A Living Hope
Topic: Easter Passage: 1 Peter 1:3–1:5
March 27, 2016
Grace Community Church
A Living Hope
Please turn with me on this Easter morning to 1 Peter 1:3-5. There is a bumper sticker that reads eschew obfuscation. If you don't know what that means, it's a confusing way of saying avoid confusion, a complicated way of saying keep it simple. This Easter morning I want to eschew obfuscation and keep the message of Jesus Christ risen from the dead simple and clear. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is absolutely the most awesome event in all of human history. The empty tomb is the best news this tired old world has ever, or will ever receive because it says loud and clear that life wins! We live with the reality that our lives will one day give way to death. But the resurrection of Jesus Christ declares that for those who place their trust in Christ one day death will give way to life - resurrection life! Never ending, never dying life! Life that is more alive than anything we've ever experienced even on our best days. And knowing this is what Jesus has in store for us is what Peter calls a "living hope" - a hope that is alive in our hearts and that transforms everything else in our lives.
Life is really comprised of three directions: past, present, and future. All three directions impact on our lives tremendously and there's no way to disconnect any of these directions from each other. No matter how bright our future looks, there will be a cloud over it if our past is filled with unhealed pain and undealt-with regret. No matter how amazing this present moment is, we won't be able to enjoy it if we know that terrible things are waiting for us just down the road. Thinking back on beautiful memories is bittersweet at best when our present and future are bleak. Our lives are lived out in these three dimensions, past, present, and future, and for a living hope to transform our lives it has to extend to all three directions, past, present, and future. And that's exactly what Peter says God has done. We have been born again to a living hope that reaches backward into the past, forwards into the future, and permeates every aspect of the present. And all of this is possible only because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So let's travel through time together and consider how our living hope transforms our past, present, and our future.
Our living hope began two thousand years ago at the empty tomb
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… (vs. 3)
God in His mercy has birthed a living hope in us through (or by) something that was done two thousand years ago, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Our living hope reaches backward in time to a historical event that was like no other event in history: on that first Easter morning death, that is so used to overcoming life, was overcome by life. Jesus Christ is not dead, he is risen!!
Despair.com has a poster which reads, “Despair: It always gets darkest just before it fades to pitch black.” The Gospel story tells us that it got darkest just before it exploded into the brilliant light of hope. The cross was the darkest day in human history (and it is also the greatest day in human history). History is full of a lot of very dark days - we've just experienced a dark day this past Tuesday as over 30 people, including several Americans, were brutally murdered by terrorists. But the day men crucified Jesus is the darkest of dark days because every hateful, cruel, murderous, rebellious impulse of sinful man was unleashed when mankind sought to murder God the Son. As horrifying as any murder is, there is something even more horrifying when a person murders his or her parents. There is a darkness to a son or daughter taking the life of the one who gave them life that is unimaginable. How much more when the creature tries to kill the Creator, the One who gave all of us life and breath, the One who knit us in our mother's womb, who created everything that sustains our lives, and whose will enables us to breath our next breath and our hearts to beat the next beat.
There is also the aspect of trying to kill the Lord of lords that is horrifying. There is a greater offense in trying to assassinate a president than in trying to kill any other citizen of the US because of the high office they hold. How great a treason and rebellion it is to seek to kill the Lord of lords, the ruler of all creation, the King of glory, the One before Whom the most powerful of beings bow their knees in total submission. There is no darker day than the day we crucified the Lord of glory.
As Jesus hung on the cross, the darkest hours were from 12pm-3pm as God covered the land in deep darkness. As God the Father prepared to pour out His fierce anger on His own Son for the sins of the world, it was so sacred, so terrible, so intimate a moment that the world was not allowed to observe it. Those who stood there mocking were suddenly silenced and their mocking hearts were filled with fear. Can you imagine if as we left here this morning the sky turned black - not like the dark clouds of a storm, but as if the sun had stopped shining? There would be a fear that judgment was upon us, and so it was at the cross. The judgment of God was falling, not upon men, but upon the Son of Man, Jesus, who bore in his body all the terrible wrath of God for all the sins of the world. What happened during those three hours is far beyond our comprehension. Jesus faced the darkness of separation from God, faced the darkness of the judgment of God, faced the darkness of the wrath of God for sin, so that we would never have to. He cried out, My God why have you forsaken me? so that we would never have to. He who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of Christ. His blood covers our sins, so when we look back on our past, and the sins we have committed, or have been committed against us, the deep regrets and sorrows and wounds we bring into our present, there is a healing balm and an ocean of forgiveness that covers our past with mercy and, therefore, with hope. We may still feel regret or sorrow but it's not a paralyzing regret or sorrow, it's a redeemed regret and sorrow as we trust that God can use even our sin and brokenness for His ultimate glory and our good.
But all of this would not be possible if Jesus had remained in the grave. If God had not been fully satisfied with Jesus' payment, if there were still sins left unpaid, then Jesus would have rotted in that grave and our sin would still be on our heads. But we've been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! Through the resurrection God declared that every sin has been fully paid for to My total satisfaction, once again My infinite heart overflows with pleasure over My beloved Son's obedience and sacrifice, and nothing can keep him in the grave. It is finished - total satisfaction for sin has been accomplished. When the power of sin was broken, the power of death was broken and it could not keep its grip on the Lord of life. Death didn't give Jesus back, death didn't cooperate with God and allow Jesus to rise from the dead. Death was broken and beaten and destroyed by Jesus and he rose victorious over sin and death and Satan. And Jesus promises that everyone who believes in him will not remain dead either but be raised in resurrection life just as he was. Our living hope began two thousand years ago at the empty tomb - we have a living hope because we have a living Savior!!!
Our living hope reaches forward and guarantees an eternal future
…to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. (vs. 4)
Our living hope extends into our future by giving us a never ending future. John Newton, the slave trader turned Christian (and author of the hymn Amazing Grace), writes about visiting a woman in his church who was just days from dying, and as she lay on her deathbed she said to him, "Sir, you are highly favored in being called to preach the gospel. I have often heard you with pleasure; but give me leave to tell you that I now see all you have said, or can say, is comparatively but little. Nor, till you come into my situation, and have death and eternity full in your view, will it be possible for you to conceive the vast weight and importance of the truths you declare…the approach of death presents a prospect which is till then hidden from us, and which cannot be described. 1
She's right, I think it's impossible for us to imagine the weight of knowing you are just weeks, days, or hours away from leaving this earth and passing into eternity. Most of us, before we go to bed each night, don't spend hours reassessing our entire lives. In our family we always say "I love you" to each other, but we don't weep and wail as we say goodnight. When we close our eyes in sleep, we know (well, we assume we know), that we'll be waking up in the morning to a new day. But what a weight, what a prospect, to know that we, or a loved one, will not be waking the next day, that we are saying goodbye to each other, and to this life, forever.
But we have a living hope that says it will not be goodbye forever. Jesus said "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die." (John 11:25) To those who place their trust in Jesus Christ, death is just falling asleep. We will open our eyes on the other side of eternity and Peter says that our living hope brings us to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. Let's unpack that a little:
Inheritance - when we believe in Christ we are adopted as sons and daughters of God. God becomes our Father, and He is a good Father. Romans 8:17 teases that out and says, "Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…" On earth you can't leave an inheritance without dying, but that's not how it works in heaven. Jesus did die to make us God's children and write us into the will, so to speak, but there is no death in heaven, so the inheritance is dispensed immediately and fully and forever. The riches that Christ has in store for us is really beyond our imagination - when we see his kingdom and his glory and then see all that he gives to us because we belong to him - it's going to blow our minds. But more than that, an inheritance is a declaration of the loving family relationship between the benefactor and the inheritor. There is, waiting for us, an inheritance that is greater and richer than anything we could ever dream up. But sweeter than that - far more meaningful to our souls - is the Father's love that will give it to us. It will speak over us, beloved of God, precious son, treasured daughter, heir of God. Folks, we weren't made to crave getting more and more stuff - that's just what sin has done to our hearts. We were made to long for a loving relationship with our Creator and each other. And because of Christ's death and resurrection we won't just relate to God as our Creator, but as our Father. How awesome is that??
Our inheritance in Christ will be imperishable - it won't ever rot or decay. It will last forever. It is also undefiled meaning there is nothing about it that will be polluted or tarnished. And it's unfading. On earth the best things fade over time. Eventually that new car that thrilled you so much won't be new anymore and it will lose its thrill. The house, the land, the money, the promotion, the beach house in Maui, over time everything on this world loses its novelty, and grows old, worn out, faded. But our inheritance in Christ will be unfading - it will be as awesome in 5 billion years as it is the first 5 minutes. Don't ask me how that's possible - but that's what unfading means.
But listen, having an eternal inheritance - no matter how incredible - won't mean anything if we aren't able to enjoy it. In 2013 Gloria Mackenzie won $590 million in the lottery. That's a lot of money! But Gloria Mackenzie doesn't have a lot of time to enjoy that money. She was 84 years old when she won it, so she is 87 years old now. I am sure she is very grateful for winning and she can leave a hefty inheritance to her children, but it can never be very far from her mind that she has far more wealth than life. Wealth isn't much good to us when we die.
Our resurrection bodies will be able to keep up with our inheritance. Billions of years from now our inheritance will still be as priceless and amazing as the first day we receive it, and our bodies will be as strong and youthful and glorious as the first day we receive them. We'll have as much life as we have wealth - that is our living hope! Our future is assured forever by the work of Christ - our living hope will never come to a dying end- it will live forever.
Our living hope guards our present
…who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (vs. 5)
We have been born again through our Lord's resurrection, to an eternal inheritance, and by God's power we are being guarded, right now, right here in the present. A living hope wouldn't be much of a hope or very alive if it didn't affect the here and now. Peter says that God's power is guarding us every step of the way between now and then. God will keep us and guard us between now and then.
Often what we fear most isn’t the trial or hardship we’re facing now, but what we might face tomorrow: what if a trial is too much for me to endure? What if something devastates my faith and I walk away from Jesus? What if I don't make it past the finish line? Peter says the same God who provided salvation to us through Christ's death and resurrection, and who is preparing eternity for us, is protecting us so that our faith doesn't give out, doesn't get destroyed, so that we break the tape and cross the finish line holding onto Christ. His power powers our faith so that it is, ultimately, indestructible. Peter goes on to say in verse 6: In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 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.
He doesn't protect us from trials, but He protects us in trials, and if we have placed our trust in Christ, in his death, in his resurrection, then we will be protected every step of the way. God promises.
What a glorious hope we have in Christ! What a joyous message that he is not dead, he is risen! And what a strength to know that because of his resurrection God has promised us the power of forever life too – and it doesn’t start when we die, it started the moment we placed our faith in Jesus. It really is a living hope and God wants us to live in the good of that hope for the rest of our lives.
Let's pray. And as we pray, if you've never asked Jesus into your life, this Easter Sunday would be an amazing day to do that. Gloria Mackenzie, the 84 yr old who won the lottery won all that money because someone in front of her politely let Gloria ahead of her in the line. But the living hope Christ offers isn't a lottery, depending on the luck of the draw or who's standing in the right place at the right time. It is available to you right here, right now. The Bible says that God loves you and is willing and eager to give you a living hope by bringing you into a living relationship with a living Savior. But He won't force you to believe. You have to ask. You have to receive the gift He offers. You need to reach out to Him by faith and ask Him to come into your life. To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. As I close in prayer, if that's the desire of your heart, if you feel the Lord speaking to you, pray silently with me.
Closing song: Christ the Lord is Risen Today (new version)
1 Letters of John Newton, pg. 101.