Stay with the text for a minute, then I’ll broaden out to the context. I just think your answering of this question is one of the most important things you’ll get from this seminar. If God is saying — if God, through Peter, is saying — “I guard you if, and through your autonomous production of faith, if you, without my causing it, produce it, I show up and guard you for your inheritance,” I don’t think there’s much left to guard because I’ve already done the decisive work, right?
I mean, what is going to threaten — what’s going to keep me from having the inheritance? Unbelief, right? What will keep me from having the inheritance is if I throw it all away. “I don’t believe you anymore, don’t love you, don’t trust you. It’s all been a sham anyway. I’m gone. I’m out of here. I don’t have faith anymore. Don’t want faith anymore. Never did have faith. It was all just to show.” If that happens, I’m in hell.
And so if I can keep that from happening, then faith unites me to Jesus, and faith overcomes the world. And faith is the means by which my sins are forgiven, and faith opens the door of heaven, and what’s left for God to do in guarding me for my inheritance? I don’t think there’s anything left for him to do decisively, which means I don’t think that’s what this means.
I don’t think that’s what this text means. I don’t think this text means “who, by God’s power, are protected after they autonomously produce the necessary faith.” Because there’s nothing left to do. The faith is the issue. Will I have faith as I die? And if God says, “Yeah, if you have it, I’ll be there to guard you.” What from what? The faith is it.
Now, that’s my take, just reading the verse itself, that this means God guards his children by preserving and sustaining their faith himself. He keeps you by keeping your faith. So I like to ask people, and I’ll ask you, what makes you think you will wake up tomorrow morning as a believer? And your answer to that question shows what kind of theology you have and how you live your life.
If you say, “Well, I’ll wake up tomorrow morning believing because that’s what I do. I will to believe. I bring about faith every morning. I put my trust fresh.” I say, “Well, that’s a pretty flimsy foundation for waking up a believer. I’ll tell you why I think I’ll wake up a believer tomorrow morning, because ‘he who began a good work in me will bring it to completion at the day of Christ’ (Philippians 1:6). That’s my only hope. My only hope is that he keeps his own by awakening their faith.” Is that what Peter means?
The Devil Devours
Here’s a sequence of thought to broaden it out in the New Testament and see if this fits where your mind is. In 1 Peter 5:8, you’re all familiar with:
[Take heed.] Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith. . . . And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace . . . will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:8–10)
So what does the lion eat? What’s “he devour you”? That probably doesn’t mean your muscles, flesh, bone. It’s your faith, I think. So the devil right now is in this room. He hates what’s going on here, and he wants to just eat your faith. And he has all kinds of ways of sowing thoughts in your mind that cause you to see anything faith-building, I might say, as ridiculous. So he wants to eat your faith. If he can eat your faith and consume it and destroy it, he doesn’t care what else you do.
Do you remember Luke 22:31–32? Jesus looks at Peter and he says, “Satan has demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.” Now, what is that picture? So you got a sifter here, right? And you got Peter and the sifter, and Satan wants to sift you, Peter, like wheat, so he’s going to, he pushes you through the sifter. What does he want to stay in the sifter or what he calls the sieve or whatever the right word is, and what comes out the bottom?
And my answer is, he just wants to push Peter through, and out comes Peter, and up here is faith, right? I want faith out of your life. “Satan has demanded to have you.” I think that’s what he did with Job as well. Satan comes to God and says, “Let me just wipe out his kids, and then he won’t believe anymore.” And that didn’t work. “Let me attack his body.” And he said, “Well, but just don’t kill him.” So he diseases him, and that didn’t work. He kept trying to sift him and get faith out of his life with suffering, which is what the context is in 1 Peter 5:8.
And here’s what Jesus said. He just says, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail, and after you have turned, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Not “if” you turn. Jesus looking right into Peter’s face and saying, “Okay, we’re going to do a Job kind of thing here. Satan wanted to sift Job, and I’m going to let him have you tonight up to a point and no further because I have prayed for you that your faith fail not.”
So my question is, did his faith fail? He denied him three times. He denied Jesus three times. “I don’t know him, I don’t know him, I don’t know him.” And Jesus says, “I’m praying that your faith won’t fail after you have turned, strengthen your brothers.” And he made Peter a rock for the church. So he writes letters like this about suffering and satanic attack and faith and God’s preservation of it. I don’t think his faith failed utterly.
Isn’t it wonderful? I mean, that’s just wonderful. There is such a thing as us failing. You will fail today probably in some particular way that faith would cause you to act in a bold way, and you don’t do it. Faith fails, but you haven’t failed utterly. Jesus is praying for you (Romans 8). He’s interceding for you at the right hand of God. And what is he asking God to do?
He’s asking him to do 1 Peter 1:5: “By God’s power are being guarded through [the God-sustained, Jesus-sustained, Spirit-sustained] faith for a salvation ready to be revealed.” So that’s my take on 1 Peter 1:5. So the point of 1 Peter 1:3–5 is hope! Hope is so strong and so fixed and so firm and so trustworthy and is so valuable, unfading, undefiled, imperishable, infinitely better than anything in this world because you’re an inheritor of God being born into his family, and he’s keeping it there for you. He won’t let it go away.
And if you worry about whether you’re going to get there because of the suffering and the fiery ordeal that’s about to come upon you, don’t worry. “I’m going to guard your faith.” Wow, that’s so encouraging to me. So why am I going to wake up a Christian tomorrow morning? He’s going to guard me with the instrument of faith. He’s going to open my eyes to see the trustworthiness of the gospel and believe, and if he left me to myself, I would not be a believer.
The Holy Spirit Works
“In this you rejoice” (1 Peter 1:6). We’ll go another fifteen minutes or so and then take a break. “In this you rejoice.” Amen. Do we not? So what’s the role of the Holy Spirit? Right now, if you’re feeling some measure of happiness about your inheritance and your safety in Jesus, the Holy Spirit’s at work in your life right now in this room.
If you’re not, if you’re bored with this, he passed you over, and you should be scared, scared enough to ask him not to pass you by. I pray like that all the time: “Don’t pass me by. Don’t leave me to myself as I read my Bible. Come, Holy Spirit. Help me to do this right here.” It says it’s going to happen. What if it doesn’t happen?
Then you cry out to the Lord. I.O.U.S, my little acronym:
I, Incline my heart to your testimonies (Psalm 119:36).
O, Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things out of your law (Psalm 119:18).
U, Unite my heart to fear your name (Psalm 86:11).
S, Satisfy me in the morning (Psalm 90:14).
Those are four prayers from the Psalms which show me the psalmist deals with what I deal with.
So right now I’m praying, “Incline my heart to these words as I teach them, and incline your hearts. Open our eyes to see the wonder of 1 Peter 1:3–5. Unite our hearts. Unite, meaning they’re fragmented. They’re going in a hundred directions right now. You’re thinking about this afternoon or tomorrow. Something hard is coming in your life, and it’s hard for you to concentrate right now. And, O God, unite my heart, and then satisfy me in the morning at 9:56 a.m. with your steadfast love that you’ve just revealed here.” That’s the way I pray, and I hope you do.
Rejoicing in Hope
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 1:6–9)
So this is a description of the response of the born-again soul to the news of the inheritance and the keeping. And the response is joy, and it’s a joy in hope. This right here is hope. It’s the inheritance. We are not rejoicing mainly, according to 1 Peter 1:3–5, in something that we’re going to experience this afternoon or between now and when we die.
A lot of people think, “Oh, if you become heavenly-minded, if you set your hope fully on the things that are coming to you, you’ll become of no earthly, earthly good.” Peter believes exactly the opposite. The only way you will respond to suffering in a Christ-exalting, other-helping way is if your hope is outside this world.
That’s the argument of this book. If you don’t have an inheritance in heaven beyond the resurrection that thrills you now in suffering, you won’t make Jesus look good in suffering, and you won’t cause other people to glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:12). You won’t. You’ll be so angry that your present inheritance was taken away. Oh, how sad.
Maybe this is of the Lord. If your mom or dad has just passed away or is in hospice right now, and you and your brothers and sisters are at each other’s throats by who gets the piano and who gets the house, and how’s this going to be divvied up. Can I just say that you magnify Jesus and not fight over that? If you lose everything, don’t fight over it.
That’s what’s going on in 1 Peter. That kind of freedom. “I’m going to inherit all the pianos in the world, and I will be able to play them.” I think that’s going beyond Scripture. The first one’s not: “I get all the pianos.” Whether we’ll all be able to play, I don’t know. I hope so because one of the regrets I have when I was seven is that I gave it up.