Imperishable, Undefiled, and Unfading

Lessons on Living as Exiles, Part 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. (1 Peter 1:3)

When you read your Bible, be a worshiper. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s worship language, right? He’s not talking right there to tell them to do something. He’s just doing it. He’s saying, “Bless you. I bless you Father, as I get ready to talk to my love to churches. I bless you.” Don’t you want to be that kind of vertical person? You can hardly open your mouth without blessing and honoring and praising God.

People will think you’re weird if you do that. We need more weird people. We really do. We really do. We need more people who are not afraid of being thought to be charismatic or whatever you think you’re going to be thought if you say “Praise God” or “Blessed be God” or something like that. Your version of that.

How People Get Saved

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again.” So he starts by identifying them as being born again and the great cause of the new birth is God in his mercy. “According to his mercy.” So God in mercy comes to a dead person and makes them alive. That’s what happened to you if you’re a Christian.

So many people do not know how they got saved, and by that, I don’t mean you don’t remember it. I don’t remember how I got saved. My mother told me that when I was six in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on vacation, I knelt with her by a bed and confessed my sins, put my faith in Jesus and was born of God. And I have zero memory of that and I’m okay with that. I don’t remember my first birth either, and I don’t feel the least threatened by that.

So if somebody says, “How do you know you’re alive physically?” You don’t get out your birth certificate: “Chattanooga, Tennessee, January 11, 1946. Right there.” That would be stupid. You just breathe. And so, when they say, “How do you know you’re born again?” It’s the same thing. “I love him. I love him. I trust him. I was dead.” “Do you remember being dead?” “No, I don’t remember being dead.” “Well, how do you know you were dead?” “The Bible says so.” That’s what I mean by people don’t know how they got saved. People don’t know their Bibles. People don’t know what the Bible says about how you got saved.

Born Again

The Bible says you were born again according to great mercy, which means you didn’t deserve it at all and it was done by God. God calls you to be born again. So every breath you take as a Christian, every inclination you feel towards the word or towards Christ or toward his people, you should be “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” because that’s not coming from you. That’s an evidence that you were born of God to a living hope.

Why is it a living hope? Well, first, because it’s the result of being born — born breathed life. It’s a living hope. You were born into hope. Isn’t it amazing? You were brought into being as a Christian for hope, a living hope. And the other reason it’s a living hope is because it’s through the resurrection of Jesus. So the past creation of the hope is birth and the future promise because the resurrection is life. I’m going to be raised with him from the dead.

So somehow or other, in the new birth, I am united to Jesus who rises from the dead and because he rises, I rise and I have hope that I will be with him forever. So it’s a living hope in those two senses, at least because we are born and because it’s through the resurrection from the dead.

Cause, Means, Goal

Now, I said it would show up again: this linear way of thinking. Do you see it? “According to his great mercy,” “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” “unto a living hope.” See there? Same thing. So this is (1) cause, (2) means to (3) goal. This is the way Peter and Paul work.

I’ll just toss in a little an opinion here. When it comes to the prosperity gospel in terms of centuries and nations, I think this is why nations that get infected with the Christian worldview tend to do better, because if ingrained in your mind is cause, means, goal, cause, means, goal, you do everything differently. You don’t just sit. You don’t cross your leg like a Buddha. You get up and you act. You make things happen. You say, “I will be a cause. I have been caused. I will be a means. I will go somewhere. I will have a goal. There are things behind me, there are things around me. I’m going somewhere.”

Things are moving in a line. This family’s moving, the city’s moving, this nation’s moving, this church is moving. So that may sound overdone. I don’t think so. I can’t prove that. I’m not the kind of sociologist or historian of cultures that could prove it. It’s just a gut sense that if this kind of thinking, linear cause, means, long-term effect with lots of self-denial in between, grips a whole culture, they tend to prosper.

But caution, if you buy Christianity for that reason, you don’t have Christianity. That’s an offshoot of buying it because it’s true and he’s beautiful. Okay?

To a Living Hope

This hope right here is going to be a huge key to this book because the book is going to have so much suffering in it. So,

[We’re] 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. (1 Peter 1:3–5)

So the hope into which we are born again, when we are born again, the hope into which we’re born is the hope for an inheritance. The reason the word inheritance is so important here is because birth implies you’re now in a family, and in a family there are inheritances, and ours happens to be the inheritance of our Father. And what does he own? Everything. All things are yours, “whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:22–23).

So the inheritance flows from being born into a family. The living hope is that we will come into the presence of and the inheritance of our Father, and this is being kept. This is so encouraging to me. I love this because I’m old, and I’ve seen it happening. It is kept in heaven.

Kept in Heaven

Now I’m not there, and I don’t know how threatened it is, but I have a word now that in the meantime while I’m on my way there, it will not perish, it will not be defiled and become evil or worthless, and it won’t fade in the least. I should never think, “Oh, it’s been sixty years waiting, it’s going to be rotten or dirty or faded.”

And Peter says, “Excuse me, that doesn’t happen in heaven. This inheritance is going to be spectacular.” Now I’m okay with that, and frankly, I hardly ever lose any sleep thinking my inheritance is fading. I wouldn’t even think about it except for this verse, probably. This one, I think about all the time. I am being guarded through faith for my salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Are you with me? You see it?

So it is kept for me, and I am kept for it. “Who,” that’s you and me, born again people, “who by God’s power are being guarded [or being kept] through faith for a salvation” (1 Peter 1:5). I feel my vulnerability every day to make shipwreck of my faith. Now I’m a bonafide seven-point Calvinist, and I believe in eternal security. I believe in the perseverance of the saints, and I believe that John Piper, without this verse being true, could go to hell tomorrow and prove myself to have been deluded for sixty years.

I believe that the Christian life — we’re going to see more of this in 1 Peter — is the life of vigilance, to fight the fight of faith, to lay hold on eternal life, to press on toward the prize for the goal of the upper call of God in Christ Jesus, to put to death what is earthly in you. Any notion of eternal security that turns me passive faults, faults. We are warriors, and we have a major enemy. The devil prowls around. This is 1 Peter 5:8, which we won’t get to. Throw it in here. The devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. What does he eat? He eats faith. It’s all he wants to eat. He’s not going to eat your pain. He’s not going to eat your pleasure unless taking away your pleasure can get your faith or taking away your pain can get your faith. So this 1 Peter 1:5 is very precious to me, really.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. (Jude 24–25)

Why is such big language in Jude 25? Because keeping you is big business in God’s mind. I ask people everywhere I go to test what the nature of their faith is, who it depends on. What makes you think you’re going to wake up a believer tomorrow morning? There’s a right answer to that and there’s a wrong answer to that.

The wrong answer is, “Well always did” or “I’ve got free will.” Say, well, that’s pretty flimsy. I believe that I will wake up a Christian tomorrow morning. I would stake my life on it right now. Put a gun to my head. I’d say I’m waking up a Christian tomorrow morning. Why? Because of 1 Peter 1:5. You might wonder about this word through faith here. If you take that to mean well, if you come up with the faith, He’ll guard you. It doesn’t mean that. It doesn’t mean that.

It means we are being guarded by God’s omnipotent power, and the instrument by which he holds us is faith. It’s his instrument, it’s his work. How do I know that? I mean, why do I think that? Well, I think at first just in the nature of the case and then I’ve got some other texts. The nature of the case is, well, if you’re telling me that the preservation of my saving faith is decisively dependent on me, then it’s decisively dependent on me and not him. I’m adrift with me. What’s left for him to do?

That’s the decisive issue. Will I be a believer or will I be a believer? I mean if I can produce faith, if I can guarantee my faith every day till the day I die, what do I need him for to keep me? I have kept me. That’s my argument from the nature of the case. My other argument is, in Luke, when Peter is about to deny Jesus, remember what Jesus says to him? Luke 22:31, I think it is. He says, “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.”

Now what did that mean? “Satan has demanded to have you,” just like Job, “Satan has demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat.” And then Jesus says, “But I have prayed for you. And then the next word is massive. “When you turn,” not if, “when you turn strengthen your brothers.” Like, whoa, who’s in charge here? Satan is coming. “I want Peter.” Sift. “I want to sift him.”

Now what does sift mean? You’ve got a sieve and you put Peter in, you go and you pull him out the bottom, what’s left in the sieve? Faith, that’s what he wants. Satan wants to go, wants to squish him right through there and push him. You can have anything you want. Prosperity galore, health, wealth and prosperity, all you want, just faith in the sieve. That’s what it means that the lion desires to eat us, wants to eat our faith. So that’s what I want to do Jesus. I want to do that with Peter and Jesus says to Peter, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:32). That’s 1 Peter 1:5.

By God’s power, we are being guarded through faith. The instrument is God’s faith-creating power. When you return, so you should ask, perhaps you are asking, didn’t his faith fail? And the answer to that is, not utterly. It failed the way yours has failed hundreds of times. Things you knew at this moment, faith, if I walked in faith here, I’d say this or I’d do this and you don’t do it, that’s a failure of faith. But God’s incredible mercy has saved us out of that over and over again. Just like Peter. So I think when Peter wrote this, you can’t prove it, he had some pretty good memories of the faithfulness of Jesus in his life.

Rejoice in Your Hope

“In this you rejoice” (1 Peter 1:6). What’s that? The inheritance. The security of being kept. “In this you rejoice.” Do you? You rejoice in your hope and you’re being kept for the hope? Two massive reasons that he’s just given and now he says, “In this you rejoice.” So test your heart.

If that’s not a part of what you rejoice in, then you need to gird up your mind, which is why we’re doing this seminar. When you read the Bible, when you study the Bible, you always find things you’re falling short in, always. And the point is not to despair. The Bible doesn’t exist to create despairing Christians. The point is to repent, pray forward, growth, growth.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.” Two things to notice. Whose necessity? “Now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved.” If necessary. Who’s making it necessary? The answer is God. And you can see that right here.

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. (1 Peter 1:6–7)

That’s not the devil’s goal, that’s not the persecutor’s goal. Whose goal is that? That’s God’s goal for you in your trial. If necessary, you have been grieved. The reason, the goal of your grief and these trials is so that the tested genuineness of your faith may be found to result in praise, glory, honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

So the first thing to notice is God sometimes, I want to say often, the older you get, the more you’re prone to say often, if you’re a teenager you say sometimes, if you’re sixty you say often, God often finds it necessary for us to be grieved by trial.

I know this book is mainly about persecution. I’m going to be sloppy in that regard. I have really deep theological reasons for being sloppy in treating suffering, whether it is cancer or persecution or a tough marriage or wayward child or a hard job situation, you name it, tough stuff in life. I’m just going to sloppily lump it together and if this were another seminar, I’d give you all my deep theological reasons for why I think that kind of sloppy is really biblical and dissonance is the same principles of divine providence using them for these ends is true for all kinds. That’s my basic reason. But know that I’m aware that in this book he’s mainly talking about persecutions. That is the way other people treat us.

So this necessity here is necessity as God deems necessary and these trials therefore are sent ultimately by God will see this again. In fact, maybe I have it on a slide. I do somewhere, but it’s way ahead. Forget it. I’ll find it later.

Grieved with Many Trials

Here’s the other thing to notice. What’s the timeframe between rejoicing and grieving? How do they relate to each other temporarily? “In this you rejoice, though now you are grieved.” Are they sequential or simultaneous? My answer is simultaneous.

Again, if you’re very young, you might find that odd. If you’re older, you can point to dozens of situations where that’s been true for you. Some awful phone call comes or news and you weep and weep and in the weeping, rest sweetly in Jesus and know a joy that passes all understanding.

That is what we’re being called to in this American moment of ours. That is what we’re being called to. In this hope and in this being kept, and there are other reasons as well, but those are the two that have been mentioned in 1 Peter 1:1–5, in this inheritance and I’m keeping you, rejoice while you are being grieved with many trials.

And then he gives a reason for why the trials themselves are a reason to rejoice. “Being grieved by various trials so that,” here’s a purpose. There’s a little princess here. These princesses are going to do me in, but I love them. I’m concerned that so many Christians, when we get news say of an earthquake in Nepal, I know David has been sobered and he loves that land and now here’s this big crisis or that some tsunami happened and a hundred thousand people are wiped away or endless pieces of news coming our way, not to mention our own personal news. Almost instinctively today, it seems that Christians are prone to say, “We shouldn’t ask why. God doesn’t have purposes in this.” That’s blasphemous almost to even think of the hand of God in any design way or purposeful way.

I think this word “so that” indicates there are probably six to ten purposes for suffering in the Bible that are always true for God’s people, and some of them are true for everybody, so that you are never at a loss to answer the question “Why?” Now you cannot answer the question, why now, why you, why this severe? In other words, if you get down into the granular of the whys of your cancer or your child’s disability. But the big whys, there are six to ten big whys that are given in the Bible. This is one of them.

“Various trials,” for God’s people, and that’s who we’re talking about here, are “so that the tested genuineness of your faith, which is more precious than gold, even though gold is put through fire, would be found to praise, in glory, and honor.” God regards your faith and its fire-refined purity and genuineness as more important than keeping you out of the hospital or out of persecution. This faith, you could just see that I’m just saying what’s here. He wants to prove, test by fire.

When gold comes through fire, what happens? The dross is burned away, the gold is refined. It shines more brightly. I believe, and I won’t linger over it, that this praise and glory and honor here is yours, not God’s. That’s a big statement to say and not defend. I think this is you get praised, you get glory, and you get honor because of your faith. Jesus said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” God will praise your faith, imperfect as it is.

And I could give you numerous verses about the praise that God’s people will receive at the last day, and that moment is more valuable to God than your comfort in this world or your life. The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life.