New Birth Into a Living Hope
1 Peter 1:3-9
KV 1 Peter 1:3
“Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Happy Easter! These days we are witnessing an unprecedented time in modern history due to the power of COVID-19. Never before have we seen such an infectious disease which has interrupted the lives of nearly every country’s people in this world. So many lives lost. So much economic and social damage. Some people are even saying life may never be the same again.
But today we take a pause to remember and fix our eyes on the most unprecedented event in human history. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The spread of the coronavirus was hard to imagine but even harder to imagine was a man rising to defeat death. Death was man’s destiny a force nothing could overcome. But praise be to God for raising Jesus Christ from the dead and giving all those who believe a new birth and a new hope. Indeed, because of His resurrection our life should never be the same.
In today’s passage Peter reminds suffering scattered Christians the great hope and inheritance they have through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of it they don’t have to live defeated and miserable lives due to their temporary grief in the here and now. Instead they could even praise the Lord and refine their faith which is of greater worth than gold. Through today’s passage let’s Praise the Lord and hold on firmly to the hope we have through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Part One (A Living Hope Through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ)
For most of us, 2020 has not been a good year no matter how we slice it. I think it was Lebron James who said can we get a reset on 2020? We’re suffering through not only many restrictions on the way we live but job losses, stock market losses, loss of thousands of lives and the horrors of living with such an infectious disease.
The recipients of Peter’s letter knew a thing or two about suffering. Because of their faith and subsequent persecution they had been scattered throughout many different regions and provinces living as foreigners and aliens. They weren’t just shut up in their homes but they lost homes. Worse than that though many faced hatred, discrimination and death for their identity as a Christian. It is said that around the time this letter was written the Roman emperor Nero, in order to satisfy his quench to build, set fire to the city of Rome destroying up to 70% of the city. The people were devasted and needing a scapegoat, he blamed the Christians for setting the fire. The historian Tacitus wrote about the event and times saying of Christians “Besides being put to death they were made to serve as objects of amusement; they were clothed in the hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs; others were crucified, others set on fire to serve to illumine the night when daylight failed.”. So these Christians didn’t just experience the thought of death and uncertainty like us but also a deep hatred and ridicule.
To sum it up, just like 2020 may be for us, this time seemed like a horrible time to live especially as Christians. Perhaps they too wanted a reset of their lives.
What does Peter say to them?
Let’s read our key verse, verse 3. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”.
Peter begins our passage today with “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”. When Peter thought about what God has already done for these believers (showing them great mercy, giving them a new birth, a living hope and eternal inheritance) his response was “Praise be God”. He worshipped God. And he called them to worship God. It was through first praising God and remembering what He has done for them that these Christians would be strengthened to get through the current grief. If you are watching at home with someone right now turn to them and say to them “Praise be God”.
Peter tells us why we must praise God in verses 3 and 4. He is a God of great mercy. In this great mercy He gives a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never spoil or fade kept in heaven. It’s so amazing! A new birth! A living hope! An inheritance that is secure and is guaranteed to last forever! Praise God! I pray through this message that these things may be more real to you and you may come out praising God for the amazing future he’s given you.
First, In His great mercy. Mercy means compassion or forgiveness show to one whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. God is great in mercy. Everything that follows is out of God’s mercy. The new birth, the living hope, the eternal inheritance. God has the power and the right to punish. As sinful human beings we deserve God’s wrath and punishment.
Titus 3:5 says “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.”. Micah says God delights to show mercy (Micah 7:18).
Peter knew God’s mercy firsthand. After he denied knowing Jesus three times God could have and should have punished him most severely. But God had great mercy on him and restored his relationship, calling him to be a shepherd of God’s flock. It was God’s mercy on Peter.
In today’s passage God shows His great mercy by causing us to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
First, let’s think what it means to be born again.
Humanly and physically speaking we cannot be born again. As Nicodemus said, a man cannot enter into his mother’s womb a 2nd time. Jeremiah 13:23 says “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?”. Many people would like to be born again in order to change their destiny. Perhaps if we were born into a different family with different background or even physical characteristics our life might turn out differently we think.
For human beings it’s an impossible thing to be born again. When I was serving in YUST many years ago, I lost much weight because I couldn’t eat much of the Korean food served. The President prayed for me saying “Your stomach must be born again!”. Based on my own ability at the time I couldn’t do it. So he prayed for my stomach to be born again.
Likewise, spiritually speaking we can do nothing to change our destiny. Benjamin Franklin once said there are only two things certain in life – death and taxes. Because of the sin of one man, Adam, we are all destined to die. Before the resurrection of Jesus Christ this was all man’s destiny. This is where we were headed on a pathway to death. As such, without being born again all of our hopes and longings and desires are on the things of this world which are perishing and fading away.
This week’s daily bread Paul said if the dead are not raised then “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.”. How futile! Without hope in the resurrection all we can do is focus on the here and now and hold on to dead hopes. Whatever hopes we hold in this world, death will defeat them eventually. All money, fame and beauty will fade away with death. We hope we will not be infected during this pandemic but we will still die one day. We hope we will not lose our loved ones but we will lose them one day or they will lose us one day. Before death all our hopes in this world become fragile, vanity, in vain and of no lasting value. If this group of people Peter was writing to still held only earthly hopes how miserable were they? Likewise, if you are still holding onto and growing earthly hopes, how miserable you will be!
But praise be God! He gives us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! What we couldn’t change, He has changed by His great mercy. Jesus’ resurrection defeats death and brings us new hope, a living hope. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
As this coronavirus has shown us, we humans have absolutely no power over death. It seems governor Cuemo in New York did everything he could to try to prevent deaths in New York including finding many ventilators, recruiting medical workers out of retirement and college. Still more than 700 people each day have died from the coronavirus in New York City alone for the past week plus. Nurses and doctors also did the same thing working tirelessly. Many people tried everything they could to possibly prevent catching the disease yet still caught it and died.
But praise be God, Jesus Christ has power over death. Praise God that He was not in the grave but was risen and lives forever more interceding for us at the right hand of God the father almighty. He said to Martha and Mary after the death of their brother “I am the resurrection and the life! Whoever believes in me will live even though they die and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”. There is such life in Jesus that Acts 2:24 says “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”
But still some people still question how the resurrection of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago changes one’s present life or gives one true hope.
How does the resurrection of Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago give us hope? If Jesus was raised from the dead as the prophets and himself predicted, exalted to the right hand of God the father then we have good reason to believe that what he said about His coming, his life and his death is also true.
The coming of Jesus, the life of Jesus, the death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus has everything to do with your life now and for all eternity. He came for you, He lived for you, He died for you, God’s raising Him has everything to do with you. Your life and your hope.
When he was born the angels said in Luke 2:10 “A Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.”. He was born as a Savior to you. John 3:16 says “God so loved the world that He sent His one and only son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”. Jesus said in John 10:10 “I came in order that you may have life and have it abundantly.”. His coming had everything to do with giving you life.
The life he lived had everything to do with giving life. We’ve been studying Mark’s gospel this year. We see over and over again how Jesus came to preach and proclaim the kingdom of God, heal sick people and raise disciples to carry on the work of God.
He died to give you life. In Mark 10:45 Jesus said ““For even the son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.”. In John’s gospel he says he laid down his life. On Friday we were deeply reminded that Jesus was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him. His death was for you. 1 Peter 3:18 “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”.
And his resurrection had everything to do with giving you life. Jesus said to his troubled disciples before going to the cross in John 14:19 “Because I live, you also will live.”. His resurrection is proof that we can also believe everything he said about his coming, his life and death.
Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, you are going to live. Jesus said I’m going to prepare a place in His father’s house to take us to be with Him! These should be the most comforting words. In Jesus Christ there’s love, hope, peace, joy.
If you believe in Jesus and what he did for you on the cross you are going to live. You are going to be with Him forever and ever. This is your new destiny. Not the grave but eternal life with Jesus Christ in his heavenly kingdom. All of our life should be looking forward to that hope.
I was greatly encouraged by one nurse missionaries in New York’s prayer while serving COVID-19 patients hectically. She held onto Genesis 15:1 “Don’t be afraid. I am your shield, your very great reward.”. Through this Word of God and hope in the Lord as her great reward God sustains her to take care of sick patient after sick patient. Father, you are our shield and great reward. Everything else in this world perishes but you alone remain forever.
When we believe in Jesus and His finished work on the cross, God changes our life and our future. He replaces our vain worldly hopes with heavenly hope and calling. Hebrews 3:1 says “Therefore, brothers and sisters who share in the heavenly calling – fix your thoughts on Jesus.”. Ephesians 4:4 says as Christians we’ve been called to one hope.
Many people think that life in this world will get better and better in the future. It is a false hope. These days I saw an interesting post on social media. As you can see it says “We’re time traveling to the year 2020! 5 minutes later: Nope, nope, nope. Bad idea and they hop out immediately.”
Unlike this picture, when we are in Jesus Christ the life to come is always the best. When one is in Jesus Christ, no matter how bad our life gets in this world we know for sure that the best life is the life to come. Jesus said we will have trouble in this world. We’re still going to face famines, plagues, persecution, wars, violence, natural disasters, diseases, economic recessions etc. We also see these days nothing is secure in this world. Just several weeks ago we had record low unemployment but suddenly more than 6 million lost jobs. Just several weeks ago the 500,000 COVID patients in this country were out and about their life enjoying their life. Now 20,000 are dead and many others hanging on. Though these troubles will come, Jesus said “Take heart, I’ve overcome the world.”. When we have faith and a living hope in the risen Jesus He will certainly help us overcome the coronavirus and all troubles in this world.
But because He lives He gives us the peace and hope to face tomorrow. God has prepared an eternal home for us where we are no longer strangers and aliens but known by our father. A place where we are not hated and persecuted by others but experience the deep love of the Father who sent Jesus to save us and give us life. A place where there will be no more death or crying or pain. A place with This hope is secure, nothing can snatch it away. In John 10:28 Jesus is talking of those who have new birth in Him saying “I give them eternal life and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of my hand.”. I praise and thank God that our future in the Lord is always better than whatever we are facing today. May God grow our faith so we can face the future in this life.
During this pandemic many things are getting worse. Hospitals are getting flooded. The economy is taking a massive hit. Our social lives are very limited. But the one thing that should be rising besides your weight is hope. Many people are hoping for our lives to return to normal. Hoping they or their families don’t get sick. Hoping for a vaccine and treatment. Hoping their kids can return to school. But instead grow your hope in the Lord.
Verse 4 describes the contents of the living hope we have in Christ. Let’s read it together “and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.” An inheritance is a wonderful gift that can change one’s life in this world. It’s given because of a relationship and not earned. Unlike any inheritance we can be given in this world, our inheritance as God’s children is the best because it can never perish, spoil or fade and is kept in heaven for us.
If we are fortunate we may inherit material wealth from our parents but this pales in comparison to the riches of God. The former governor of Virginia, Patrick Henry who held much wealth in this world once wrote on his deathbed. “I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them and that is faith in Jesus Christ. If they had that and I had not given them a single penny, they would have been rich beyond measure; and if they had not that (faith in Jesus Christ), and I had given them all the world, they would still be poor indeed.”.
When God pours out his mercy on us and we accept new birth into Jesus we become children of God. How rich is God! The whole earth and all that is in it belongs to him. Romans 8:17 says that “the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him.” If we are children of God we are also heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ! Wow! The Bible says we will reign with him, we will eat with him. We inherit spiritual blessing after spiritual blessing. The best inheritance though is the inheritance of the Lord himself. No riches in this world can ever meet all of our needs but Paul says in Philippians 4:19 “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Thank God for his grace to allow us to be his children. May God bless you to live as a child of God with the Lord himself as your spiritual inheritance.
Part Two (The meaning of our present suffering, verses 6-9)
Let’s read verse 6-7. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” These verses tell us first what we should do when we suffer in this world and how to view it. We praise God and rejoice in our new birth, our living hope through Jesus resurrection from the dead and our eternal inheritance kept in heaven. If we are in Christ, our suffering and grief we experience in this world is only temporary. Peter said these trials only last a little while in light of eternity. But God’s great mercy and the things he has in store for His children is forever.
Verse 7 tells us why such trials have come and what we should value, protect and grow throughout our life.
Why must we undergo trials and sufferings? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who wanted to voluntarily suffer or to undergo a trial. However, without trials and sufferings most people will never come to God, never cry out to him, never seek Him, never put faith in him. Recently I saw somewhere that since this pandemic 20% of non-believers on campus began to read the Bible. Attendance at many churches have risen significantly. Praise God. In today’s passage it says trials come so that our faith may be proven genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Peter says one’s faith is of greater worth than Gold. Gold is a great asset on this earth. With it we can buy many things and many people long to have it. But Peter says it too will perish even though refined by fire. But how much more valuable is our faith. Only through faith in Jesus Christ can we receive eternal life, peace with God, assurance of our salvation. Through our faith in Jesus we may receive praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
So what’s the best thing we can have in this world? Faith in Jesus Christ. What’s the best thing we can do with our life in this world? Not give them gold and silver but to help people have faith in Jesus Christ. Through this pandemic let us not grow our worldly desires and hopes or self-pity but let’s grow our yearning for His kingdom. Let’s rededicate our lives to living by faith and helping others come to faith in Jesus Christ.
In summary today we learned that through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ we have received a living hope into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade away kept in heaven. At this time let us hold firmly to this living hope and grow it to overcome all bad news around us.