. Yes, we will read the Bible. Yes, we will converse and commune with God in prayer. Yes, we will cultivate a heart of surrender to the Lord every day. Yes, we will seek to do all that Jesus commanded us. Christ is our life and we love him!
So, daily we are affirming and asserting our faith, our confidence in Jesus. We are acknowledging him as our Savior, Lord and King. Daily we are rejoicing in the Lord Jesus, even when we do not feel very joyful. Throughout the day we are turning our hearts and minds to Jesus, yielding ourselves and our circumstances to him. This is the kind of life we have been given. We have been made alive to God through Jesus Christ.
Let me ask you. As you look at your life does it seem to you that you love the Lord Jesus? Are the things that are important to Christ important to you? Do you ever tell the Lord Jesus that you love him? Do you structure or orient your life around Jesus and his commands? Search your heart on this matter. Many people are far too caught up with life in this world to have any kind of love for Christ. They do not have time for Christ, nor do they make time for him. Many are content to think of Jesus as their Savior and that is all. But that is not all. Jesus is the Savior-King. He did not come to just be your Savior. He is Lord of heaven and earth. He loves you. Do you love him? Do you trust him?
The groom comes out the side door and stands at the front with his groomsmen. The bride stands at the back of the room waiting to process down the aisle. Both of their hearts are beating with anticipation. They have been preparing for this moment for many long months. Many arrangements have had to be made. They have secured a place to live and have been getting it ready. They have been saving their money. They have had many deep conversations. They have already faced some difficulties as every couple does. They have been living in anticipation of this wonderful day. And now, here they are. Their hopes and dreams for life are about to begin to be realized.
Men and women, if you are a Christian, you are in a similar relationship with Christ. We are closer to the time of Christ’s return than we think. Over the many years of our lives many arrangements have had to be made to prepare for this day that is coming. There have been difficulties to overcome. There have been many deep conversations in prayer. We have been saving up treasures in heaven. And Christ is standing to receive his bride. We, his bride are getting ready to process down the aisle to meet him. His heart is beating with love for you. Is your heart beating with love for him? Amen