|LIVING BY GRACE
1 PETER 1:1-12
Series: Living For Heaven In A Hell Bound World - Part One
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
August 26, 2012
This morning we’re beginning a study of 1 Peter. There are Bibles someplace under a chair in front of you. Please join me at 1 Peter 1 - chapter 1 - verse 1. In your bulletin there are Message Notes that will be helpful for you. Starting this Sunday there is no “Taking It Home” part of the notes. That is because - starting today - we are providing - out by the coffee and on line-on on our website - a Sermon Based Study. Which we’re making available for our Life Groups and others who are interested.
Coming to 1 Peter - we’ve given our study the title “Living for Heaven in a Hell bound world.” Which describes much of what Peter is teaching in this letter. And probably describes a whole lot of what we often feel in life.
One of the realities that we struggle with as Christians is that we’re aware - often painfully aware - that we live in two worlds. Our home is in Heaven - we long to be there - and yet we live here on earth - in a world that is in serious serious trouble - that’s on a trajectory for judgment.
A couple of Sundays ago we said that life often feels like we’re passengers on the Titanic. We know the iceberg is coming but all we can do is start singing “Nearer My God To Thee.”
That conflict - that struggle - isn’t something new. Its been felt by all of humanity - knowing that something is wrong and the longing for something different - something better. Here in 1 Peter - Peter is writing about that struggle - where the rubber the meets the road - how do we live for Heaven in a Hell bound world.
1 Peter 1 - starting at verse 1 - this is Peter’s greeting - his howdy: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
Let’s pause and unpack Peter’s greeting together.
The letter of 1 Peter is written by who? Peter. Peter - apostle of Jesus Christ.
Let’s think about what we know about Peter. By occupation Peter was a what? A fisherman from Galilee. His father’s name was John. His brother was Andrew - another disciple of Jesus. They’re occupation was catching fish.
By character Peter was... a character. Peter was just a tad rough around the edges - a work in progress. Most of us can relate to Peter. Yes?
Usually Peter is rushing ahead without a whole lot of forethought. Peter was the guy who hacked off the ear of the slave in the Garden of Gethsemane - defending God with pointy swords.
And yet, Peter - jumping out of the boat - Peter is the only guy - with the lone exception of Jesus - Peter is the only guy who - by faith - ever walked on water.
Peter says things. Things that given some fore thought he probably wouldn’t have said. The whole “Jesus, I’ll never deny You” thing. Major oops.
And yet, Peter is the guy who first confessed, “Jesus - You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus is the Messiah and God. Jesus says that truth - Peter’s testimony of who Jesus is - Savior and God - that truth is the rock upon which the church will be built. A huge revelation of God coming from Peter’s lips.
Jesus chose Peter to follow Him - to learn how to become a fisher of men. Jesus saw things in Peter that the others didn’t see. Peter’s given name was what? Simon. Jesus gave him the name Peter - Greek for “rock.” Peter becomes stability - provides leadership for the disciples.
Towards the end of Jesus ministry on earth, Jesus tells Peter, “When you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Jesus - Scripture tells us - Jesus told Peter that to let Peter know what kind of death was waiting ahead for Peter. (John 21:18,19 TNLT)
Which is huge. Peter - as he’s writing this letter of 1 Peter - Peter is in Rome. He’s been there since 62 A.D. It is now probably early 64 A.D. In the summer of 64 - just a few months after Peter writes this letter of 1 Peter - Peter is executed - crucified - during the Emperor Nero’s persecution of the Christians. Peter - as Jesus told him - Peter being led where he did not want to go. As he’s writing this letter Peter can see his martyrdom coming.
Point being: Peter’s living in a world he knows is bound for Hell - but his eyes are on heaven.
The second thing we want to unpack here in Peter’s greeting is who Peter is writing to. Peter addresses his letter, “to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.”
Looking at the map. Those are all Roman provinces in what is now northern Turkey. Peter addresses his letter to the “elect exiles living in the dispersion” of these provinces.
“This isn’t a place we’d choose for ourselves. Nothing feels like home. Everything is strange. We’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Peter’s description fits the Jews who had come to trust in Jesus as the Messiah - Jews who were living a long way from Jerusalem - but also Jews who had been kicked out of their families - their nation. Jewish believers who had been exiled from their own people.
Peter’s description fits Jews and Gentiles who were trying to live Godly in an ungodly society. Who treasured heaven but lived displaced - scattered - through out a world increasingly hostile to God’s people.
Up until the 60’s AD - the Roman government considered Christians to be a Jewish sect. So Christians were protected under the same laws that protected the Jews. Among all the pagan religions in the Roman Empire Judaism was the only legal religion not required to offer sacrifices to the emperor.
But - as Christianity took on a Jew and Gentile identity - as synagogues kicked the Christians out - the Christians didn’t fit under the official umbrella of exemption and protection.
What was about to happen to Peter in Rome - his martyrdom - was a fire that was about to spread throughout the Empire - suffering and persecution and martyrdom. Since Christians were no longer protected as a Jewish sect it was about to become open season on Christians. These siblings in Jesus - strangers in a strange land - they could see that fire coming.
Are we together? Here in Merced - trying to live Godly in a society moving away from God - where it is becoming increasing non-PC to be a Christian who’s courageously living for Christ. Living for Heaven in a Hell bound world.
Then notice this, Peter writes, “You are elect - Greek word: “eklectos” - meaning choice - you are elect - chosen - exiles of the dispersion.”
There’s an election coming. Yes? We get to choose. We can vote for the men on the left or the men on the right - or someone else. Sometimes who we choose doesn’t get elected. Right?
But that’s what election is. Choice. Selection. We don’t always get our choice. But God does. God chooses us. God elects us.
That reality has had theologians arguing for centuries. It raises tons of questions. And the more we think about it our brains start to sizzle. Our free will verses God’s sovereignty - God’s choosing. How can we understand what that means?
Which is a great discussion for a different time. Because its not Peter’s point. Peter’s point is that God has chosen us - exiles - dispersed - resident aliens - living here.
Hold onto this: God has chosen to have a relationship with you and God has done everything necessary to make that relationship a reality.
Tell yourself that: “God chooses me.”
Peter writes on: We are chosen - verse 2 - chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.”
Foreknowledge means that God knows what will happen. Foreknowledge is knowing with complete certainty what will happen before whatever is going to happen happens. Generally we tend to think about God’s foreknowledge in that God knows what will happen - future tense. Which He does.
But foreknowledge also means that God knew before creation was creation what would happen. Before anything existed God knew everything that would happen in His creation.
That raises tons of questions and we can hear brains sizzling. Which is a discussion for another time. Not Peter’s point.
Peter’s point is that before creation was creation - hold onto this: God knowing before creation was creation all that would happen in His creation - including all the circumstances of our lives - our family tree with all its fruits and nuts - and how we grew up - and all the ways we’ve messed up in life - the good - the bad - the ugly - of even the stuff yet to come in our lives - God chose you to have a relationship with Him.
Isn’t that cool?
Then Peter writes - we are chosen… in the sanctification of the Spirit
That is that God the Holy Spirit - because of God choosing to do this for us - God the Holy Spirit chooses to work in our lives setting us apart - making us holy - unique as God’s people set apart to live lives which bring honor and glory to Him. God chooses to clean us up - from the inside out - to heal and restore and renew us - to bind up what’s broken.
Like Jesus - seeing in Peter what no else saw - God sees us as only God can uniquely see us. God the Holy Spirit is a work in His people transforming us into the person that God has uniquely created us to be.
Way cool. Yes?
Then Peter writes that God chooses to do that so that we can live lives set apart by the blood of Jesus - our sins washed away - we’re cleansed by the blood of Jesus poured out on the cross - Jesus dying in our place - so that we can live lives in obedience to Jesus Christ. To live as those who’s sins are forgiven.
Even more cool. Did you notice the Trinity? All three persons of the Godhead are mentioned here. The Father knows and so purposes - the Spirit enters in and sanctifies - the Son saves by His work on the cross. The Triune God choosing to save His people - to restore us - to a right - obedience - God glorifying relationship with Him..
Hold on to the inestimable value of each one of us to God - the priceless value of your life - to God and what God chooses to do in bringing you into a relationship with Him.
Then - going on in verse 2 - why Peter is writing this letter - verse 2 - “May grace and peace be multiplied to you”
Grace is what? The undeserved favor of God. God doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
While we were still sinners - openly rebelling against God - undeserving - unworthy - if anything, well worth being judged and justifiably sent to Hell - God even knowing every ugly thing that we’ve ever done and ever will do - God sends Jesus - because of God’s undeserved love - because God is grace - Jesus goes to the cross - dies in our place - takes on Himself our sin - takes the penalty for our sins - takes the wrath of God which should have been ours - takes all that on Himself.
And while Jesus gets God’s judgment poured out on Him - when we trust in Jesus as our Savior - confessing our sin and our need for God’s salvation and forgiveness - and give our lives by faith to God - when we trust in Jesus as our Savior - Jesus gets our sin and judgment and we get Jesus’ righteousness. God chooses to give us our relationship with Him.
Grace is amazing. Isn’t it?
Grace comes from God. Grace is a part of the character of God. It’s a description of who God is. God is grace. Which means that there are depths of what grace is that we just can’t process.
But God is the God who is grace and who desires for us to know His grace. God defines grace - displays grace - on the cross of Christ. Grace is not a part of God’s plan of salvation. Salvation is a display of God’s grace. God in His sovereignty choosing to make known His grace to us.
Peter writes that grace and peace come from God. God’s grace and peace go together. God is the one who multiplies these in our lives. When we know God’s grace - when we can process God’s graciousness towards us enough to trust that God is gracious to us - we will know His peace regardless of our circumstances.
Look at human history, conflict is pretty consistent. Right?
Sometimes we don’t have to look farther than our own families - or our own hearts. The events of this world can rob us of peace. We constantly struggle to feel safe, less anxious, more in control of our lives. We wonder what will happen to our families and friends.
Biblical peace is way more than just an absence of conflict.
A number of First Century Roman and Greek tombs have the epitaph, “No Hope.” The philosophy of the day was despair - meaningless existence - no real purpose to life - emptiness. Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” That’s the hopeless cynicism of the day. Doesn’t sound too far off from today does it?
Before we came to Jesus - before we knew God’s grace poured out on our lives - we were like that - separated from God - on our own - with no hope and no future. There’s no peace in that.
Apart from God’s grace - we struggle - we’re locked in a conflict that at its core is a result of our sin - our disobedience - those things that we’ve done that are against God’s will. By our sin we’ve made ourselves to be enemies of God. We’ve made ourselves worthy of His wrath - of eternal separation from Him - forever punishment of the worst kind.
Biblical peace is sense of well being - a settledness in our hearts - a knowing deep within that God has graciously chosen to make us right before Him. That because of what God has done for us we’re no longer enemies of God - without hope - without purpose - alone against the world - waiting for His wrath.
Which is what Peter is getting at here - the intertwining of grace and peace. God’s peace in our hearts. Because God is gracious to us - no matter what’s going on in our relationships - our marriage - our homes - the world around us - regardless of whether we’re facing persecution and martyrdom or just trying to live Godly at home or work or school - because we know God’s grace we can know God’s peace.
May God’s grace and peace be multiplied - lavished on you - poured into your life to the fullest. The source of it all is in God.
Grab on to this. Hold on to this for yourself: God’s grace changes everything. Say that with me, “God’s grace changes everything.”
Before we move on - take a moment to try and process the significance of all that. Where you’ve come from. Where God has brought you. How you’ve been set free by the grace of the sovereign Holy Triune God of Creation demonstrating His grace in Jesus. If we let the depth of that rattle around in our minds it should shake us to the core of who we are - changing us forever.
God’s grace changes everything.
Coming to verses 3 to 12 Peter is going to gives us some glimpse of what that means in real time for our lives.
Look with me starting at verse 3: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, 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.
Let’s pause there.
Only God can cause us to be spiritually alive. Only God can change our eternal destiny by ending our separation from Him. Peter says that God has caused us to be “born again.”
How many times have we said, “If I only knew then what I know now.” If we could just go back and start over we’d really do some things differently. But physical life isn’t like that.
But, to be “born again” means that we do get a new beginning - only this time God initiates the birth. God offers us His solution to the problem of our sin and separation from Him.
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Unless one is born of water - meaning by repentance of from our sins - and the Spirit - meaning the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives - he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:1-21)
When we’re finally willing to agree with God that we’re hopelessly dying in our sin - when we are finally willing to turn from living life our way - to let die our efforts at living life - when we choose to turn towards God - to throw ourselves down before God’s grace and mercy and trust that Jesus really has done everything that needs to be done on our behalf - when we finally die to ourselves then God does something only He can do - God causes us to be spiritually reborn into a right relationship with Him.
The Bible - from Genesis to Revelation - contains one long appeal by God for us to come to Him - to trust Him and to live in His salvation.
In verse 4 - Peter describes what God’s salvation means for us. He says that we’re born again to a “living hope....an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…”
Our hope isn’t like the worthless stuff we keep piling up around us - investments and things that our culture tells us are what we need. Stuff that only leaves us empty and needing more and we can’t take with us anyway.
Our hope is a living hope. It’s a hope to live by - today as we go through the stuff of life - and to have an expectation for - that its ours in the life to come.
Our hope is in an inheritance that doesn’t perish - meaning it doesn’t get old - wear out - and break down. The warranty never expires. Our hope is undefiled. Its pure - exactly what God promises it to be. No bait and switch. Its unfading - literally the word means perennial - like a plant that keeps blooming year after year after year - as amazing and beautiful now as it was as it will be forever.
Then in verse 5 - Peter writes that those God has caused to be born again through faith we know that God guards us His own power for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Have you heard the story about the group of pioneers who were making their way across the central plains to a place that had opened up for homesteading? They were slowly traveling along in covered wagons drawn by oxen - moving towards this free land and the hope of starting a new life.
One day they were terrified by a long line of smoke on the horizon ahead of them in the west. The fire line stretched for miles across the prairie. It didn’t take long to realize that the dried grass was burning quickly and the fire was coming toward them.
A few days earlier they had crossed a river but there was no way they could turn back and reach it in time. They couldn’t go around the fire. They couldn’t go back. They were in big trouble.
One man seemed to have an understanding of what to do. He gave the command to set fire to the grass behind them. Then, when the space behind them was burned, the whole group of pioneers moved back on it. They were saved because they stood where the fire had already been.
Hard stuff happens in life. Ultimately death destroys our bodies - probably will. But God is in control. God is all-powerful.
By faith we know that our inheritance in heaven will be there. It’ll be there because God will always be there. By faith we know that God will raise us immortal to live in our inheritance with Him.
Do we fully understand that? No. But we know for certain that God will do it because we know the kind of gracious God we have.
Verse 6: In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 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.
Peter doesn’t down play or try to sugar coat the hard stuff of life. But he does offer us a reason to rejoice in the midst of it - in spite of it. Pain and suffering are the result of fallen sinful world. But while all that isn’t good, God is bringing good - accomplishing His purposes - using all that to turn our attention from our selves to God - to prove and strengthen our faith - to bring about a deeper more useful relationship with God that glorifies and honors our Savior Jesus.
Verse 8: Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
We can rejoice while were going through
stuff because we have confidence in the unseen power
of Jesus. Have
you ever experienced this? When you’re
going through really hard stuff - when you turn to
Jesus - we realize more clearly that He really is
fog goes away and what remains is Jesus and out trust
Are we together? We don’t rejoice because we’re getting nailed - getting our heart ripped out and our guts rearranged - all that is some kind of wonderful thing we love experiencing. Its all good.
We rejoice because we have a permanent inheritance guaranteed by God. Who protects and shields us. Who’s with us in the midst of all of the worst of life - growing us and using us to His glory - and Who promises to deliver us into eternity with Him.
Verse 10: Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched an inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
What Peter is getting at here is that we have a vantage point in history that the Old Testament prophets didn’t have.
The prophets looked forward to what God would do - God’s gracious salvation through the coming Messiah - God’s pouring out of His Spirit on His people - the awesomeness of dwelling in God’s kingdom forever. But they didn’t fully understand everything God was telling them to prophesy about.
When we see God’s graciousness poured out into our lives through Jesus - when we see the church - what God is doing in the present age in us and though us as individuals and as the church - what we’re seeing and what we’re a part of is God’s unfolding work in history. We rejoice because we see that God is on track - faithful for what He has done - faithful in what He is doing - and we know He is faithful to what He will do.
In verse 12 Peter writes that we have an understanding of God at work that even the angels don’t fully get. Angels don’t know what it is to experience first hand God’s salvation - His grace poured out into the lives of sinners. But we do. And for all the reasons we can rejoice.
Rejoice because - in the midst of a Hell bound world God’s grace changes everything. Rejoice - meaning we need to get our focus off of the world and Hell and get our focus on God and all that by His grace He’s given us.
Three questions - thinking about our response to what Peter writes.
Question Number One: Do you know God’s grace? Personally? Not just knowing about Him. But have you given your life to Him? Have you been born again into the living hope that Peter writes about?
Question Number Two: Are you trusting the God who is gracious? Whatever the circumstances of your life are you giving your life to God - daily - doing whatever it takes to keep focused on Him - to grow in your trust - in your relationship with Him?
_________________________Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.