t a n d - S t r o n g
Firm Foundations for the Storms of Life
Peter 1:1-21 - A Life of Hope
It is 2:00am and you are deep in sleep, warm and at peace in your bed. Suddenly you wake up to the sound of pounding on your front door, the sound of shouting. You jump out of bed and race for the door, your heart pounding, your eyes still bleary. Before you reach the door, its torn off its hinges and flattened before you. You are face to face with men in uniform carrying guns. There are bright lights in your eyes. You begin to speak and then you feel the searing pain at the aside of your head then ... nothing!
When you regain consciousness you are lying on the ground, you can feel the grass. It was not a dream - hours must have passed.
wife is by your side, and so are your children. They are distressed. They are
bandaging up the wound on your head with strips of cloth from your son's T-shirt.
It feels cold and damp. As your eyes begin to focus you see stars above. "Why
are we outside? What's happening?" you whisper. With tears your wife says,
"The government - they took everything! Our house, cars, clothes, food, money
... everything! Because we are Christians."
In one day, your whole life has changed radically and permanently. You are now poor, unemployable, persecuted, an exile. You won't gather with your friends for church this Sunday. As a matter of fact, you don't even know where they are. You sit there with a numb mind and bruised body trying to grasp what has just happened to you and your family.
This morning, in over 50 countries, Christians are being persecuted for their faith. Up to two thirds of the world’s Christian population faces abuse of some kind - be it verbal harassment, discrimination, hostility or persecution. Up to 170,000 Christians are killed every year because of their faith every year. An investigation by the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need concludes that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. Of the 10 countries with the worst Christian persecution, four are Communist and five are Muslim. These are China, Laos, Vietnam and North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Iran, the Maldives and Afghanistan. A landmark publication called Violence against Christians by Dr Gyula Orban published in 2001 focuses in particular on the 100,000 Christians in labour camps in North Korea. In prison because of their refusal to deny the Faith. Other examples include the Karen people in Myanmar, Pakistan and Columbia. If you want to learn more about the church in these countries please take a copy of the magazine “Enough” which you will find on the table in the entrance. Check out details of Dr Oban’s book and Aid to the Church in Need. www.aidtochurch.org and www.catholicweekly.com.au/02/nov/17/07.html and Operation World www.gmi.org/ow about other countries where Christians are persecuted today.
A colleague who is a theological college professor, Scot McKnight, made some observations about which parts of the Bible Christians prefer. Most Western Christians he found enjoy the Psalms and many identify with Luke’s Gospel or Philippians. Countercultural types like the Sermon on the Mount. Academics like Romans. Charismatics like Acts. Practical types like James. He was surprised to discover from an Indonesian student and one from Yugoslavia that the favourite NT book among Christians in their countries is 1 Peter. On reflection he discovered a simple reason. The world which Peter describes, of social marginalisation, of exclusion from society and of persecution is their daily experience.
Christians in the first-century church had much more in common with our two-thirds world brothers and sisters. Near the end of his life, Peter was moved by the Holy Spirit to write a letter to believers who found themselves scattered all over present day Turkey. They had become refugees through the persecutions brought about by Nero, the Roman emperor. In 64 AD, a fire had consumed much of Rome. After three days of fires, Nero needed a scapegoat. He used a very convenient target ... the Christians. In an effort to appease the angry masses, Nero began to persecute the Christians, using beatings, floggings, and imprisonment. With time, the persecutions escalated as Nero's need for blood led to tortures, burnings at the stake, crucifixions, and massacres. Christians were killed for sport. The persecution started in Rome, but it eventually spread throughout the entire Roman Empire. Soon Christians were fair game for almost anyone. Chased, hunted, and running for their lives, Christians were scattered all over Europe and the Middle East. Things got so bad that many, having lost all their possessions, their status and employment began living and hiding in the catacombs, a series of tunnels underneath the city of Rome, originally designed to bury people. For years, they became refugees living in these tombs, like hunted animals. It was to these believers that Peter wrote his letter.
I believe it also has much to say to us, living increasingly in a secular, amoral and materialistic society. Picture yourself standing in the flood plain of a rising river. The waters are slowly creeping higher and higher. The current grows faster and faster. You still have your footing, but you fear that, at any moment, your feet could slip and you will be washed downstream. Is that how you feel this morning? Your letter box receives a steady stream of bills, but your bank account doesn't match your expenses ... the river rises. Your diary is out of control and your relationships are strained . . . the current gains speed. Pressures at work are mounting, and every morning you wake up with a knot in your stomach ... the ground beneath your feet begins to give way as the waters press against you. You try to hold on, but you are not sure how long you can stand your ground before you are swept away. Sound too familiar? Well, you're not alone. When Peter wrote to these followers of Christ, his words brought hope in the middle of a rising river of trials and tribulations. We are going to discover in this new series of studies in 1 Peter, that God’s word is just as timely, powerful and needed today as they were two thousand years ago.
We all face times of struggle, pain, tension, and conflict. But the storms of this life do not have to sweep you away, destroy your family, erode your business, or drown your hopes. God offers overcoming power to stand strong in the storms of life. What ever your circumstances, my prayer is that you grasp the hand of God in the midst of the storm and find His power to stand strong! With that in mind, lets look at these opening verses of 1 Peter 1. We can break the passage into three parts.
In verses 1:1-2 Peter tells us we have a home with Jesus. Then in verses 1:3-12, we have hope through Jesus. In verses 1:13-21, that hope in Jesus motivates us to a life of holiness like Jesus.
1. With Jesus we are at Home (1 Peter 1:1-2)
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood. Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” (1 Peter 1:1-2).
is far more than a introductory greeting. Peter begins by reminding us how God the Father,
God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all active in our lives: The Father choosing,
the Son saving, the Holy Spirit sanctifying. At the same time Peter identifies with his readers and the tension they faced.
Loved by God but hated by the world. Children of God but strangers in the world.
Chosen but scattered. What has happened is no mistake or accident. God is in control.
God knew before hand. God knows. Therefore we can have peace. Our real home is
heaven not this world. So don’t get too attached. With Jesus we are at home.
2. In Jesus we have Hope (1 Peter 1:3-12)
“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, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade kept in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:3-4)
can break this passage down further by observing:
2.1 We were born for glory (1 Peter 1:3-4)
we believe in Jesus we are born again into God’s family. And
as children of God we share his inheritance. Peter describes our hope as an inheritance. Because Jesus rose from the dead we have a living hope of everlasting life. Our inheritance
is in heaven. We were born for glory.
2.2 We are kept for glory (1 Peter 1:5)
Not only is the glory reserved for us, we are also being kept for that glory. In my travels, just occasionally I have arrived at a hotel to discover the reservation was cancelled. On one occasion it was because I arrived late. On another it was because I had gone to the wrong hotel. This will not happen to us when we arrive in heaven for our future is guaranteed. The word “kept” in verse 4 is a military term which means guarded or shielded. It was used to describe the protection of a city provided by a military garrison. You may know that Buckingham Palace is protected by the Wellington Barracks on Bird Cage Walk. Windsor castle is also protected by the military barracks in Sheet Street in Windsor. Similarly your inheritance in heaven is protected. We were born for glory and we are kept for glory.
2.3 We are being prepared for glory (1 Peter 1:6-7)
“though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
We need to keep in mind that all God plans and performs here is preparation for what He has in store for us in heaven. He is preparing us for the life and service yet to come. Nobody yet knows all that is in store for us in heaven; but this we do know: life today is a school in which God trains us for our future ministry in eternity. This explains the presence of trials in our lives: they are some of God’s tools and textbooks in the school of Christian experience.
Trials have a purpose
Sometimes trials will be to train us. At other times, they will help us mature, become more sensitive or compassionate. They may also help to prevent us from sinning. We do not always know the need being met, but we can trust God to know what is best. Remember discipline is necessary to be effective disciples. Trials have a purpose.
Trials will be varied
Peter refers to “all kinds of trials,” which literally means “many-colored.” He uses the same word to describe God’s grace in 4:10. No matter what “colour” our day may be may be a “blue” Monday or a “grey” Tuesday, God has grace sufficient to meet the need. Trials have a purpose and trials will be varied.
Trials may be painful
Peter warns that some trials may be hard to bear. The word “grief” is the same word used to describe our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:37). They have a purpose, will be varied, may be painful but
Trials are temporary
They do not last forever; they are “for a little while” When God permits His children to go through the furnace, He keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat. If we rebel, He may have to reset the clock; but if we submit, He will not permit us to suffer one minute too long. The important thing is that we learn the lesson He wants to teach us and that we bring glory to Him alone. Peter illustrates this by referring to the goldsmith. No goldsmith would deliberately waste the precious ore. He would put it into the smelting furnace only long enough to remove the cheap impurities; then he would pour it out and make from it a beautiful article of value.
It has been said that the Eastern goldsmith kept the metal in the furnace until he could see his face reflected in it. So our Lord keeps us in the furnace of suffering until we reflect the glory and beauty of Jesus Christ. What really makes trials bearable then is the knowledge that they are purposeful. They prove our faith. They purify our faith like gold purified by fire. What is our hope based in? We were born for glory, we are kept for glory, we are being prepared for glory.
2.4 So we can enjoy the glory (1 Peter 2:8-9)
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)
We love Him, we trust Him, we believe in Him, we receive from Him. Verse 9 can be translated, “for you are receiving the consummation of your faith”. Our being together, our growing together as a family of believers is a foretaste of heaven. It’s a means of his blessing. We can enjoy the glory now as we look forward to the glory to come. John Maxwell writes about the attributes of this Hope:
Hope motivates when discouragement comes.
Hope energizes when the body is tired.
Hope sings when all melodies are gone.
Hope believes when evidence is eliminated.
Hope listens for answers when no one is saying a word.
Hope climbs obstacles when no one is helping.
Hope endures hardships when no one is caring
Hope smiles when no one is laughing.
Hope dares to give when no one is sharing.
With Jesus we are at Home. In Jesus we have Hope.
3. Through Jesus we can be Holy (1 Peter 1:13-21)
is not a commonly used word today yet its what we expect unconsciously, when we
turn on the tap, when we order a meal at a restaurant, or when we take off muddy
shoes when we come into our house. We expect our water, our food, and our homes
to be pure and clean for our use and health. Holiness was behind the recommendation
made in 1860 by Russian scientists to move the water pipes of St. Petersburg. Untreated sewage flowed into the Neva River a few hundred yards upstream from the intake
pipes for the city’s drinking water.
In 1992 when I visited the city, environmentalists discovered that nothing had been done about the situation in 130 years. Many of its 5 million residents still boiled the brownish-yellow water coming from their taps. Many strained their water through cheesecloth before drinking it. Unboiled, the water contained toxic bacteria that caused diarrhoea and sickness. Holiness is like pure clean water.
We cannot make ourselves holy. But through Jesus we can. Peter gives us five incentives to encourage us to live a holy life in a polluted world.
3.1 The Glory of God (1 Peter 1:13)
“Set your hope on fully on the grace
to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Christians live in the future tense; our present actions and decisions
are governed by our future hope. On Saturday I met with Mike and Rachel to discuss
their wedding in a few weeks. Much of our conversation focused instead on their
future life together. They are making decisions now in preparation for their life
together. So we must plan our life now in the expectation of seeing and being
with Jesus Christ soon. Outlook determines outcome; attitude determines
action. Live in the light of the future. The first incentive - the glory of God
3.2 The Holiness of God (1 Peter 1:14-15)
The argument here is logical and simple. Children inherit the nature of their parents. God is holy; therefore, as His children, we ought to live like him. “Be holy in all you do” covers everything.
3.3 The Word of God (1 Peter 1:16)
“For it is written!” is a statement that carries great authority for the believer. Those who delight in God’s Word, meditate on it, and seek to obey it will experience God’s direction and blessing in their lives (Ps. 1:1-3). The Word reveals God’s mind, so we should learn it; God’s heart, so we should love it; God’s will, so we should obey it. The glory of God, the holiness of God, the word of God. Fourth incentive?
3.4 The Judgement of God (1 Peter 1:17)
What is this judgment that Peter wrote about? It is the judgment of a believer’s works. This is not about our salvation. When we trust in Christ, God forgives our sins and declares us righteous in His Son. When the Lord returns, however, he will expect a return on his investment. Each of us will give an account of his works, and each will receive the appropriate reward. This is a “family judgment,” the Father dealing with His children. The Greek carries the meaning “to judge in order to find something good.” What an encouragement! This incentive should lead us to a godly fear. This is not the cringing fear of a slave before a master, but the loving reverence of a child before his father. It is not fear of judgment but a fear of disappointing Him.
We simply need to realize that someday we will stand before a holy God and will have to give a justification for everything we have thought, and said and done. That in itself should make us pause before we speak and transform what we say. The final incentive,
3.5 The Love of God (1 Peter 1:18-21)
This is the greatest incentive of all for holy living. We tend to value something in relationship to how much it costs us. Pay a mortgage every month for 25 years and you certainly value your home. If we want to know how much people matter to God, we simply have to ask the same question, “What price has God paid to be in relationship to us?” The price paid reflects the value of the relationship.
”For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)
In the coming week, reflect upon the price
God paid to show his love for you and each person in your life. Five incentives
to holy living. The glory of God: the holiness of God: the word of God: the judgement
of God: and lastly, the love of God. Whatever your situation this morning, whatever
burden you are carrying right now, whatever pressure you feel under, whatever
opposition you are facing, whatever pain you are suffering, remember: With Jesus
we are at Home. In Jesus we have
Hope. Through Jesus we are becoming Holy. Lets pray.
In preparing for this sermon I am grateful for inspiration and ideas from Stand Strong by Bill Hybels (Zondervan); Be Hopeful by Warren Wersbie (Scripture Press); The Message of 1 Peter by Edmund Clowney (IVP), and The NIV Application Commentary on 1 Peter by Scot McKnight (Zondervan)