Dear heirs of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord,
Introduction: If you died tonight, are you sure that your family would be financially secure without you? Would your wife or husband have trouble paying the bills and debts which you have incurred? If you still have children at home, would your spouse be able to care for them until they were old enough to care for themselves? These are all questions that a life insurance agent might ask you when helping you plan for the future. They are very good questions which make one ponder seriously what sort of premium he or she would be willing to pay in order to have peace of mind. Often, parents of young children are encouraged to plan a trust for their children¡¦s inheritance. Should the parents die, the money would be invested and used to benefit the children until the children are deemed old enough to receive the full inheritance. Sometimes the trust is given over a period of years, insuring that the children don¡¦t use the whole inheritance foolishly in one shot.
In his great mercy, God not only provided for us an inheritance later in heaven, but one we also can enjoy now. God has provided for us an inheritance that not only assures us of eternal life, but even enlivens us here. The Apostle Peter in the opening of his first letter tells us to... Live in our Unchanging Inheritance. We do this by rejoicing in our lasting birthright and by remaining steadfast in our faith to praise God.
I. Rejoicing in our lasting birthright
Rejoice. We do it all the time. We rejoice over life-changing events. A married couple trying to get pregnant rejoices when they conceive a baby. Parents rejoice when their children get married. We don¡¦t ever rejoice without a reason, do we? Believers too have a reason to rejoice. Peter encourages us therefore to focus on our living hope and rejoice. "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." Yes, "Rejoice!" Peter says, for God has given us a living hope, a hope only he can offer.
This world does not offer this kind of hope. What is the best that the world can offer? Happiness in this life. What about after this life? What kind of hope does it offer? None! Job illustrates the emptiness of hope only for this life, "If the only home I hope for is the grave, if I spread out my bed in darkness, if I say to corruption, ’You are my father,’ and to the worm, ’My mother’ or ’My sister,’ where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me?" (Job 17:13 -15) The hope which the world offers leads only to despair. For proof, just look at our society. Suicides are increasing.
Only God, who has brought peace in Christ, can offer us true hope. Only God gives us a hope that brings life. Just as we received this hope through the message of Christ¡¦s resurrection, so we are sustained in that living hope by the gospel message. How else could we believe in Christ and love him now, even though we haven¡¦t seen himƒ¯ƒnDo you remember how Thomas doubted Jesus¡¦ resurrection from the Gospel lesson this morning? Do you remember what Jesus said to him? ¡§Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jesus is speaking about us. We have the same living and enduring hope as the disciples, salvation through our resurrected Lord, because of the faith which the Holy Spirit created in our hearts. This world can¡¦t offer us such hope. Only our Savior who has conquered death and has proven it by his resurrection, can give us a living and confident hope.
This hope makes us certain of our lasting inheritance. Peter used three words to emphasize that our inheritance will last. He encouraged us to praise God because he has given us "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade". Literally, Peter wrote that our inheritance is "imperishable, untainted and unfading". What does he mean?
The first word, imperishable, shows us that our inheritance is undamageable. No rust-proofing, stainless steel, titanium or any other metal holds up better. It even will outlast this present world, the sun and the universe. Since Christ rose from the dead and lives and reigns, our inheritance as God¡¦s children also will last forever.
The second word, untainted, means that it is 100% pure. It is the same word used in Hebrews where Scripture says the marriage bed is to be kept pure. Just as Christ was without flaw or defect, so our inheritance has not been tampered with or changed in any way. A person who takes care of a child¡¦s trust fund may be able to skim some from the trust and steal from the inheritance, but our salvation cannot be changed, not by any person. In fact not even the angels or demons can change our eternal inheritance. It is untainted and always will be.
The third word Peter uses, "unfading" shows that our inheritance continually remains wonderful. It is a glorious inheritance that keeps shining. In Peter¡¦s day, the word was used of flowers that never died. Colors fade from our clothes, and the novelty of a new car or house fades. The inheritance God has given us will never fade away.
Peter piles up these three words before the word inheritance to show that a believer¡¦s inheritance is secure. No one can take it away from us. Therefore, the inheritance which God gives will never stop being beautiful to a believer.
Application: Now that Easter has once again come and gone, churches all over will experience a decrease in attendance from last Sunday, as usual. So, too, some of our members who came last Sunday aren¡¦t here today. Some heard that precious message and decided that today, one week later, they just didn¡¦t want to make the effort to come and worship.
Why are you here? I praise and thank the Lord that you are here. Did you come because you felt obligated or because your parents made you come? Has worship on Sundays become just a habit, and nothing more? Or, like Peter, do you find yourself amazed again and again by the resurrection message which tells you that you have a living hope and a certain inheritance? Indeed, may we ever with joyful hearts rejoice in our lasting birthright. Don¡¦t let your hearts be hardened to the message of new life and the living hope which we have in Christ, but keep on praising and thanking God for his love for us in Christ. Secure in our birthright, let us continually rejoice and praise God for bringing us to faith through the gospel.
Transition: Peter not only explains that living our unchanging inheritance brings us to rejoice in our lasting birthright, but it also means we...II. Remain steadfast in our faith to praise God.
Peter includes a reality check with these verses of encouragement. In this world, believers will not live a life that is a bed of roses. In fact, believers really know that we will face various trials.
Consider the background to Peter’s letter. Peter is in Rome not long before Nero begins the persecution of Christians. He is writing to believers in the areas where the Apostle Paul had done most of his mission work. Do you remember what opposition Paul had faced? He was stoned, imprisoned, and beaten. People from that area stirred up a revolt against him in Jerusalem, which led to his being imprisoned in Rome the first time. Therefore, it stands to reason that these believers themselves faced some of the same trials. It also was believers in this region, where false teachers were maligning the gospel, who received Paul¡¦s letters exhorting them to stay faithful to Christ and to the message of the resurrection.
You know what? The world hasn¡¦t changed that much. Believers still face physical persecution and churches are infiltrated by false teachers. In some areas of the world, Christians are still put to death for their faith. In America, family members disown a relative for becoming a believer. Believers are told to be silent in public schools while unbelievers are given free reign to teach evolution, sexual immorality and promiscuity and every other damnable teaching of Satan. Jesus never said the life of a believer would be easy. In fact, he told us just the opposite. "All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matthew 10:22)
How then do we stand firm, when assaulted at the very core? How de we remain steadfast when we know that we are too weak by ourselves to stand against this world? The Spirit tells us. Through faith, we are guarded by God¡¦s power until the Last Day. Just as Christ was not abandoned to the grave, so neither will the Lord abandon us; he will guard us until he comes back for us. Even when we see things go wrong in our lives, the Lord promises that all things will work out for our good. Peter said that God guards us through the faith he has given us. Just as we are confident that Christ rose from the dead, so also we trust that God will watch over us and will shield us against Satan¡¦s attacks.
Application: When things do go wrong, trust that the Lord is working for your good, even though your situation appears to be the exact opposite. God promises to bring you through any trouble and in doing so he will strengthen your faith. Peter uses the picture of gold being refined to make them more valuableƒ|ƒnIn a far greater way, God uses trials to refine faith so that it becomes more precious and brings praise to our Heavenly Father. When others see you down and out, yet see you responding to your situation by trusting in the Lord, it brings glory to God. The next time you are persecuted for your faith, or when you find yourself in a situation questioning where God is, remember what Peter wrote: ¡§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.¡¨
Conclusion: The Apostle Peter assures us that even while we wait for eternal life here on earth, suffering trials, we still experience what we truly hope for, the salvation of our souls. How? Each time the Lord gives us the assurance that our sins are forgiven, each time he works in our hearts to praise God even and especially while persecuted or suffering, God is strengthening our faith in him and drawing us closer in our relationship with him. Because he continually reaches out to us in his love, we can live confident of our unchanging inheritance into which God in his great mercy has called us. May we continue to rejoice in our great salvation and remain steadfast in this faith bringing praise to God until the day when our salvation is sealed on that last day. Amen.