|THE SALVATION OF GOD'S PEOPLE
1 PETER 1:3-5
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
December 5, 1999
This morning brings us to our second message in our series of “Three Great Themes in Prophecy.” Last week Dr. Kenell Touryan focused on “The Sovereignty of God.” This week we want to focus on “The Salvation of God’s People.”
Many times, Biblical prophecy is treated like a check list of historical events. Its tempting to speculate about what will happen. Are we on the brink of the one world government and the one world religion prophesied in the Book of Revelation? Is Russia “Gog,” the ruler from the north that will attack Israel at Armageddon? Is Y2K somehow a part of prophecy? Are we living in the last days?
The purpose of prophecy is not a check list - where we check off events as we go by. Prophecy is intended by God to draw us closer to Him - to give us a glimpse behind the scenes of history showing where and how and why God is working in His relationship with mankind.
This morning as we’re focused on “The Salvation of God’s People” I invite you to turn with me to 1 Peter 1:3-5 - which is a good summary of this theme. And, as we read and study this passage, keep in mind that the whole point of all this is God’s desire to draw us to Him.
1 Peter 1:3-5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
If we’re going to talk about salvation - and understand what Peter is talking about and what God is doing - we need to be clear on what we’re saved from. For that we need to go back to the beginning - to the book of Genesis.
In Genesis chapter one God creates everything in six days. In chapter two - on the 7th day - God sits back - looks at everything He’s created - and declares it to be what He intended it to be. Then God takes man - Adam whom He created - and places Him in the Garden of Eden.
God gives Adam three commands: 1) Rule over the earth; 2) Multiply - make more humans; and 3) Don’t eat from the tree in the middle of the Garden - the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God says, “On the day you eat fruit from that tree you’ll die.”
Finally - in chapter two - God brings Eve to Adam. And this is important - the relationship between Adam and Eve and God is unique - intimate - innocent - open - nothing separates them or comes between them. Its a depth of intimacy we all wish we could experience today.
In Genesis three - we know what happens. Eve takes the fruit from the forbidden tree - eats it - gives some to Adam - he eats it - and sin has entered the relationship. Suddenly there’s a separation from God and each other. The land is cursed - the relationship is cursed - God drives Adam and Eve out of the Garden.
When God warns Adam, “Eat the forbidden fruit and you’ll die” - He’s not talking about physical death. Adam ate the fruit and he went on living physically to the ripe old age of 930. What we’re talking about here is the effect of sin - the effect of disobeying God - spiritual death - spiritual separation from God - which effected Adam - and effects each one of us today.
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 5: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man - through Adam - and death through sin, in this way death came to all men....” (Romans 5:12) We’re born in sin - dead in sin - helpless in sin - separated from God by sin.
Often, when I’m called on to speak at someone’s funeral - I know what the family wants me to say. They want words of reassurance - of hope - that their loved one is alive and living with God - at peace - made whole - looking down on them from heaven and smiling - like an angel. But if someone has died in their sins - separated from God - what words of reassurance can be given? What basis is there for hope?
Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” The judgment is a time of separation - those who physically die in their sins - separated from God - will spend eternity separated from God. There’s no second chance - no opportunity to pray and hope that someone will somehow get into heaven - no amount of thinking good thoughts or philosophizing can change our eternal destiny.
So many people today think that they don’t need the Savior. Why do we need Jesus when life is so good? “Unemployment is down. The economy is growing. We’ve got a roof over our head - food on the table - the family’s healthy - the stocks are going up - I support the church - I’ve never done anything really bad - hey, life is good.” But our need for a Savior has nothing to do with who we are outside - its inside - who we are before God - in sin - that’s killing us.
We have a very serious problem.
And so the Apostle Peter writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”
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.”
The first mention of these words, “born again” was when Jesus spoke with Nicodemus. (John 3:1 ff.) Nicodemus had come to Jesus with questions about his salvation. Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 1:3)
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 separation from Him.
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Unless one is born of water - by repentance of from our sins - and the Spirit - the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives - he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 1:5)
Jesus says, “Repent” - turn away - confess that you’re hopelessly dying in sin - in humility put your life in God’s hands - trust Him by allowing Jesus to become your Lord and Savior. If we’re willing to die to ourselves and throw ourselves on God’s mercy - God does something only He can do - He 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 are born again to a “living hope....an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”
Peter says, that our hope - our salvation - is our “inheritance” - what God has reserved for us as His people. Its a living hope that we can live by today and have a future expectation for. Our hope is an inheritance which will never decay or spoil or fade away. Its preserved for us by God. It’ll be there because God will always be there.
In verse 5 - Peter says that we are “protected” - preserved by the power of God - to receive our inheritance that will be given to us in the future.
I once heard a story about a 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.
As the flames roared toward them from the west, a little girl cried out, “Are you sure we’re not going to burned up?”
The leader replied, “My child, the flames can’t reach us here. We’re standing where the fire has been!”
What a picture of how God protects us. Jesus has already faced death on the cross - taken the punishment for our dying - sinful selves - and triumphed over death. If we stand in His salvation death can’t touch us.
We looked at Genesis - how all this gets started - I’d like to read from Revelation - how all this ends up for the believer in Jesus. John the Apostle was given this vision of what is to come - in Revelation 21 he writes about what our future will be.
Revelation 21:2-6: “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband - these are the people of God - those who have received God’s gift of salvation - And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men - this is when God completes His work of restoring our relationship with Him - He - God - will live with them - us - They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’ And He who sits on the throne - God - said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’ And He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost” - those who thirst for God - who know their need for Him - will be eternally satisfied.
There are some profound truths here that we don’t want to miss.
First: Those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior are saved. There is a boldness and confidence we can have in life. Will the world come to a crashing end on January 1, 2000? Who knows. Whatever happens in life - whatever the circumstances - the experiences - the uncertainties - we have an unshakable security of an eternal inheritance given to us by God.
Second: Salvation is an awesome responsibility. It means that we are possessors of a message that this world desperately needs to hear.
Martha recently came up to me with the name of someone she’d been talking with - someone she’d invited to church - and she had all the information we needed to keep in contact with this person. That’s not the first time Martha has done that to me. Wherever she goes - Martha’s constantly sharing her faith - constantly inviting people to come. And, its great to see others in the congregation sharing and bringing.
Each of us needs to be personally involved - right here - with our family and friends and neighbors and co-workers - sharing our faith - sharing the Gospel - inviting them to occasions when they can hear the Gospel.
Its important to evaluate ourselves. How are the ministries and activities of this congregation focused on attracting people to the Gospel? As an individual - What am I doing to actively share the Gospel with others?
Salvation is an awesome responsibility.
Third: Salvation means that we have choice. We’ve already chosen sin. But, we have a choice to choose God’s salvation.
A few years ago I was driving up I-5 from Los Angeles. It was late at night - very dark - one of those sections where there’s a lot of empty space.
Suddenly, in the distance there was a burst of bright white light - and then blackness. About ten minutes later - when I got to where the flash had been - traffic slowed to a crawl. From what I could see, on the side of the road there’d been a fire - there were a lot of emergency vehicles - cars pulled to the side of the road - the flashing of emergency lights - lots of people standing around - and downed power lines - stretched across the road.
A pilot and his friend were flying north in their Cessna. Low on fuel - they were in contact by radio with a trucker below. The trucker was helping to guide them to the airport a few miles ahead. Apparently they didn’t see the high voltage power lines. They flew right into these suspended lines - the plane exploded and they were killed.
Life is short - and we never know when we’ll enter eternity. If you have never come to a moment of decision and trusted Jesus as your Savior - don’t put it off. God desires for you to know Him.