Stand with Hope – 1 Peter 1:3-9

Hope is an interesting word in America.  For many, hope is only wishful thinking. For example, I love college football and am a huge Texas A&M fan. As the season begins I may say, “I hope the Aggies win the national championship!”  I don’t know if they will, each year seems like it could be a good year then I find myself disappointed.  In America hope often equals uncertainty.   In the Bible, hope is equals certainty!

 In his book Heaven, Randy Alcorn recalls this story: “In 1952, young Florence Chadwick stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island, determined to swim to the shore of mainland California. She’d already been the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. The weather was foggy and chilly; she could hardly see the boats accompanying her. Still, she swam for fifteen hours. When she begged to be taken out of the water along the way, her mother, in a boat alongside, told her she was close and that she could make it. Finally, physically and emotionally exhausted, she stopped swimming and was pulled out. It wasn’t until she was on the boat that she discovered the shore was less than half a mile away. At a news conference the next day she said, ‘All I could see was the fog.…I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it’”

This is a grim reminder of what hopelessness can do to us. When we lose hope, we essentially lose the will to love, grow, and persevere. Times of trial, stress, and temptation eventually weigh us down and drain our zeal for life. Peter’s hearers were facing something similar, but on a much grander scale. The threats and persecution they were experiencing had the potential to derail their faith.

In our scripture today, Peter shows them how to put hope into action. Let’ look at these verses (1 Peter 1:3-9) and learn three ways to stand with hope.

  1. We have Hope given through Jesus Christ

Standing with hope means that we remember what God did for us in Christ. Peter says God has, “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (v.3). Notice the passive language Peter uses here. We did not do this:  God did this! He caused us to be born again. He gave us this living hope. He raised Jesus from the dead and in doing, raised us up with Him.

Ever since Jimmy Carter’s presidency, news commentators have struggled to understand what Christians mean by “born again.” Almost always in the news media, “born again” is a term of derision. So let’s unravel the facts:

  • All Christians are born-again. The term is a wonderful metaphor of new life from God. I cannot be a Christian without a fresh beginning based on the salvation Christ brings.
  • Born-again people have the Holy Spirit living inside of us to guide us, teach us, counsel us and provide us God’s presence.
  • To be born-again is a magnificent gift from God. It is also a dividing line. Cross it, and we enter God’s kingdom. Not everyone will understand. But that’s no cause for pride or defensiveness. Live out God’s gift as a believer sharing the good news with others. That’s our new job that accompanies our new birth.

If we are going to live out our hope in the present, we must look to the past. Considering how the Bible describes our sinful state before we became Christians, we should look back with gratefulness in our hearts for what God has done.

Many of us can recall the thoughts we harbored, the motives we embraced, and the sins that we willfully committed. But God had mercy on us and gave us new life. Now, our hope is rooted in His saving work.

John Newton understood how important it is for Christians to reflect on God’s goodness toward us when he wrote “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now I see” (Newton, Amazing Grace).

How often do we reflect on the time when God saved us? Do we understand how undeserving we are of God’s grace? May we never forget God’s amazing grace in our lives. This is our path to standing with hope.

In verses 4 and 5 Peter tells his hearers of the certainty of their future inheritance. What God has for His people cannot be destroyed (imperishable), cannot be tainted (undefiled), and will not fade away (unfading). The reason our inheritance is so certain is explained when Peter says it is, “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” (v.5). By His power, God is upholding now as we await our inheritance in the future.

The thing to notice here is that God is responsible for our future.

God is the one who holds us, sustains us, and preserves us even as we wait for our complete redemption. Standing with hope requires that we rest in what God will do for us in the future. If we really understood what God has prepared for us, we could virtually endure anything. C.S Lewis believed that our reward in Heaven would essentially reach back into all the disappointments and failures in our lives and fill them with glory. He said, “Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even agony into a glory” (The Great Divorce, 69).

How often do you think of Heaven and the future God has for us? Does it impact how we make decisions? Will we resolve to live with eternity in mind?

  1. We can have Hope through trials.

Peter drew his reader’s attention to the past, to the future, now he hones in on the present. In light of what God has done and what God will do, believers are called to do two things: suffer well and continue praise God in all things.  In verses 6-9 Peter tells them that they are and will continue to experience suffering. The reason is 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” (v.7).

Is there a contradiction between living a life of hope and living a life of suffering? Not at all; in fact, Peter’s point was that we have a living hope while we have suffering and trials. Peter was writing to Christians scattered abroad because of persecution; they were suffering for Christ. This portion of this letter is a huge boost of encouragement to continue in hope.

But there is something more: as we stand with hope through suffering, our joy grows in Christ. Peter emphasized that because of our love for Jesus and our faith in Him, we “rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy.” Why? Because we are in the process of receiving the goal of our faith, which is the salvation of our souls.

I’ve often heard seasoned pastors say, “If you haven’t faced suffering, just live long enough and you will.” The testimony of Christians around the world ratifies the reality of suffering for the people of God, even if the experience of American Christians is not like the persecuted church in more hostile regions. Sadly, we might think we’re suffering if our Wi-Fi goes out or the server brought us the wrong order at the restaurant.   Peter reminds us that “various trials” (v. 6) will come, and they’re meant to refine our faith, so rest in our identity in Christ, regardless of the circumstances.

Why me?  The problem has vexed philosophers since they first asked questions: Why does an all-powerful, good God permit suffering? To which most people add: “And if someone has to suffer, why me?” Instead of answering these questions on the philosophical level, Christians face suffering by adopting a new set of responses:

  • Confidence that God knows, plans, and directs our lives for the good. It’s hard to calculate sometimes, but God always provides his love and strength for us. God leads us toward a better future.
  • Perseverance when facing grief, anger, sorrow, and pain. Christians believe in expressing grief, but we should never give in to bitterness and despair.
  • Courage because with Jesus as Brother and Savior, we need not be afraid. He who suffered for us will not abandon us. Jesus carries us through everything.
  1. We can have Hope that we are growing more like Christ

Many of us are accustomed to taking pictures on our phones and posting the pictures to various social media pages immediately. Back in the day, however, we took pictures and had to wait for them to be developed. This process of development took a while and we were excited to see how things would turn out.

God uses the experiences of our lives to develop us. This includes the periods of trial our time in the dark room, so to speak. This is something that we can rejoice about now while anticipating an even greater celebration later! We know that in the end, God will have done a marvelous work in us. This is our hope, even though we cannot currently see how it will all turn out.

We can maintain our hope because we know that God is in control of our lives: beginning, middle, and end. After our earthly lives have ended, God has even more in store for us. Knowing this should encourage us to endure the trials and tribulations we face. God is preserving our reward and preserving us until we reach it.

As we close, consider how comprehensive our hope is. We can look back at what God has done and forward to what He will do, which empowers us to live now with joy and peace. This is what it means to stand with hope.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

Sources:
Bruce B. Barton et al., Life Application Bible Commentary – 1 & 2 Peter and Jude, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1995), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “1 PETER 1”.
LifeWay Christian Resources http://www.biblestudiesforlife.com
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Stand Firm – Introduction to 1 & 2 Peter

As we begin our series called Stand Firm from  1 & 2 Peter let’s get a little background.   We’ll start with an infamous date in the history of Christianity, July 19, 64 A.D. That was the day that “Rome burned while Nero fiddled.”  The great city of Rome was consumed by a terrible of fire.  Rome was a city of narrow streets.  It was a city of dense population.  On both sides of those narrow streets were high wooden dwellings where the people lived.  And once the fire hit Rome, it consumed the city.  It could leap easily across the narrow streets and consume the wooden buildings like kindling.

The first three days and nights the fire spread rapidly.  Before it was done it had consumed most of the homes of most of the people.  The Roman people believed that their emperor, Nero, who was considered a maniac, had himself set their city on fire.  They believed that he did it because he loved to build and wanted to build more. In order to build he had to destroy what already existed so that he could build it again.

He found a front row seat in the Tower of Maecenas, and watched the raging inferno consume the city of Rome.  Historians tell us that he enjoyed watching the flames.   People who tried to put out the flames were eventually hindered and where the fire was stopped a new fire was purposely started.  The people were totally devastated.  Their culture, in a sense, went down with their city.  Temples of worship were burned down,  all the religious elements of their life were destroyed; their very household gods were even burned up.  There was not just an economic loss and a social loss but religious loss and confusion to realize that their gods had been unable to stop this tragedy.

Their resentment was bitter, deep and deadly.  Nero realized that he had to redirect the hostility.  He needed a scapegoat to blame for this and so he chose a group that were known as “Christians.”  And he spread the word as fast as he could that they were the ones who set the fires.

Christians were already misunderstood.  They were already slandered. First of all because they were associated with Jews and there was a lot anti-Semitism in Rome.  Secondly, Christians were monotheistic, meaning they would not worship the emperor or many Roman gods.    Next there was misunderstanding of the

Lord’s Supper, people heard things like “eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus.”  They assumed that some kind of cannibalism was going on!   And then there was the Christian kiss of love, the embrace that Christians commonly gave to each other when greeting.  They were seen as strange for these reasons.

And then they were most unpopular because many wives of prominent Romans embraced Christ.  And for a woman or her children to act independently of her husband in the Roman culture was considered rebellious.  Christianity was seen as a movement which split families, brought great conflict, even insubordination from wives and children.

As a result of these accusations, under Nero the persecution against Christians began.  There were some incidents of abuse of Christians but now it was a wholesale persecution under Nero.  Tacitus, the Roman historian, reported that Nero rolled Christians in pitch and then set them on fire while they were still alive and used them as living torches to light his garden parties.  He served them up also in the skin of wild animals, set his hunting dogs on them to tear them to pieces.  They were also nailed to crosses.   Within a very few months actually Christians were imprisoned, racked, seared, broiled, burned, scourged, stoned and hanged.

That persecution which was generated in Rome began to spread throughout the Roman Empire.  And as it spread it touched places like Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.  And as it spread into those places, it began to affect the Christians who were there whom Peter calls “aliens, strangers.”  And it began to affect their lives.

We cannot know precisely when, but sometime after this began Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote this epistle.  It is an epistle written to believers who are foreigners in a hostile culture.  It is written in a time when Christians were forced to suffer severe persecution and even the loss of their lives.  The campaign of slander and the campaign of suffering for the love of Christ was on.

Notice chapter 1 verse 6, “In this you greatly rejoice even though now for a little while if necessary you have been distressed by various trials.”  Look at chapter 2 verse 21, “For you have been called for this purpose since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps who committed no sin nor was any deceit found in His mouth and while being reviled He did not revile in return, while suffering He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” And he is saying now you’re suffering, Christ suffered and set the example about how to suffer.  Going back to verse 20, “When you do what is right and suffer for it, you patiently endure it, and this finds favor with God,” and your example is Christ.

Chapter 3 verse 13, “And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?  But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed and do not fear their intimidation and do not be troubled but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

Chapter 4 verse 12, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing.”  Verse 13: “To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing.”  Verse 19, “Therefore let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”  And then in chapter 5 verse 10 he says, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”

Now it’s obvious from those passages that these people were in a time of suffering.  And that time of persecution would eventually catch Peter himself and Peter would be killed, tradition says, also his wife at the same time, for their faith and proclamation of the gospel of Christ.

The emphasis of 1 & 2 Peter is to teach believers how to live victoriously and stand firm in the middle of hostility without losing heart, without wavering in faith, without becoming bitter, realizing where your hope is, realizing who your Savior is, and always looking forward to the glorious coming of Christ when all suffering will end .  In chapter 1 verse 7 he talks about the glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  In verse 9 the ultimate outcome, even the salvation of your souls, that final salvation, when we see the Lord.  Verse 13 talks about the revelation of Jesus Christ, meaning the Second Coming.  Chapter 2 verse 12 talks about the day of visitation; that’s the Second Coming of Christ.  Chapter 4 verse 13 talks about the revelation of His glory, again referring to the Second Coming. Chapter 5, verse 1, the glory that is to be revealed.  Chapter 5 verse 4, when the Chief Shepherd appears you’ll receive the unfading crown of glory.

We see believers facing suffering and that those who suffer are to keep their heart and mind set on the return of Jesus Christ.  No matter what comes in this life we have that promise.

There are some other subjects that we’re going to learn about in 1 & 2 Peter. We’re going to learn about our security as believers, that we have hope in the resurrection of Christ.  How do we love and grow in our relationship with Jesus when we don’t see Him? We’ll learn about honorable behavior.  We’ll  earn about what is to be our responsibility to the government in which we live.  We’ll discuss marriage relationships between husband and wife, children and parents, employees and employers.  We’ll learn about humility.  We’ll learn about how God wants all your anxiety and all your care cast on Him.  We’ll learn about the perfecting work God is doing in your life through struggles.

It’s going to be great; I hope and pray that you will be encouraged.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

Sources:
John MacArthur, MacArthur New Testament Commentary – 1 Peter, (Chicago: Moody Press, 2004), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.
Bruce B. Barton et al., Life Application Bible Commentary – 1 & 2 Peter and Jude, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1995), WORDsearch CROSS e-book,
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Getting to know Peter

Jesus’ first words to Simon Peter were “Come, follow me” (Mark 1:17). His last words to him were “Follow me” (John 21:22). Every step of the way between those two challenges, Peter never failed to follow, even though he often stumbled.

When Jesus entered Peter’s life, this plain fisherman became a new person with new goals and new priorities. He did not become a perfect person, however, and he never stopped being Simon Peter. We may wonder what Jesus saw in Simon that made him greet this potential disciple with a new name: Peter—the “rock.”  He was impulsive and often made mistakes, but when Jesus chose his followers, he wasn’t looking for perfect people; he was looking for real people, committed people.  He chose people who could be changed by his love, and then he sent them out to communicate that his acceptance was available to anyone—even to those who often fail.

We may wonder what Jesus sees in us when he calls us to follow him. But we know Jesus accepted Peter, and, in spite of his failures, Peter went on to do great things for God. Are we willing to keep following Jesus, even when we fail?

Peter (also called Simon and Cephas) was one of the 12 disciples chosen by Jesus (Mark 1:16-18; John 1:42) and, with James and John, was part of the inner group that Jesus singled out for special training and fellowship.

Peter was one of the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, God’s Son, and Jesus gave him a special leadership role in the church (Matthew 16:16-19; Luke 22:31, 32; John 21:15-19). Although during Jesus’ trial Peter denied knowing Jesus, Peter repented and became a great apostle.

Strengths and accomplishments

  • Became the recognized leader among Jesus’ disciples—one of the inner group of three
  • Was the first great voice of the gospel during and after Pentecost
  • Probably knew Mark and gave him information for the Gospel of Mark
  • Wrote 1 and 2 Peter

Weaknesses and mistakes

  • Often spoke without thinking; was brash and impulsive
  • During Jesus’ trial, denied three times that he even knew Jesus
  • Later found it hard to treat Gentile Christians as equals

Lessons from his life

  • Enthusiasm has to be backed up by faith and understanding, or it fails
  • God’s faithfulness can compensate for our greatest unfaithfulness
  • It is better to be a follower who sometimes fails than one who fails to follow

Vital statistics

  • Occupations: Fisherman, disciple
  • Relatives: Father: John. Brother: Andrew.
  • Contemporaries: Jesus, Pilate, Herod

Peter’s story is told in the Gospels and the book of Acts. He wrote the books of 1 and 2 Peter.

Join us for Stand Firm from 1 & 2 Peter

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

Sources:
Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 1603.
Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 2126.

 

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Stand Firm – 1 & 2 Peter

Life is hard. We all struggle and suffer. As followers of Jesus we often feel like we live in a hostile environment toxic to our faith. This series from 1 and 2 Peter shows us how we can stand firm against hardship, persecution and false teaching. We can learn much from the letters of Peter about living for Christ in a difficult and threatening world.

Look forward to seeing you this weekend!

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

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