3/29 Lesson

Living Hope

Beloved, we enter the 6th week of our Lenten study still in the midst of a pandemic. Many of us looking for signs of hope on a daily basis, looking for some good news, a light at the end of the tunnel. We are only a short while away from Easter Sunday and yet the reality of social distancing has made the future bleak for many of us. This morning we will dig into a passage of hope and praise that should center us in uncertain times.

        Up to this point in our Lenten series, we have taken a look at the complicated and deceptive nature of sin, the obstacles and comforts in our lives that get in the way of our walk with God. Why fasting is a spiritual discipline that is not only for our own good but for the good of our church body and for the life of the world. Today we will discuss our hope that is greater than circumstance, a hope anchored in the grace and mercy of God. A hope that tells us that we are being sanctified and refined through the hardships. Our passage today comes from 1 Peter please watch the overview video on the link provided for better context on the passage, author and original audience.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhP7AZQlzCg&t=6s – 1 Peter overview video

This is what the word of the Lord says: “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. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 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 end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1: 3-9

 

            This opening passage (v.3-12) is one long continuous sentence in the original Greek, the whole thought centered around one verb, praise. Peter’s aim in writing this is to remind the early church and by extension all of us, that no matter the circumstance God is worthy of praise. Today we will go through four reasons Peter gives us in this passage to praise God.

            The first reason is that in His great mercy He has given us new birth. Richard Sibbes, a 16th-century Anglican theologian once said, “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.” It is because of this great mercy that we have been given new birth. Just like our parents gave us our first birth, we didn’t achieve it through individual determination, it was a given to us. So, God through His great mercy has given us new birth. Adoption into His family, a fresh start with the great benefit of getting to use Christ’s track record in place of our own. Our new birth is always cause for rejoicing.

        The second reason to praise God is that this new birth is into a living hope. Hope is a word often used in the same manner as the word wish. We wish or hope (fill in the blank) happens.  It is also used in the manner of confidence.  I have hope in (fill in the blank), we have confidence in institutions or leaders. But hope in the New Testament means something uniquely different. We are confident in the things to come because the God who has a perfect track record and has never failed or lied says it will be so. Peter is saying to the early church that they can have hope in God because of who He is and because of the resurrection.

        Our hope is a living hope because it is rooted in our Savior who is very much alive! He not only lives, but He is also the creator of life and defeater of death, in Him and His boundless mercy we have hope. Because of the evidence of the new life lived we have a living hope. SMALL GROUP QUESTION: What has been your experience with seasons of doubt, or lack of hope? Have other believers rebuked you for having little faith, or have they shared God’s proven track record and great mercy with you by means of scripture and testimony?

           Our inheritance is the third reason for praising God in this passage. Through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ we have received the inheritance of the New Heaven and the New Earth. The Inheritance of an eternity with God which can never perish, spoil or fade. To his original audience, Peter was saying all the things they gave up to follow Christ, all the forces that are trying to hold you down, they will perish, they will spoil, they fade into obscurity. But praise be to God, He never will, and neither will our inheritance.

        It cannot go into disrepair; it will never get worse than it was before. Nations and institutions have both golden eras and low points. Most of you at one time or another have wished that our country or our church were the way it used to be. But Praise be to God, a day will never come when we wish eternity with God was like it used to be! It’s unblemished, unpolluted, unstained it will always be exactly as great as it was supposed to be. It will never need insurance, will never need the protection of a police force or military. For it is kept in heaven for us, the word “kept” here means to guard or reserve. It’s in the present tense, meaning that God is guarding our inheritance actively. Think about that for a moment, God is not only the one who is greatly merciful to us, gives us new birth, a living hope, an inheritance; but He is also safeguarding that on our behalf. Praise be to God!  SMALL GROUP QUESTION: What things other than God do you place hope in? Do you believe these things to be worthy of your hope? Why or why not?

         The fourth and final reason in this passage to praise God is that He has given us reason to rejoice even though we suffer! “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Suffering will come in various different ways but beloved it is refining us. Like metal is refined by fire, so too are we refined by suffering. Each time the metal is refined the heat exposes and removes the imperfections.

         No matter how hard we strive our faith has imperfections, but in seasons of trial our imperfections are made known to us, and we are refined! Sanctification is a life-long process of becoming more and more like Christ. This is why seasons of having God search us and make known to us our imperfections, seasons like Lent, are so important. It is said that goldsmiths leave the metal in the fire until they can see their own reflection in the shine. I don’t know if this is true, but it gives us an image of the ultimate craftsman, refining us, so that we may bear His image more clearly.  In Romans 5 Paul says this “we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

            God is worthy of praise because he gives us reason to rejoice even in seasons of hardship. I am not saying, in the midst of everything crumbling around us we should be chipper and happy all of the time. For happiness and joy are not the same thing, but we can be as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:10 “sorrowful yet always rejoicing”. For we have received new birth into a living hope by the resurrection of Christ, which gives us an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade. An inheritance that is being safeguarded by God himself and therefore is in the best hands possible. For this reason, we can rejoice even during trials, even during sorrow for we know where it leads, God is doing something we could not do ourselves.

        We can rejoice when it doesn’t make earthly sense because our joy and our hope are not anchored in our circumstances, or in our capacity to overcome them. They are anchored in the unfathomable grace and mercy of God. He has a proven track record; we know what He’s done for us and so we know His promises are true. We don’t find hope in a health and wealth gospel salvation that says that you can hope in the bettering of your circumstances. We have great confidence in a God who gives us a living hope that is greater than our circumstances.

SMALL GROUP QUESTION: When you think of the hope you find in God, is it a hope that is greater than your circumstances or is it a hope that God will change your circumstances to look more like your plan? Have you ever experienced a state of being sorrowful and yet rejoicing?  

                Beloved, our Lent series as been reflective in many regards. It has leaned into being emptied and being filled. Leaned into spiritual maturity and growth. But we are not the center of the story, we would be remised if we neglected to praise God all the while. As in past weeks, a song of reflection is provided in a link below. As you listen to it and are reminded of the Living Hope we have thanks to the great mercy and resurrection of Christ, let this reminder evoke praise from you. For as the Apostle Peter reminds the early church in his letter, the first step in navigating hard times is praising the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSbJPZLNIuc – Living Hope by Phil Wickham