Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3-9
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,
7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Sermon: "Born Again To A Living Hope"
Hope is a powerful thing. In an article on the Time website on Jan. 29, 2007 titled "The Brain: The Power of Hope", the writer Scott Haig shares about a man, David, whose brain is literally destroyed by lung cancer to the point that he is brain dead. However, through the course of his battle with cancer, his constant hope was his beautiful, young family--his wife Carol, a nurse, and his three kids, who were there every night. The doctors had found that he barely had any brain left. In his dying moments, he woke up for 5 minutes to say good-bye to his family.
"But it wasn't David's brain that woke him up to say goodbye that Friday. His brain had already been destroyed. Tumor metastases don't simply occupy space and press on things, leaving a whole brain. The metastases actually replace tissue. Where that gray stuff grows, the brain is just not there.
"What woke my patient that Friday was simply his mind, forcing its way through a broken brain, a father's final act to comfort his family...
"I see the mind have its way all the time when physical realities challenge it. In a patient stubbornly working to rehab after surgery, in a child practicing an instrument or struggling to create, a mind or will, clearly separate, hovers under the machinery, forcing it toward a goal. It's wonderful to see, such tangible evidence of that fine thing's power over the mere clumps of particles that, however pretty, will eventually clump differently and vanish... many think the mind is only in there--existing somehow in the physical relationship of the brain's physical elements. The physical, say these materialists, is all there is. I fix bones with hardware. As physical as this might be, I cannot be a materialist. I cannot ignore the internal evidence of my own mind. It would be hypocritical. And worse, it would be cowardly to ignore those occasional appearances of the spirits of others--of minds uncloaked, in naked virtue, like David's goodbye."
What is your source of hope? Peter points us to the supreme source of home, one which he refers to as a "living hope." We will look at the identity of the living hope, the indestructibility of the living hope, and the incredibility of the living hope.
The identity of the living hope is salvation (vv. 3-5). Salvation find its fulfillment in the future. One commentator says this: "Hope... conveys the idea of confidence and energy that flows from the expectation of future blessing based on facts and promises."
Romans 8:23-25: "23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
If our hope is on anything else, it is not a big enough hope. The hope of ushering in Baby Hope helped my wife through her ordeal of childbirth. That same baby Hope helps me through my days. As much as Baby Hope gives me much strength, even she is only 22 inches and 9 pounds.
What is more, salvation is not just a future concept; it is a present reality. God is with you; you are in a relationship with him.
One confession of faith puts it this way:
"What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification? A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God's love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end."
This living hope comes through Jesus Christ. God is the author of salvation. He caused us to be brought into this hope. Apart from this grace, we cannot access this hope. Apart from Jesus, we were without hope. The resurrection of Jesus is the sign of the veracity of that hope.
We identify with this hope through faith.
Ephesians 2:8: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Second, we learn about the indestructibility of this living hope (vv. 6-7). Trials don't destroy this faith.
Trials hurt; they are not pleasant. Peter mentions various trials that the believers faced. They were living in the time of the Roman emperor Nero. They probably dealt with local persecutions. They were likely outcasted. Their lives were literally in danger. However, trials did not destroy their hope.
Rather, Peter explains that trials refine our living hope. Compared to what the Christians to whom Peter was writing, we do not go through trials at all. It is not the norm for our lives to be in danger because of our faith. But even in the things we call "trials", we see the importance of our living hope.
Trials give us perspective. You see what is truly important. You may actually be led to repentance. You realize that you placed your hope in something less that your salvation.
You persevere in faith in spite of those trials. Your faith is tested.
Remember James 1:2-3: "2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness."
This living hope is your source of strength through those trials. The book The Heavenly Man recounts the life of a Chinese believer, Brother Yun. In it, Brother Yun shares about the persecutions he faced. He was used as a dummy for officials to practice martial arts. He was beaten with fists and batons, tortured, interrogated, and tempted in various ways to renounce his faith. However, this is what he confesses:
"Day and night I meditated on the Word of God, on all that is holy and edifying. I thought of the great men and women of the Bible who had suffered for their faith.
"I considered how Jesus willingly submitted himself to God's will, an had endured the wrath of sinful men. I thought about Joseph and his experiences in Eqypt, Daniel in the lion's den, and about Stephen as he was being stoned to death. I meditated on what Paul had written during his times of incarceration, and of Peter's imprisonment and miraculous escape in the twelfth chapter of Acts. They were like clouds of witnesses surrounding my thoughts. Their examples cast away the fears and burdens from my heart...
"God purified my heart. I held no hatred or malice against those who had treated me cruelly."
This hope of the early Christians and of Brother Yun is the hope that we have who believe. Thus, the one who truly hopes can actually rejoice in trials.
The incredibility of this living hope (vv. 8-9).
Hebrews 11:1-3: "1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible."
This may seem to defy logic. You don't see yet believe. Why?
For one thing, there is external evidence; it is reasonable to believe. The Biblical account is consistent and makes sense. The Bible is historically reliable. People's lives change and people live radically. The church persists.
There is also internal evidence; there is a peace that exists. Things happen that you can only explain as the work of God. There are feelings. You don't depend on feelings but they are important. You have a sense of assurance of God.
Josh McDowell, whose work I would recommend if you are serious about the external "evidence" for Christianity, also shares about these internal evidences in his final chapter of his book More than a Carpenter, titled "He Changed My Life." One change is that he went from being restless to having a "kind of mental peace... the ability to cope with [conflict.]" Another was going from a bad temper to to losing his temper once in 14 years. A third area was going from hatred, particularly toward his father, to having a "love from God through Jesus Christ" that was "so strong it took that hatred and turned it upside down." He actually shared that love with his father who came to accept Jesus.
Our rejoicing is not some delusion.
Worship is an opportunity to express and experience that joy. It reminds us of what we have in heaven. It can be our source of comfort in our trials.
If you are not born again, come to Jesus.
Bring to life this living hope. How? Through your personal devotion, prayer and the Word. Also, through corporate means, such as true spiritual fellowship and times of worship. Where? In church. Take a step to go beyond church as a formal routine. Stay for fellowship. Go to the small group. Look into serving. At work. In your family. Live as a Christian. Live out this living hope.