Summary: 1st in a series of messages to call attention to the blessed gifts we have received from God and
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18)
Fellow believers in the Risen Christ, this is our text. How many of you were the only child in your family? How many of you were the first born? How many fall into the category of 2nd, 3rd, etc….or “last in the line?”
If you were a first born or an only child you likely never had to deal with the dreaded “hand-me-down” disease that afflicts almost every family with multiple kids. And if you were the last in the line you probably kept coming down with the disease multiple times – depending on how many brothers or sisters you had ahead of you!
As the 2nd in my family, I suffered the trauma of having to wear my older brother’s clothes, which was tolerable when I was in grade school but totally un-cool as a teenager. I remember the fear of growing an extra inch or two over the summer, or putting on weight (back when that was a good thing). All my friends wanted to grow while I was fearful of getting as tall as my older brother because that only meant more HAND-ME-DOWNS!! Having to wear Hand-me-downs was so much worse than suffering through leftovers for supper 3 times a week. Leftover clothes –which someone else has worn before you? No way!
All these years later, I’ve learned to appreciate my parent’s position and to see those Hand-me-down’s not as a degrading thing…but as a blessing. And I can look back on those days and have a hearty laugh, although I still cringe when I look at old pictures of me in my brother’s clothes!
While suffering through having to wear someone else’s clothes is often an unfortunate reality of childhood, it is only a temporary problem. Outgrowing my brother solved the problem for me, as did growing older. There’s another hand-me-down however, that we cannot classify as merely “unfortunate;” one that is a menacing reality which has the potential to be anything but temporary: Original sin.
This greatest, most damaging, most communicable and eternal life-threatening of all “hand-me-down” diseases has been around since Adam and Eve. And it will be that way as long as there is human life. But it doesn’t have to be permanent. Jesus Christ saw to that when He gave up His life for us on the cross. He took a permanent, indelible stain on human life and erased it for those who believe; replaced it with redemption and eternal salvation for those who accept in FAITH (itself a gift of God) the promise of the Father.
But what about those who don’t know about God’s blessed gifts; those who still bear the permanent, indelible stain of Original Sin; those who wear only the hand-me-downs of a sin-filled life without hope?
Through our baptism we died to sin and were made alive again in Christ, overcoming the permanence of Original Sin, outgrowing the stain of sin, death and the devil as we received the blessed hand-me-downs of the Father in His Word, His Promise and the Holy Spirit. But what are we doing with these gifts? How do we “wear” these blessed hand-me-downs?
Peter, in his first letter to Christians in the Roman Empire sought to remind them of the fragile, perishable, Hand-me-down world of their past, a past that did not include Jesus Christ, and to restore them to an active faith of hope, trust and perseverance.
“You know,” Peter said, “That it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers…”
We know it too. In our hearts we know it, but often in our actions we don’t SHOW what we KNOW! Some people keep their God-given Hand-me-downs hanging in the closet, only to be worn on Christmas or Easter. Some keep their gifts tucked away in their “life suitcase” stored in the attic or locked up inside of them, afraid to let others in on what they have been so blessed to receive. Some even treat their faith and other precious gifts of God as just more Hand-me-down burdens that they’re expected to wear rather than priceless gifts that that they just can’t help but share!
How often when we do act, do we act as though we Have to go to church or have to do what God wants out of fear for what He’ll do if we don’t; and not out of a passionate and personal commitment to demonstrate our love for Him and our praise and glory to Him? How often are we uncomfortable talking about our faith in public; too reserved to talk about Jesus outside the confines of our homes or the walls of this church? How often do we live in FEAR OF GOD instead of REVERENT FEAR FOR GOD?