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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
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. 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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:3–9).
Our Need for the Word
The reason I recited that for you instead of reading it to you is to make this point. At 69, I need the word of God in my mind and in my heart daily more than I ever have — more than when I was 19 or 39 or 59. Psalm 119:9 says:
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
And Psalm 119:11 says:
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
So I’m going to ask you, how do you keep from sinning each day? What’s your strategy to make war on your old, or young, sinful heart? What’s your strategy? How do you go about killing sin? Or put it positively: what’s your strategy for day by day maintaining a living passion for Jesus?
Here’s one biblical strategy. Second Corinthians 3:18 goes like this:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being changed into his likeness. You are changed into a sin-fighting, Christ-like person by seeing him.
Knowing Where to Look
Here’s a second question. If that’s the strategy, where do you see him? How do you fix your gaze on him? If that’s the strategy, if that’s the way it works, if you get changed by watching him, looking at him and steadily beholding his glory so that it starts to go in you and change you, where do you see him? There is one answer: the Word. First Samuel 3:21 says:
The Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.
That’s an amazing statement. It says he appeared. The Lord appeared to you. The Lord will appear to you by the word of the Lord.
So, I know of no other way to live the Christian life than to store this up in my head and and in my heart, so that all day long, every day, the Holy Spirit has something to set on fire. When he touches it, the word blazes with Christ, with the sight of his glory. And you see him as preferable to pornography. You see him as preferable to money and power and fame. You see him and he’s preferable. He’s infinitely valuable. Why? Because a word has been touched by the Holy Spirit. It has flamed with his appearance in your heart, and you have become more like him.
So if that’s the key to living the Christian life, to fighting sin, to having a passion for Jesus, to making a difference in the world, then we need the word of God. So I ask you, if you have a Bible, to open it to 1 Peter 1:3–9. I recited that text because that is our text.
A Living Hope Through the Resurrection of Christ
First Peter 1:3 says:
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 . . .
Now the focus of this message is on that phrase “living hope.” Let’s read it again so you see where that comes in the verse. It says, “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection from the dead . . .” Peter assumes every Christian has been born again, and he assumes that everyone who’s been born again has a living hope. So if you’re a Christian, you’ve been born again. That’s how you got to be a Christian. Even if you can’t remember it, which I can’t, it’s okay.
You know you’re alive today not because you have a birth certificate, right? I’m breathing, I’m alive. I love him. I am alive. You don’t need to remember how you got into that glory, but everybody who’s a Christian has been born of God again from the first time, and has a living hope. That’s what it says. We have been born again unto a living hope. So you all have all, if you’re Christian, been born again. And if you’re Christian, you have a living hope.
I have three questions about that living hope, which I think the text answers. Here are my three questions. I want you all, believers, to know your living hope. First, where did it come from? What’s the basis of it? What’s the basis of your living hope? Second, what is the future experience of this living hope that we are hoping for? What’s coming? And third, since it’s a hope now and I’ve been born now, what is the present experience like of having a living hope?
The Basis of Our Living Hope
Those are my three questions: what’s the basis of it? What’s the future experience of it? What’s the present experience of it? And I am assuming, as we go to this first question now — what is the basis of your living hope — that Peter wants you to know that. I’m assuming he wants you to know that. And here’s why I assume that: there are three answers given to that question in verse three. So I assume he wants you to ask the question and get an answer, since he gives the answers in verse three.
And the other reason I assume it is because of a verse that many of you know. First Peter 3:15 says:
[Be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you . . .
So can you do that? Let’s say you’re walking out and somebody puts a microphone in your face. They’re doing a little Easter NPR interview of various worshipers. They say, “This is all about hope, right?” And they ask, “Why do you have hope?” It’s in your face. Now, can you do that? Would you do that? I would like you to be able to do that when we’re done, okay? That’s why we’re asking what’s the basis of it? Peter wants you to know for your own soul and he wants you then to be able to talk about it with other people.
So what’s the answer to the question? What’s the basis of your hope? Let me just name them first, so you see them right there in 1 Peter 1:3. Number one: the first basis of your hope is new birth. It says, we were “born again to a living hope.” The hope started in the birth, right? You were born again to a living hope. The hope wasn’t there before the birth. This event, called the new birth, gives rise to hope. That’s number one. We’ll come back to these and say more.
Number two: God’s great mercy. Are you with me in 1 Peter 1:3 still? It says, “Blessed be the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ. According to his great mercy, he has caused you to be born again to a living hope.” So the first foundation is new birth, and the second foundation is the great mercy of God.
Number three: Christ’s resurrection. Notice the word “through”. It says, “He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” If there is no resurrection, there’s no new birth; and if there’s no new birth, there’s no hope. Therefore, no resurrection, no hope.
So now we have three statements of where your hope, this living hope, is resting. In other words, what’s the basis of it? You were born again, and underneath your new birth is great mercy from God and he did it through the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Let’s think about each of those for just a moment.
God’s Great Mercy
Let’s start with mercy because it’s where everything starts. It was there before the new birth was there. It was there before the resurrection was there. So let’s start there. When you think about your hope and new birth resting on great mercy, how does that affect you? It should have a very humbling effect and a very strengthening effect. Mercy means that there’s not a person in this room or anywhere else who deserves to be born again or to have hope. You do not deserve a living hope. It came from mercy.
Let’s say a neighborhood fundraiser for the band, say at the school, rings your doorbell. Kids have boxes full of candy bars and they’re going to charge you $2 for the candy bars because they’re raising money for their school, and they say, “Would you help us raise money? It’s $2 for the candy bar.” And you take a candy bar out and give the kid $2. Zero mercy has happened there. But if you look with compassion upon these kids trying to raise money for their band and you take one candy bar and give them $15, that’s called mercy. They don’t deserve 13 extra dollars. You just feel generous. You feel that way. That’s who you became at that moment.
And that’s God towards us. You are born again, not because there’s a sticker price on you and he paid it. He didn’t. He went infinitely beyond the sticker price. There was no sticker price. You were in a deficit. So the meaning of “by great mercy you’ve been born unto hope” is that all your hope is by mercy. All your hope and new birth are by undeserved kindness, which should fill you with a sense of great confidence.
I didn’t earn this. It was free. That’s what he’s like. And I’m just thinking of your church and what a sweet thing it is when a church is filled with people who know everything they have is from mercy. It changes the way you talk, it changes the way you treat each other, it changes everything around the dinner table, it changes everything in board meetings, and it changes everything in worship services. When everybody is looking at everybody else saying, “I don’t deserve anything. I don’t deserve your friendship. I don’t deserve you to be nice to me. I don’t deserve the sweetness of this worship. I don’t deserve a family of believers. I don’t deserve life. I don’t deserve to breathe. Everything I have, especially my living hope, is free from mercy.” That changes everything.
Christ’s Resurrection from the Dead
Second, consider the resurrection. We are born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. How does that work? How does the new birth come about through the resurrection? The new birth is something that happens in us, and the resurrection is a historical event that happened 2,000 years ago. What does he mean? He says we are born again through the resurrection to a living hope.
I think it works like this. When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, invades us to cause us to be born, and brings a new person into being, what he does is unite us to Christ. There’s a verse I’ll read to you. This is Romans 6:5:
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
So here comes the Holy Spirit, here’s Christ, risen through the resurrection, and here’s my dead soul. The Holy Spirit does this miracle. He unites, so that now the death that Christ experienced is counted as my death. My debt is paid. My punishment is experienced. I’ve been to hell and back. It’s over. I don’t have any judgment in front of me. So his death counts for me and I’m united to his life. My life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1). So in union with Christ, the indestructible life that Bill prayed over (he can never die again) is mine, hence it is a living hope.
So I think that’s how it works. The new birth is the point where that union happens. You become united to Christ. His death counts for yours. No more sin. And his life counts for yours so that you are with him forever in an indestructible life. That’s the second foundation, namely Jesus Christ, risen from the dead and us united with him.
Our New Birth
And now here is the third foundation. Let’s bore in a little further on the new birth. So we have the mercy of God, the resurrection of Jesus, and the new birth — three foundations for living hope. Here’s a word about the new birth. It says, “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope.”
Now, everything I just described about the new birth is subconscious. The miracle of that mysterious union of your soul with Christ’s life, you can’t see that and it doesn’t feel any particular way. You can’t say, “That was it. It just happened. That was it.” You can’t put your finger on it. So my question is, what do you experience in the new birth? That’s subconscious, but what do you experience? What do you feel? What’s it like to be born again?
Let’s put it this way. Over in 1 Peter 3:15, he says we should always be ready to make a defense, to give an answer to the one who asks you for the reason of the hope that is in you. And one of the reasons is new birth. What are you going to say to them? They’re going to say to you, “What’s the difference? I mean, what happened? Once upon a time, you didn’t have the least interest in Jesus. You didn’t care about religion. You were not a religious person. And now you’re one of these weirdos. You sing and you read your Bible and you don’t sleep around anymore. What happened? What did you experience? Talk to me about it. I want to understand what happened.”
The real question is, once you were doubtful and disinterested and now you’ve got a conviction that you’re going to die for. How did doubt and disinterest and “who cares” become “this is true and I will die for this”? How does that happen? I mean, that’s really amazing. It’s strange to go from, “I don’t care,” and, “I doubt,” and, “it’s probably mythological,” and, “weirdos do that,” to, “I’ll die for this.” What happened? What was it?
Thursday, April 2, 2015, Al-Shabaab attacked Garissa University in Kenya. Have you all read about this or seen it on television? The terrorists came into this university early in the morning on Thursday and they killed 147 students. And if you read behind the headlines, you know they were asking as they went from dorm room to dorm room, “Are you a Christian or are you a Muslim?” And the Christians were shot dead immediately.
Now, we live in the Twin Cities, which has been a pretty fertile recruiting ground for terrorists, which means that it is totally within the realm of possibility that before I’m done, some black-hooded person, or 10, would just walk right in there, shoot me dead, stand in front of you, say, “Don’t move,” and then just walk right down the aisles and say, “Are you a Christian?” and shoot. “Are you a Christian?” and shoot. “Are you a Christian?” and shoot. That’s just totally conceivable. So my question is, where did you get the conviction that at that moment you would not waiver when they asked you? Or do you have it? This is what the new birth is about.
The Experience of New Life
Here’s what happens in the new birth that you experience. The person has the microphone out there in your face, or some friend tomorrow, and they say, “What’d you do yesterday?” And you say, “It was Easter.” And they ask, “What’s Easter mean to you?” They want to know a reason for the hope that is in you. You would say something like this.
I think, according to what Scripture teaches about the new birth, you would say, “I know that once upon a time it all seemed quite boring and irrelevant and untrue to me. But once I heard the story, I heard that there’s a personal God. I heard that he created the world. I heard that we humans have all become sinners and rebels. I heard the story that he came himself in his Son and he lived a perfect life and he died as the God-man to save sinners so that we don’t have to die. He rose from the dead and he’s sending his Holy Spirit. He’s going to come again. He’s gathering the people.”
“I heard that story, and something happened. Not with these eyes. There was no shout, there was no light, there was no thunderclap, but I saw the glory of God in that story. I saw him. I saw the beauty of God. I could no longer go away. I was riveted. I was taken by the beauty of the Christ of that story. That’s how I was born again. And that’s why if they say, ‘Christian or Muslim?’, I’m not going to waiver. If they ask, ‘Are you a Christian?’ I will say yes, and they will send me to Paradise.” You don’t have to be able to explain it. In fact, you can’t fully explain it.
It says in 2nd Corinthians 4:6:
God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
What is that? That’s the new birth. You hear the story, and different from all other times, as you’re looking at the Christ of the story, light comes in and you’re looking and you say, “You are magnificent. You are self-authenticating-ly awesome. You are not imagined. Nobody made you up. You are real.” And I’m arguing, that kind of knowing — the light streaming in, the lights going on, the glory of Christ being manifest to you — is the only kind of knowing that will keep you from wavering as they point the gun at you.
Because if you have the kind of confidence that is based on your parents’ faith, tradition, historical arguments, inference, and logical deductions, do you know what your soul is going to do at that moment? It’s going to say, “The parents could be wrong. The tradition could have been messed up or I could’ve made some historical mistake. Maybe it’s a mistake.” And you’ll say it because you want to live. You’ll think, “Maybe my mind is not so logical after all, and all my deductions over all the years were just a little bit off.” And you will waiver. To see is to know. That’s how you know. The gospel is spoken, you look at the word and you see the glory of God in the face of Christ. That kind of knowing is like knowing there’s light outside.
Is there light outside? Try to argue for that. There’s no argument. There’s light outside, and that’s what these eyes are for. And that’s what Paul says. He calls them “the eyes of your heart” (Ephesians 1:18).
So those are the three answers to the first question: what’s the basis of your living hope? The basis of your living hope is the mercy of God. That’s where it all flows from. It is totally undeserved. And it is through the resurrection of Jesus, so that you are caught up into his indestructible life. And it is by this miracle by which the eyes of your heart are opened to see the self-authenticating glory of Christ in the gospel.
The Future Experience of Our Living Hope
Here’s the second question: what do you hope for in this living hope? The first question was, what’s the basis? And the second question is, what is the future experience of your hope? The answer is given in 1 Peter 1:4, and then it is expanded in 1 Peter 1:7–8. Let’s start in the middle of verse three so we get the flow.
He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you . . .
The word “inheritance” means future. It’s coming. So to be born again is to have an inheritance secured for you. And then he gives three words to describe the inheritance. And all the three words are meant to make the inheritance feel durable. It will be there and it will be there forever.
The first one is imperishable. Have no fear, it will never disappear. Don’t worry, it’s out there, but it will not fail you. It will be there.
The last one is unfading. Have no fear that the inheritance will become less glorious, as if someone would say, “Oh, it’s just going to diminish.” I used to fear as a kid that heaven would get boring. I thought that it might start exciting, but after a million years I didn’t think it would be. But it will be unfading, and it will be brighter and brighter as our eyes are capable of more and more forever.
And then thirdly, it is undefiled. There is no sinfulness in it, no defect in it, and nothing to jeopardize its greatness as your inheritance. So it’ll never end, there’s nothing defective, and it will never ever fade.
Praise, Honor, and Glory
But let’s be more specific. Down in 1 Peter 3:7 in particular. This is almost too good to be true, but it’s Easter, so we should be pushed. First Peter 3:7 says:
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.
Now here’s my question for you: is that praise, glory, and honor your praise? That is, does this mean you are being praised, you are being honored, and you are being glorified? Or is it Jesus’s praise? That he’s being praised, he’s being glorified, and he’s being honored?
Just looking at the flow of the thought there, that’s all we have to go on. There’s no voice that’s going to tell you this. If you get a voice, you don’t belong in this pulpit. I get no voices. What I get are words that you can look at, which means I can be tested. So look at it. My answer to the question is that this is praise of you, honor of you, glory to you, which for me, as a real God-centered lover of the glory of God, makes me have to take a deep breath and say, “Woah, that sounds a little man-centered,” but we believe the Bible not systems.
Why do I think that? I think that because the comparison is being made between the genuineness of your faith and gold, right? The image is that there’s fire and there’s gold that’s got some dross in it. That’s your faith and the genuineness of your faith. And how is the dross going to be burned up? He’s going to put it through fire. You’ve been through fire as a church.
You’ve been through fire, every one of you. If you’re older than 15, you’ve been through fire. What’s the fire about? What are the tests of this life about, these various trials? It’s like fire. And what is the fire supposed to do? It’s supposed to make the gold come out at the other end so that you praise it and honor it and glorify it. That’s our faith. That’s the picture. That’s the way the thought works. So he’s actually saying, what is it that you have to hope for? Well, there’s this inheritance, and it’s undefiled and it’s imperishable, and as you enter it, guess what? Heaven is going to praise you.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:5, “Then each one of you will receive his praise from God.” I mean, that’s not even open to question. That’s just what it says. It says, “Then each one of you will receive his praise (epainos) . . .” I know it says “commendation” in the ESV. That’s watered down. It’s praise. Each one of you will receive praise from God.
Someone might say, “It goes the other way, thank you very much. I’m going to praise him.” Yes you are. Yes you are. You will not be the one praising you, by no means. You will be praising God. And what you praise him for is mercy. And in mercy, he’s going to be saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And you will scarcely be able to believe it. It’s almost too good to be true.
Tested Genuineness of Faith
If it helps, remember what the gold is. What’s the gold? The gold is your genuine faith. The genuineness of your faith is being tested by fire. Out the other side of the testing comes genuineness.
Let’s say you have some terrible loss in your life, or as a church. You have some awful blow to your life. It threatens your faith. You wonder why. Where did he go? What happened? And you hold on and two, three, four years later you come out and you’re stronger and Christ is more precious and more real. That’s going to be praised. That’s what’s going to be praised. God’s going to smile upon that faith, that came through hell, that came through fire, and did not throw God away, which means that what’s being praised is Christ-exalting faith. Christ loses nothing when Christ praises faith in Christ.
That’s the answer to question number two — what do we have to hope for in this living hope and inheritance that’ll never let us down? And when he comes and brings us into it, there will be this amazing festival by which of course he is center stage as we praise him for his mercy. But oh, how he will look with praising, honoring, and glorifying favor upon your tested faith. Don’t give up.
The Present Experience of Our Living Hope
Here’s the last question: what’s it like now to experience this? The second question was, what will the future experience of living hope be like? And my question now is, what’s the present experience of living hope like?
There are five answers given in this text. I’ll just name them quickly and you enjoy them.
Number one: we experience faith. First Peter 1:5 says, “Being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” And 1 Peter 1:8 says, “Though you do not now see him, you believe in him.” So you’re guarded through faith and though you don’t see him, you believe in him. So we are believing, we’re trusting, and we are resting in Christ in our living hope.
Number two: we love him. First Peter 1:8 says, “Though you have not seen him . . .” Isn’t it good to know that you’re in the same position as the people that got this letter in the first century? I mean we say, “Oh, it would be great to see him.” But Peter is already writing to the people who’ve never seen him. He knows that’s the way it’s going to be for all the years until Jesus comes. All the people who believe are believing through the words of the apostles. So he says, “Though you do not now see him, you love him.” You cannot love someone you have not seen or do not know. There is a seeing that makes love possible.
Total ignorance of a person makes love meaningless. If you say, “I love Joe,” and they say, “Tell me about Joe,” and you say, “I don’t know Joe,” they will say, “Well, that’s meaningless.” Love is a response to what you know. And then, in the new birth, we have been shown his infinite value. And that’s what it means to be born again. Jesus has become your supreme treasure. You now see him as different, more than money, more than sex, more than fame. That’s what happened in the new birth. Eyes went open in the new birth and Christ became precious. And now you love him. You love him at Redeemer. I hear it in the songs, I see it in the faces. You’re here, and he’s precious to you.
Number three: we have joy that is inexpressible and glorified. First Peter 1:6 says, “In this you rejoice” — that is, in this keeping that God does of you, and in this inheritance that I just mentioned — “with joy inexpressible and filled with glory (or literally glorified).” That’s amazing. When we are seeing him as we ought — though it goes up and down, and we’re not naive that joy rises and falls and some days are intense days and other days are more flat days — on our best days, we can’t put words to our joy. That’s what inexpressible means. And what does it mean that the joy is glorified? That’s the literal translation. Our joy now is glorified — “receiving (present tense),” not just in the future, “the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9).
I think it means that we know we’re going to be glorified out there. It redounds unto praise and honor and glory. We’re going to be glorified out there. And that streams back in to inform our joy now so that we taste now, by faith and in hope, the glory that God is to us and will put within us. And that is coming into being as we are being transformed into his image from one degree of glory to the next.
Number four: we have sorrow and grief. First Peter 1:6 says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.” I have a verse that sustains me much. Second Corinthians 6:10 says, “Sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” That’s exactly what we have here. These are simultaneous.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you are grieved. This is not, “Oh, joy goes away and grief comes.” No, no. That’s not what it says. That’s not what the Christian experience is. Grief comes into joy, and makes joy more difficult and more complex. The moment where grief is getting the upper hand, joy doesn’t look like joy. There are tears and sobbing. But oh, it is there.
In a world that’s fallen with Al Shabab happening virtually every day in one form or another, and a world in which Jesus has risen from the dead, God is merciful, and we are born again to a living hope, there will always be joy and sorrow all the time in one soul. If you try to carve your life up and say, “I have happy days and sad days,” you have a big problem. Of course, you have sad days, like every day, or you must not be watching the news or praying for your kids. Every day is a sad day and every day is a happy day. We have reasons for sadness every day and we have better reasons for gladness every day. So I take these together. In this you rejoice, being grieved.
Number five: we are being kept. Look at 1 Peter 1:5. I love this verse. I put this verse on my mother’s gravestone. I love this verse. I used the King James version because that’s what she would’ve wanted. The verse says, in the ESV, “Who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed . . .” Do you see the wonder of how 1 Peter 1:4 and 1 Peter 1:5 are connected? I just love this connection. Verse four says that there is an inheritance being kept in heaven for you. And verse five says that you’re being kept for it. I just love that he says this.
It’s as if God said, “I’m going to keep your inheritance. It’ll never fade. It’ll never be defiled. It will never diminish or go away. And I’m keeping you for it. I’m not letting it depend on your failure or its failure. I’m totally into keeping you and keeping it so that your hope is absolutely unshakable.” I just love that.
Kept by the Power of God
I put on my mother’s gravestone, “Kept by the power of God.” Because that’s what the King James says. She was kept for 56 years and then there was a car accident. I’m 69. One of the things I exult in most is that he kept me. He’s kept me.
But like I began, there are disadvantages of growing old and real advantages. One of the disadvantages is your mind isn’t quite as sharp in the sense of memory and focus. That’s dangerous spiritually. If you lose focus on Jesus and you lose the memory of his word, you’re a sitting duck for the devil. We need to help each other, help the older people in this church. If they can’t read anymore, read to them. Read to them. If I go into the hospital and you come visit me, read to me the Bible or quote me the Bible.
Okay, I’m done. I’ll close it like this. Redeemer, you have a living hope. That’s the point of this message. You have a living hope because God is great in mercy, because Jesus is raised from the dead, and because you have been born again unto this living hope, which is an inheritance that will never fail you. It will never be defective in any way. It will always be perfectly suited to satisfy you forever. And now in this present time, you believe him, you love him, you rejoice in him, and maybe best of all, he is keeping your church, and he’s keeping you.