Summary: Explore the message that the early Christians recieved to give them hope while facing Nero’s insane persecution. Discover the three proofs of faith which can help you truly know if you are developing as a follower of Christ.
Opening Skit: Stamped For Eternity (available upon request)
VIDEO INTRO: PROOF (available upon request)
We struggle to believe what we cannot see, but we cannot see, because we are not really looking.
We all hope for the best most of the time. Even when the odds aren’t quite in our favor, or circumstances around us don’t seem bright.
A little boy wasn’t getting good grades in school.
One day he quite surprised the teacher.
He tapped her on the shoulder and said, "I don’t want to scare you, but my daddy says if I don’t start getting better grades somebody is going to get a spanking!"
We all have something coming to us. For some, what we have coming is scary -- For others, what we have coming is thrilling.
In our text this morning, we are going to see how Peter describes the hope we can have—the hope that will give us proof of purchase—of our salvation.
This hope that we cannot see, because sometimes -- we are not really looking.
Today we will look at three results, that will give us proof for those of us who have been purchased—according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:20 “For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.”
On July 19, A.D. 64 the great fire of Rome began and lasted for three days.
The Roman historian Tacitus clearly placed the blame for the fire on the Emperor Nero and indicated that Nero scapegoated Christians as responsible for the fire.
The persecution that Nero ordered was so horrendous that the Christians population who were despised in Rome, actually gained some sympathy from many of the Roman citizen population.
William Barclay in his Daily Study Bible recounts from Tacitus what took place:
"A huge multitude of Christians perished in the most sadistic ways.
Nero rolled the Christians in pitch, and then set light to them, while they were still alive and used them as living torches of flame to light his gardens.
Some Christians, he would sew up in the skins of wild animals, and then set his hunting dogs upon them for hunting pleasure...
Or even for some, he would set them in an arena and loose large lions upon them that had been denied food for a lengthy time.
What does Peter, this first century pastor have to say to people who are enduring such torment?
What message did he have for families who were torn apart---
Torn apart by the persecutors who took delight in separating children from parents and husbands from their wives—
So that one could witness the suffering of the other.
How could mere words even begin to ease the pain of such evil?
How can Peters words help us today as we encounter various trials that bring stress to our families and tear them apart at an alarming rate?
Read 1 Peter 1:3-9
The Reason for the Proof
The most amazing thing about the people who endured Nero’s wrath was their reaction.
Think about it. If most people you know (including yourself) were in their shoes... what would the reaction be?
“How can God let something like this happen?”
“How can there be a God in a world like this?”
“Why do bad things happen to good people?” and sometimes....
“If this is the way it is -- I don’t think you’ll be seeing me in church any more!”
And it’s not like these questions are out of line or sinful -- they are quite normal actually.
In the toughest moments of my life -- my reaction hasn’t always been so positive either – I had my moments of anger toward God.
So what is the reaction of Peter to the people he was reaching out to?
When your family, friends and even your life partner is going through the horrors of the life’s circumstances (in this case Nero’s insane persecution) can you imagine someone saying to you… “In this you rejoice.” (verse 6)
Can you imagine? And there’s more… “In this you rejoice... even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials.”
Peter is pointing to a whole new way of living here.
They endure the HORROR, but they do not give up the HOPE.
Faith does not CLOSE the door to pain, but it OPENS the door to promise.
And when you and I embrace the HOPE we have in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is not simply an “thing” that’s associated with faith.
It is not just an idea that we find in a religious sermon or a church doctrine or creed---
It is a present REALITY in our living. It is a whole new WAY OF LIVING.
It is a HOPE that tells us, “What you see is NOT what you get.” –