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Archive for the ‘1 Peter’ Category

Isn’t it amazing how the same words can have such different meanings, depending on our tone?  We all know about the kind of “fine” that means “it isn’t fine, and never will be fine.”  And then there’s “Bless your heart.”  In the South, it tends to mean “You’re too dumb to know better, and now I know what I’ll be talking about for the next several weeks, always prefaced by ‘Bless his heart, but…’”  But with another tone, “bless your heart!” expresses gratitude, humble thankfulness, even awe at another’s kindness.  And as Peter writes his first letter to Christians scattered through what is now Turkey, this awe-filled gratitude is exactly the tone he has as he considers all that the Father has given His people in Christ: an awe that leads us to praise the Father whole-heartedly, and a joyful gratitude that leads us to trust and obey the Father constantly in Christ, come what may.

In the opening verses, Peter calls his readers “elect exiles” (1 Pet. 1:1, ESV)—chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”—we’re not in this strange, sometimes hostile place by accident, but by the wise, loving, all-sovereign plan of the Father, which moves us to confidence.  Christians are chosen “in the sanctification of the Spirit”—set apart for a life of service and worship, which moves us to Christ-like holiness.  And we are chosen “for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood”—brought into Christ’s new and living covenant through trusting the gospel message, marked as Christ’s by his own blood, which moves us to ongoing obedience to our King.

And as we reach the main body of the letter in verse 3, Peter calls us to think on the greatness and goodness of the God and Father of Jesus Christ, and to bless the Father who has blessed us with a living hope, a lavish inheritance, and a lasting salvation.

First, bless the Father who has blessed us with a living hope (v. 3)!  Notice that he did so “according to his great mercy.”  He didn’t rescue us out of obligation—we who were made to know and love God instead have rebelled against him, and the only things we deserve are death and hell.  If he has rescued us at the cost of his own Son, it’s not because of us, but because of the kind of Father he is.  He is full of abundant mercy, and there is none beyond his reach—if you are far from him, don’t despair, but come and trust his promises!

And he has “caused us to be born again.”  Peter reminds us how we got here—we didn’t give birth to ourselves.  As the apostle John put it, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).  If we are in Christ, he has given us life, just as surely as he first gave us breath and a heartbeat!  And that’s good news—because we can be sure he didn’t birth us only to abandon us!  As the Lord said through Isaiah, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb?  Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.  Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands!” (Isa. 49:15-16).  And so he has—with iron nails driven into olive wood!  He will not forget and abandon those whom he has bought as long as his scars remain.

He has caused us to be born again “to a living hope,” making rebels into sons and daughters forever.  Where before we had only the promise of death and judgment, we have been given life and family (Eph. 2:12-14, 19; see also 1 Pet. 2:9-10).  And he has done so “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  Is it easy to come to Christ?  In one sense, yes: “Whoever comes to Me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).  In another sense, it is impossible—“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).  We didn’t want to see!  It is only when the same Lord who spoke into physical darkness and created light speaks into our spiritually dark, God-rejecting hearts and creates light so that we see him as he is that we turn and follow him (2 Cor. 4:3-6).  And the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead makes us spiritually alive and guarantees that we are welcome in God’s presence (Eph. 1:18-2:7).  Do you know this life-giving, hope-giving Father?  Praise him!

Second, bless the Father who has blessed us with a lavish inheritance (v. 4)!  He has made us to be coheirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).  This is an imperishable inheritance—it will not rust, will not rot, will not ruin.  It is an undefiled inheritance—it is pure and holy, and he is remaking us to be pure and holy to receive it.  It is an unfading inheritance—when we see him face to face, it will not be for a short time, but forever!  This inheritance isn’t simply heaven, as good a gift as heaven is.  This eternal, pure, unending inheritance is Christ himself—his presence and his love for us forever!  Jesus says it’s safe not to worry, not because there’s nothing scary in our lives, but because the Father is a good, generous Father, who knows our needs, provides for our needs, and delights in giving us what we never knew we needed until he came to us—himself (Luke 12:22-34)!  Do you know this generous, lavish Father?  Praise him!

And it is a reserved inheritance—held onto by the Father for us, kept in heaven where none can steal or ruin it.  And that brings us to our last point: bless the Father who has blessed us with a lasting salvation (v. 5)!  Who is this inheritance reserved for?  Notice that v. 5 doesn’t describe the inheritance being kept—“who are” refers back to v. 4, “for you.”  If we belong to the Father through Christ by the work of the Spirit, we are “protected by the power of God.”  Our confidence that we will finish well doesn’t finally rest on how good and faithful we are.  And if that doesn’t strike you as astonishingly good news, might I suggest that you don’t know yourself very well?  We’re still weak, prone to stumble, prone to let our eyes drift from Christ to the dying, deadly delights of this world.  But as our brother Jude says, he is “able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 1:24)!  He will not let us fall and stay down—the indwelling Spirit will convict us of sin, but also restore us and urge us on through the Word and through brothers and sisters.

What does this keeping look like in practice?  We’re kept “through faith.”  Being kept by God looks from our side of fence like someone clinging to Christ in faith and obedience.  Saving faith (which itself is a gift of God, Eph. 2:8) is the means by which God keeps us to the end.  When you’re tempted to give up, to despair, to go back to your old life, don’t expect the Father to keep you by physically dragging you out of bed to gather with the church, by making the computer blow up at the critical moment, or by making you suddenly feel a certain way.  His keeping will be as you put one foot in front of other, as you stand firm by the power of the Spirit when you feel like running, as you obey when you don’t want to.  It will be by intentionally spending life with brothers and sisters who will remind you and be reminded by you.

And notice we are kept “for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  This is what we were made for, what we were saved for, and what we will be given!  We’re already saved from sin’s punishment, brought into the Father’s love.  But we’re still in a broken, messed up world, and we still experience reality of sin—as Romans 8 puts it, we who have firstfruits of the Spirit, who are adopted, still groan as we wait for our full adoption and redemption.  But the living hope within us reminds us that the day will come when there is no more sickness, no more sin, no more death, no more weeping, no more fear.  He will finish what he has begun.  Do you know this keeping, saving Father?  Praise him!

So what are we to do, seeing how the Father has given us life, has given us an inheritance, and is keeping us to the end?  Peter tells us—from v. 6 to the end of the book!  Seven big ideas, very briefly:

  • Rejoice in the face of all kinds of trials, knowing that the Father will use them to bring us into our inheritance when Christ appears as He has promised (v. 6-12).
  • Imitate our holy Lord, recognizing that he has given us new life and new hope (v. 13-2:3).
  • Live as monuments to the Father’s grace, living stones and priests in Christ’s temple (2:4-12).
  • Fearlessly, joyfully honor and submit to those in authority, even when they fall far short of the God they were created to reflect (2:13-3:6).
  • Fearlessly, joyfully love and be patient towards those whom Christ has put around us, even when they are difficult and wrong-headed (3:7-12).
  • Be prepared to suffer as Christ suffered, living out our living hope in hard places, ready to tell all who ask why it is we can face the unthinkable (3:13-4:19).
  • And finally, live out this good news of hope, enjoy this inheritance, together—humbly serving and being served within the body of Christ, bringing our fears and our temptations to the one who loves us and who will bring us safely home (5:1-14).

 

The audio of this sermon, which was preached at Grace Chapel Baptist Church, Kingwood, on Sunday, August 21, 2016, may be listened to below, or it may be downloaded by right-clicking and “Save Link As” here.

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Think about what it would be like to be a refugee, far from home, moving from place to place, nothing permanent.  There’s a sense of loneliness, because it’s clear to everyone else you aren’t from here.  And there’s a sense of lostness—everything’s different from back home, and even a trip to the grocery store involves a learning curve.

Now picture being a refugee, but knowing the situation is temporary.  In fact, imagine knowing your refugee status was imposed to prepare you to rule wisely as a prince or princess when you get home.  Sound like a movie?

According to Peter, that’s the truth about every follower of Jesus Christ.  In fact, if we had to sum up the first two verses of Peter’s first letter, we could say that we are chosen refugees—hand-picked outsiders—chosen ahead of time by God the Father, set apart by the Holy Spirit, and brought into obedience to Christ’s new covenant.  Peter writes “to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1 Pet. 1:1-2, ESV).

Notice, first, that Peter calls Christians to expect to live as elect exiles (v. 1).  When he calls his readers exiles, he speaks of resident aliens, those who live in a land that isn’t theirs.  It’s the word Abraham uses to describe himself when he had lived in Canaan for over half a century, but didn’t even have a place to bury his wife (Gen. 23:4).  Peter’s readers may have owned homes and lived in one place their whole lives, but they needed to realize “this world is not our home, we’re just a-passing through.”  They weren’t a special interest group or a political powerhouse; they were outsiders scattered to bring the gospel wherever they went.

Yet with these references to being foreigners—refugees, far from home, scattered across the globe—Peter says they are also chosen: “elect exiles.”  We are not where we are by accident, but by God’s good plan for His good purposes.  Peter tell us more about that in v. 2, and in the process tells us how to live as hand-picked refugees.  First, we live out our exile in confidence, because we are elect exiles by our Father’s knowledge and plan (v. 2a).  As Ephesians 1:4 puts it, the Father “chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world.”  He didn’t merely know about us (that’s true of all people), but He knew us intimately.  It’s the same word Peter uses when he says that Jesus “was foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1:20); the Father didn’t merely know that Jesus would come; it was His plan that He was bringing about.

So what is this plan that the Father has for us?  The Father is creating a family, causing us to be born again, giving us living hope and an unending inheritance in Christ (v. 3-5), and He will use every circumstance to accomplish this.  And remember, we didn’t jump into this plan because we understood it and wanted to sign up.  We were by nature opposed to God, aiming to live our lives for ourselves.  And if we are now living for Christ, loving Him and imitating His love for His Father and for those around us, that’s only because He has given us new hearts and new eyes that see Him for who He really is.

But now that our eyes have been opened, we will live out our exile in holiness, because we are set apart by the Spirit (v. 2b).  We usually think of sanctification as that ongoing, lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus—and Peter will get to that later in letter.  But here Peter’s focus is on what we call positional sanctification—the believer being set apart for use in worship, much as the Old Testament temple and altar were.  This is how the Father’s choosing has been carried out; He doesn’t just say, “Okay, Mike is mine, but he can do whatever he wants.”  He declares us righteous only because of Christ’s righteousness, but He also awakens and indwells us by His Spirit.  He makes us His temple, and then starts cleaning house, as our new love and gratitude toward God leads us to live more and more like Him (see 1:13-16, 2:9-11).

And as we live out our exile in confidence that the Father knows and loves us, as we live out our exile in holiness because the Spirit has sanctified us, we will live out our exile in step with King Jesus, trusting and living in His new covenant (v. 2c).  Pastor Tom Schreiner notes that obedience and sprinkling picture salvation from two angles.  First, there is obedience.  Obeying here is not so much our actions, but responding to the gospel message (see Rom. 10:16, 1 Pet. 4:17) by turning from sin to follow Jesus, trusting His promises as our king and the one who paid our ransom.  Second, the sprinkling with Christ’s blood recalls Exodus 24:1-8, as Israel entered into covenant.  The people promised to obey, a sacrifice was made, blood was sprinkled on the altar to deal with sin, and then on the people to mark them as the Lord’s.  Now we have been given a new covenant, with a better sacrifice and better promises, and we are marked as the property of Jesus.  In Exodus 25-31 God immediately told Israel to build a tabernacle and consecrate priests; in this new covenant He is gathering the church to be a living temple and a holy priesthood to show what He is like by the way we love one another (2:4-12).

We’re not home yet—but we’re heading that way.  In the meantime, Christians are elect exiles—outsiders who don’t quite belong, but outsiders who belong to a Father who knows us, a Spirit who sanctifies us, and a Son who brings us into a new covenant sealed with His blood.  That gives us every reason to live in confidence, in holiness, and in step with our King until we see Him face to face.

The audio of this sermon, which was preached at Grace Chapel Baptist Church, Kingwood, on Sunday, August 7, 2016, may be listened to below, or it may be downloaded by right-clicking and “Save Link As” here.

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