Hope and Inheritance
1 Peter 1:3-4
1 Peter Lesson #021
July 31, 2015
“Father we’re so grateful we could come together this evening to study Your Word. We’re thankful that You have revealed these things to us. Father, as we come together we are just grateful that we have opportunities to study You, that we have another week to focus on You, to learn to apply Your Word, to learn to serve You, to learn to serve others, and to be a witness of You to all of those around us. Father, as we study Your Word we recognize that we are not above the fray but that we live in the midst of the devil’s world and there is always adversity as Job observed, ‘Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.’ We know this is a major theme in this epistle and we need to learn how to properly focus and address the situation regarding our own adversity, the suffering we go through, and the difficulties we face that we may do it in a way that honors and glorifies You. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are studying in 1 Peter 1, and we are shifting away from the part of the verse we focused on last week that God has begotten us again. We looked at the doctrine of regeneration which we will review a little bit this evening. He has begotten us to a living hope. The concept of hope is related to inheritance which immediately comes into focus in verse 4, that we are born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, which does not fade away, reserved in Heaven for you.
There are a lot of different things here that Peter focuses on in this particular section. Tonight we are going to bridge those and begin to talk about the concepts that lie behind what Peter is saying because they are often not fully understood. Most of you have been pretty well taught for the last ten years. We have gone over this material before so it is not new but I am focusing on it in some fresh ways. So let’s just look at the text a little bit.
(Slide 3) Starting off, Peter says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We’ve seen that the word here EULOGETOS, which is translated blessed, has the idea of saying something good or praising God the Father. What we are praising Him for is basically His plan and the way He takes us from being spiritually dead, giving us spiritual life, and that this life is not just for the here-and-now but focuses on a long-term plan that goes beyond time into eternity.
Peter says, “According to His abundant mercy He has begotten us again or caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
(Slide 4) What I want you to notice here is that these verses clearly focus our attention on the future. There is a movement from what God has done now to what His focus is on in terms of the future end game. So we are born again to a living hope. As we learned from our study of this word hope it has to do with an expectation, something that we anticipate, something that we look forward to. For the believer it is a certainty. It is something that has a future reality that is so certain that it is as if it is present for us today.
Furthermore this is related to an inheritance in verse 4 that is reserved in Heaven. So the second phrase here emphasizes a future orientation. The third phrase that gives us this future orientation in verse 5 says that this will be revealed in the last time. That is yet future. That is not for today. We are looking forward to something that, as Peter develops this introduction, is going to come back to strengthen us right now.
(Slide 5) I want you to just look down through the text as we read down through verse 15 or so and see this interchange that takes place. This whole introductory section keeps shifting back and forth from what you and I go through right now; the difficulties and challenges and the adversity maybe to the extent of persecution, overt opposition and difficulty, because we live in the devil’s world. We live with fallen people. We live with a corrupt culture. The result of that is that the more we seek to engage in terms of our walk by the Spirit and the more that we seek to move forward, the more we are going to face opposition.
It may be covert opposition and it may be overt opposition and it may even be intense opposition, but what we see here is a way to focus on this thought process. If you look at verse 6 Peter will say, “In this you greatly rejoice.” That is a present time reality. In this, that is the salvation that is to be revealed in the last time, in this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials. So the present time is characterized by going through adversity, by going through difficulty, and we do not know exactly what the difficulty was that these believers were going through. There are some who believe that this was some form of persecution from the Roman Empire. That is not likely at this early stage in the Church Age. What is more likely is these were regenerate Jews, Messianic Jews, who had gone against the drift of the Jewish culture at this point which was to reject Jesus as Messiah. They’ve accepted Jesus as Messiah so they might be treated as outcasts by friends, by family, by co-workers, by business partners, and by others who are in the synagogue.
We’ve witnessed the intensity of the persecution against Peter when he is in Jerusalem as well as in Judea as well as the intensity of the opposition and persecution of the Apostle Paul after he was saved. As he took the gospel through the area of Galatia, south Galatia, which is part of the area where some of these believers lived, and moved from there to Greece and the different Jewish communities in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth, he generated a lot of opposition from those Jewish communities. There was a large segment in many of those areas that responded to the gospel but there was a larger segment that was opposed and expressed vehement, violent hostility to Peter and his associates. That very well, I think, explains the opposition that the recipients of this epistle would have received.
They may also have faced a certain amount of opposition from those in the Gentile community, as well, toward the proclamation of the gospel. Paul witnessed that in Ephesus. They are facing rejection. They are facing hostility. They are facing opposition and this is something that I believe as believers we have to prepare ourselves for in this world. We live in a bubble to some degree in Texas. But many of you are working in companies and you are in different groups within this culture and you recognize the hostility that exists even here in God’s country of Texas.
There are many people who really despise Christianity. They have given themselves so much over to their rebellion against God that they have a deep-seated antagonism toward Christians. The more that our government drifts away from the absolutes that were established in the Constitution and that come out of the Judea-Christian heritage and the more they drift away from any appreciation for the Bible or Christianity, the more they are going to feel the freedom to publicly express that opposition. You can see elements of this just around the country.
For example when the Supreme Court of the United States decision came down in relation to the same-sex marriage decision, there were huge gay pride parades all over the country and some of the most obscene posters were held up and things were said. They suddenly had the freedom to fully vent and express their hostility toward Christianity. This is something that we are going to see more of. We have been on this trajectory in Western civilization since it started early in the 19th century. There was sort of a pause in the period between World War I and World War II with the depression and the rise of the evil of the Nazis in World War II. But it began to reassert itself by the middle to late 50s worldwide and especially in this country. We have been on this trajectory and apart from the grace of God it is not going to change. We can’t live in a bubble. We can’t live in a fantasy world thinking that somehow we are going to just survive and it is not going to affect us.
Where we see this American culture on the left coast and the right coast and when we look at what is happening in states like New York, California, Washington, and Oregon we realize that where they were thirty years ago is where Texas is now. There is that drift so in twenty years we are going to see a deterioration of the residual effects of Christianity in America decline more and more rapidly. The more we go downhill, the faster we go downhill, and that is not going to change so we need to be prepared in our souls for whatever is going to happen.
Regardless of the direction of the culture as a whole, because we live in the devil’s world, we are going to face opposition. We are going to face opposition overtly from people who oppose us because we are Christians or covertly because in the devil’s world we may find it difficult to make a living. We may find it difficult to keep a job. The economy could go bust and people could lose their jobs and lose their homes. Just with the philosophy of money that is standard for the Federal Reserve Bank, we could see the value of our savings deteriorate into nothing. There are many things.
I could stand up here and really paint a doom-and-gloom picture, but the focal point for us in this passage and as believers is on hope. The circumstances of the world around us should not impact us because our focus is on that which is superior, that which governs the world, which is God who is the One in control. Jesus Christ controls history. So as Peter says here that we may be grieved by various trials. Why? That is explained in verse 7 but then he says there is going to be this testing of our faith and then if you look at the last part of verse 7 it focuses on our future, saying that it may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. So there is this shift from the present difficulty and persecution to the reality that this will change with the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Then we see in the next point in verse 9 that there is a shift from the present time of receiving the end of your faith. That word there means the end results of your faith. I think that is faith in terms of the spiritual life and then we get the salvation of your souls. That is not talking about phase 1, 2, or 3 salvation. That is talking about deliverance from the trials. That is talking about surviving and enduring in the midst of these fiery trials. Peter is going to say not to be surprised at these fiery trials that come upon you, that we will be delivered.
We see this same phrase, “the salvation of your souls” over in James 1:21. It has to do with the saving of our life today, that is, deliverance in the midst of trials and the midst of difficulty. The focal point here is that as we go through our lives in time we can focus on what God is doing and not on our personal agenda and our personal pleasure. This kind of deliverance which is a whole other issue to talk about in terms of that first phrase in verse 10, the “prophets have inquired and searched carefully to prophesy the grace that would come to you, searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ who is in them which He indicated beforehand, the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.”
That is really the focal point of those two verses, that Christ came to suffer for He went through horrendous, violent suffering at the Cross in our place and for our sins with the result that glory followed. So it is adversity and then glory, not the other way around. So again we see the shift from present adversity to future glory. Then we look down at verse 13 and Peter says, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind resting your hope fully on the grace brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Again, it goes from the present to the future. We are able to survive the present because of what is coming up in the future; resting our hope, again a future focus and future orientation, fully on the grace of God.
Then when we look a little further down we are to conduct the time of our stay here in fear at the end of verse 17. “Conduct yourself throughout the time of your stay here in fear, knowing [a causal participle, because you know] that you were not redeemed with corruptible things but with the precious blood of Christ.” That whole sentence moves toward that future focus in verse 21: “So that your faith and your hope are in God.” Notice how these words, faith and hope and salvation, along with inheritance, continue to manifest themselves throughout this whole section. It ties this whole unit together.
This, as we will see, is the introduction to what Peter is saying. It is a long introduction, much like the introduction to James is about twenty-one verses. We will see a lot of similarities. In fact, when we get to verse 6 where we see “in this you greatly rejoice”, the idea of joy there, “though now for a little while you’ve been grieved by various trials [testing] for the genuineness of your faith”. What does this remind you of? It is the same vocabulary we learned in James. “Count it all joy [rejoicing] when you encounter various trials because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” The vocabulary is almost identical here as to what James says.
It is the same idea that you cannot avoid adversity in this life but you can change the way you respond to it. It does not have to be something that destroys you inside and out but it makes you stronger spiritually because we understand what God is doing and what the framework is. (Slide 7) So this next phrase, that He has “begotten us again to a living hope.” We looked at this last time. (Slide 8) We looked at the solution that we are regenerated and caused to be born again. We make the decision to believe in Christ but God is the one who does the work in regenerating us.
This is a concept that is difficult for many people to grasp today. As I pointed out last time they are often confused about what regeneration is. In fact in some theological traditions it is viewed as an overarching term for everything that happens in salvation. In other theological traditions it is the same as conversion which then is not truly explained. Or it is even seen as something that is synonymous with justification. But regeneration, as I pointed out last time, has a very specific meaning.
(Slide 8) It means that something that was not in existence came into existence. Something is given birth to that was not there before. When we look at the Scripture it has to do with a spiritual birth, and we have to understand that the Bible talks about man as basically composed of three parts: body, soul, and spirit (Slide 9). So in this chart we have the human body which is controlled by our soul, an immaterial part of our nature. But it is not the only immaterial component for man. There is also something that we looked at last time, a spirit who is from God. 1 Corinthians 2:12. There is a distinct phrase used there with the preposition “from God.” The “from” in the Greek is added. As I talked about last time the Spirit of God is the standard way to refer to the Holy Spirit. He is either talked about as the Holy Spirit, sometimes the Spirit of Christ, or sometimes the Spirit of God, but the phrase focuses on the Holy Spirit and His origin. It is just a simple article-noun, article-noun construction. The second article and noun are in the genitive case and it means the spirit from the source of God. You do not need to add a preposition to get that meaning. There is one place where a preposition is used and only one place it is used and that is in 1 Corinthians 2:12, the spirit who is from God. As I pointed out, that word “spirit” is used five or six times in 1 Corinthians 2:9–14 and along with some related words like spirituality and the one who is spiritual but here it is distinctive. I think what is being said is that at the point of regeneration God imparts to us this human spirit. We are truly alive at that point.
When Adam sinned he lost that element. Something in his immaterial makeup either became non-functional or non-existent. At the instant he disobeyed God; at that instant, he became spiritually dead. Paul talks about that in Ephesians 2:1 that we were born dead in our trespasses and sins. Well, if we are born, we are physically alive so it is clear from that text that we have physical life but we are spiritually dead. There is no spiritual there. That “something” is not animating us anymore. We may look like we are alive but we are spoken about in the Scripture as if we are dead. We are called dead so this has to do with something in our inanimate nature. When we trust in Christ, at that point we are given this human spirit. So this is our makeup.
(Slice 10) I put this in here on the side for a particular nature because I think the corruption of the sin nature is inherently grounded in our body. We have phrases like “the flesh”. The sin nature is typically referred to by the Greek word SARX, which means the flesh. In Romans 6 it also refers to it as the body of sin. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul talks about the fact that this is the body of corruption. These physical terms are used to describe the sin nature. The sin nature does not in and of itself produce sin. It influences us. It is the source of temptation and we have to make a decision that comes from our volition. We choose whether or not we are going to respond to the sin nature.
As a believer there are two sources of influence. There is the sin nature and there is the Holy Spirit who indwells our body and fills us with His Word. We have a choice: sin nature or Holy Spirit. Those are the two internal influences on us. When you are not a believer and you are spiritually dead there is only one source of influence. That is the sin nature. Everything that is done by the unbeliever comes from that corrupt nature. Everything. That does not mean he cannot do good things. That does not mean unbelievers cannot be nice and cannot be kind and they cannot have a measure of integrity and they cannot be wonderful people.
We all know unbelievers who are smart, who are kind, and who have integrity. In fact, it is often been observed that some unbelievers have a lot more integrity and are a lot kinder than many Christians are. That does not mean that is true for every Christian or that every unbeliever is kinder than any believer. It does mean that even in our fallen nature we can do relatively good things but they are not equivalent to absolute righteousness or perfect righteousness, which is what is required to have a relationship with God.
So regeneration is the adding of this immaterial component which enables the elements of our soul, our self-consciousness, our mentality, our conscience, and volition to be restored, to have a relationship with God. The term for that is life. We are alive. There is a life to this. Jesus said that He came not to steal or destroy but He came to give life and to give it abundantly. That is what God is giving us. So there is a richness to this new life that we are to pursue.
Sadly, many Christians just go on living like their life is no different from unbelievers and they wonder why they do not have this sort of richness to their life. Frankly, I think it is because they are not filling themselves with the Word of God. They are not just saturated with Biblical truth so that their focus, no matter what it is they are doing in life, their focus is ultimately upon the Lord.
(Slide 12) We look at passages like Titus 3:5–6, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” (Slide 13) I charted it out this way. It is through the washing of regeneration and renewal. They are both washing, cleansing, and renewal that is done by the Holy Spirit. Both regeneration and renewal are done by the Holy Spirit so that we become a new creature in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away. Behold, all things are new.” There is new life there.
Many of us have been Christians for many years and we sort of forget that. There are others who maybe became believers when they were children, like me, and they do not really have a frame of reference for life as an unbeliever. But every now and then we get an opportunity to meet someone who comes to an understanding of the gospel and believes in Christ when they are a little older, when they are in their twenties or in their thirties, and we see this incredible transformation that takes place when they get focused on the Word. It is amazing how over a period of time we can all become complacent.
We get to the point where we are used to this Christian culture that is around us and we lose sight of this radical difference that God has promised us. We are not like anyone else. We are radically different from everyone else because not only are we regenerated with new life but have God Himself in terms of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit indwelling us. That has never happened before in history. We have seen the baptism by the Holy Spirit break the power of the sin nature. We have been forgiven of sin so that it is cancelled. The power of sin is cancelled as we sing in the hymn O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing. We are new creatures in Christ and as a result of that, the Holy Spirit is poured out on us (verse 6).
(Slide 14) The word LOUTRON has to do with the washing, not the pouring out, but He is poured out on us abundantly. Think about that. It is abundant. That relates to sufficiency. It is more than enough. (Slide 15) Now I pointed out last time as we were closing that when we look at this whole section of Titus 3:4–7, look at the last two verses. Titus 3:6–7, “Whom He [the Holy Spirit] poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified [past tense when we trusted Christ as Savior] by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Now that is an interesting phrase. It is the verb GINOMAI which means to become something that we were not before. That could possibly mean that we are not automatically heirs of eternal life. They see this as a potential that is ours. A lot of people read this that this means we now have eternal life. I think as we look at this doctrine of inheritance, that eternal life is not always just life everlasting, meaning that we do not end up in the Lake of Fire, but that there is a quality there. This goes back to John 10:10 when Jesus said, “I did not come like a thief to steal and destroy but to give life [eternal life at the point of salvation] and to give it abundantly.”
So there are two levels of eternal life, two ways to look at that life: the life that never ends and we spend eternity in Heaven, and the quality of that life. So there are two elements: quantity and quality. The first Jesus said He came to give life [quantity] and to give it more abundantly [quality]. What this passage emphasizes and I think what Peter is emphasizing is that we need to learn to develop that quality of life even when the circumstances around us are not what we want them to be, even when the circumstances around us go against everything we want and desire because we are living on another standard.
We are living for another purpose and this is related to hope. You see this connection here between heirship and hope. (Slide 16) We are heirs according to a standard; heirs according the standard of this hope of eternal life. Now when we see the word “hope” we have to think about what that means. Basically it means a confident expectation. So we expect to have eternal life, which means that something is going on inheritance wise and that is a whole doctrine we have to look at in order to focus us on what we are living for.
(Slide 17) Back to our passage here. We have been begotten again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Now this concept of the resurrection and life is really important and fundamental in a lot of passages of Scripture. Why does Peter put it this way? He puts it this way because the resurrection of Christ is the foundation for the Christian life. It is the death of Christ on the Cross that pays the penalty for sin. The death of Christ on the Cross is not related to sanctification. The death of Christ on the Cross pays the penalty for sin so that we move from being unrighteous to righteous, unjustified to justified, spiritually dead to spiritually alive. But then He goes into the grave for three days.
When you look at the resurrection passages they all focus on the quality of life that is now ours. (Slide 18) Romans 6:4 says, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism unto death.” So His death is related to our identification with Him and is related to the loss of the power of the sin nature. “That just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” See the resurrection of Jesus, just as He was raised from the dead with a new body and a newness of life in His humanity, we are to emulate that at the point of salvation when we are baptized by the Spirit, we are given this new life.
We are to live that way. So we are born again to this living hope. The idea of life is present in Romans 6:4 and in 1 Peter 1:3 where it connects it to hope. (Slide 19) It is not a dead hope. It is not an uncertain hope. It is a confident expectation. So let’s take a minute or two to go through the basic points of understanding what hope is. (Slide 20) Let’s define hope. I’ve gone through a lot of theologies on regeneration and reading about salvation and soteriology. There are so many words that Christians use, that the Bible uses, especially if we have been Christians for very long and yet, a lot of Christians do not know what they mean, and unbelievers do not even have a clue. Words like believe; words like repent; not to mention justification, regeneration, and you are just going to lose someone completely when you use the word propitiation because people do not have a vocabulary any more. This is decried by English teachers across the country. We have to stop and think about what these words mean.
Hope is the Greek word ELPIS. Two lexicons that are the foremost lexicons that are available define it. The Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich [BDAG] says ELPIS refers to looking forward to something with some reason for confidence respecting fulfillment. It is not just sort of an optimistic wish such as, “Well, we haven’t had any rain in three weeks now. I hope it rains tomorrow. There is a thirty percent chance in the forecast and my garden desperately needs rain and my yard needs rain. I hope it is going to rain tomorrow. I hoped it would rain today.” We had a thirty percent chance of rain today and on the way to church I saw that it looked like people out to the west of here on Highway 6 and Cypress were getting a pretty good soaking but we did not get anything in the city of Houston or where I am living. It was just wishful optimism when I said that I hoped it would rain today and it is wishful optimism when I say I hope it will rain tomorrow.
That is not how the Bible uses the word hope. It uses it in the sense of a positive, certain expectation, something that is definitely going to take place. Because we know it will take place we can count on it and organize our priorities, we can organize how we spend our time, we can organize the energy we spend, and we can organize the training in our homes and in our families around this reality that is going to take place in the future. It is not something that is uncertain. It is something that is certain.
(Slide 21) Here are some verses that use the word hope. Colossians 1:5, “Because of the hope which is in laid up for you in heaven.” Now that’s very similar to what we read in 1 Peter 1:3, that we are born again to a living hope and this is further described as this inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled that is reserved in Heaven for you. Hope is related to our heavenly destiny. Titus 1:2 connects it again to eternal life just as Titus 3:7. It is the “hope of eternal life which God cannot lie, promised before time began.” That’s another thing we see, that hope is connected to God’s promise. God’s promise is connected to God’s character. So if we are going to read the Bible honestly and we look at the character of God then we see that behind those promises stands the unique Person who is not like any creature. He is absolutely faithful. He is going to fulfill any promise that He makes.
Titus 2:13 uses the words that we look “for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of Jesus Christ.” This is such a great verse. It relates to the Rapture. What we are anticipating right now is something that is certain. It is the return of Christ. Jesus is going to come back for us. We know this is going to happen. We just do not know when it is going to happen. That is the doctrine of imminency, something that is going to happen and it could happen at any moment but we do not know when, so we always have to be ready for that to take place. We are looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing. So once again that hope that is in the future motivates present behavior. It affects present behavior, present decision making, present values.
(Slide 22) 1 Peter 1:21 says, “Who through Him [Christ] believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory so that your faith and hope [connecting those two together which are both evidence of things not seen] are in God.” Both of them are unrelated to anything we see right now. Then 1 Peter 3:15 tells us that hope is to be so evident in us that people realize that we, unlike anyone else, are hopeful. Christians should be hopeful people. Hopeful in the sense that people do not look at us and say, “You are a sourpuss. You are pessimistic. You are negative.” They should look at you and say, “Why are you different from anyone else? You’re just so hopeful.” It is a certain kind of optimism. The assumption that Peter makes is that people are going to ask us why we are hopeful.
“Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts [your thinking] and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” That is even before you have your first cup of coffee in the morning, isn’t it? Before you even think. Always be ready to give an answer. That is a reasoned defense. This term APOLOGIA was a legal term for what a lawyer would do in the courtroom to defend his client. He gives a logical, rational explanation for why he believes. He does not just throw Bible verses at someone. He sits down and explains what they mean and why he believes what he believes.
Sometimes that takes a long time. It might take two, four, six, fifteen, twenty, thirty years as you dialogue with someone and help them understand why you believe what you believe. That can try our patience. Until a person trusts in Christ we may think they are going to reject Him. Certainly anyone who knew the Apostle Paul was going to be surprised when he trusted Christ. People who knew the Apostle Paul, even believers, were thinking he was the last person who was going to get saved. Even when he was saved when he came around believers they did not want to have anything to do with him because they thought he would throw them in jail. There is a change there that takes place and we need to be ready to give a reasoned, logical explanation for the hope that is in us without getting arrogant, prideful, or defensive about it.
Now those are three hard things to do and I do not think we can really do it apart from the Holy Spirit. Some of us just have personalities that trend toward being defensive and aggressive when someone challenges us. We think that when anyone who asks why we are a Christian is automatically a personal confrontation. Our response is not necessarily out of meekness and fear, two words that characterize humility and submission to the authority of God. So we are always to be ready. We are going to take some time to talk about APOLOGIA and what real apologetics is all about when we get to that verse. So hope basically means a positive expectation.
(Slide 23) Hope then for the believer is a solid confidence about the future with the Lord that comes back…” See we are so focused on the future that it sort of ricochets off of Jesus Christ back to us and gives us encouragement, strengthens our faith, and stabilizes us in our faith when we start getting hopeless saying, “I do not know. I cannot see what is going to happen two days, three weeks, and five months down the line. I work in a job in the oil industry and things are going the wrong direction right now. Prices are going down. I may not have a job in six months.” Then we start getting all negative, like God is not in control. We do not think there is hope but our hope is not built on the economy. Our hope is not built on the price of oil. Our hope is not built on any of these circumstantial factors. It is built on the truth of God’s Word.
As we come to understand our expectation that God is in control of our life, we realize that the call to discipleship, which is such a theme in Matthew, is just a recognition that God is setting your mind now and you need to do that. But are you willing to do that? Or are you going to keep fighting and keep reacting to what God is trying to do in your life? Because He is not going to stop doing what He is trying to do in your life so you can either start submitting to God or you are just going to have a wrestling match like Jacob and the angel, a wrestling match for the rest of your life. What are you going to do about it?
We have to focus on that. Hope is an objective optimism that is not to be shaken by present time circumstances, no matter how bad they might get. We just have to understand that sometimes God uses negative circumstances to produce godly character in us and God may also use negative circumstances to give us opportunity to witness to people in ways that they never would have heard it.
One of the most fascinating stories is a doctoral dissertation by Mitch Glaser at Biola about messianic evangelism among the Jewish community in Eastern Europe in the early 20th century. There were some communities where, according to his research, 50 to 60 percent of the Jews became messianic in the 20s and 30s. Guess what happened to those Jews. Where were they in the 1940s? They went through some incredible suffering. When they were placed at Auschwitz, when they were on the train to Treblinka, when they were sent to these other camps, guess what they had the opportunity to do? They had the opportunity to give the gospel to hundreds of other Jews during that time and they did. In fact, estimates run that somewhere between 100,000 and maybe 400,000 Jews who were rounded up in the Holocaust converted to Christianity as a result of the witness of other Jews. Just imagine, if you are one of those Jews who is a believer and you are being rounded up, the doubts you might have. You might be thinking, “God, what in the world are you doing in my life? I trusted in Christ. Why am I being persecuted? I am not Jewish anymore. I am a Christian.” The Lord said, “Well, I saved you for a purpose. I am going to put you through the worst suffering that my people have gone through so that you can glorify Me and be a witness.”
You have to change the way you think about why you are here on earth. We are not here for our personal pleasure and to fulfill our personal ambitions. We are here to serve the Lord. We are ambassadors for Christ and all of the other stuff is merely distraction and it is secondary. We are here for a radical purpose. So when bad things happen, they are really bad because they somehow get in the way of us doing what we think we want to do. God is using that to do what He wants to do in terms of conforming our character to be like Christ and giving us an opportunity to witness. What gets us through those times is having that certainty, that optimistic certainty that God is in charge and He is preparing me for something in the future and I need to orient my thinking right now to His plan. That is called doctrinal orientation.
(Slide 24) The third point about hope is that the unbeliever can have a counterfeit hope. He can manufacture something about the future. He comes up with his dreams and his hopes but ultimately they cannot have any foundation for his life in the here-and-now because he may manufacture these dreams for his future, but when they are wrecked upon the shoals of reality, then there is nothing there. Our hope never gets wrecked on the shoals of reality. Our hope is the only hope that provides stability.
(Slide 25) Fourth point, the believer’s hope is transformational. It is to transform our life. I pointed this out in 1 Peter 3:15. It makes us different. That difference should be evident to people around us. We need to think in terms of God’s plan and not our plan.
(Slide 26) Fifth point, our confident expectation is related to our understanding of our new life in Christ. “Well, I don’t understand my new life in Christ.” Well, you need to read your Bible. You need to be in Bible class. You need to be studying over and over again. You need to get whatever kind of MP3 player you need and you need to be listening when you are working out. You need to drench your soul in the Word of God. I do not mean drench your soul in what I teach. Drench your soul in the Word of God because it is the Word of God that is alive and powerful. That does not mean that you do not listen to someone who can truthfully expose the Scriptures and expound the Scriptures so that God the Holy Spirit can use that in your life. But it is the Word of God that is powerful. It is the Word of God that accomplishes its purpose. It is God’s Word that changes people and so we need to be involved with that. That is what gives us the confident expectation as we orient to God’s plan.
This gives us a hope related to our eternal life as in Titus 1:2. It is that confident expectation. We are just in the antechamber. We are in the entry hall. We are in the vestibule of our lives. This is a drop in the ocean compared to the life we are going to live with our Lord that is going to go on forever and ever and ever except we are so finite that all we can think of is getting through tomorrow or the next day or the next week. We lose sight of the fact that this is minor. What we are going through now is really preparatory. It is preparing us for the future role, that future destiny that we are going to have with the Lord. We need to get our head out of the darkness and into the light and focus on God’s plan. We need to train our children that way and we need to train our grandchildren that way and we need to learn to quit thinking like unbelievers and to think like believers.
(Slide 27) For the believer this is also grounded in understanding who we are in Christ. Our identity in Christ for the believer is grounded in the present indwelling of Christ. We need to understand this. Colossians 1:27, “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” We have the richness of the indwelling of Christ. We have a new identity in Christ that is to shape how we think about the world around us, and the circumstances. This is related to this future inheritance. 1 Peter 1:4, “To an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”
Most of us have hopes and dreams that are related to things that won’t last, to cars, to financial investments, to security for our retirement, to looking at things related to improving our health. These are all things that are temporal. To having enough financial resources to enjoy all the hobbies and toys that we want that will make life enjoyable. But they are going to fade away. Five years from now you will be interested in something else. Ten years from now you are going to have so many body aches you cannot do what you wanted to do. Twenty years from now it is going to be a different set of problems and what you really wanted to do twenty years earlier just is not important to you anymore. The one thing that never changes is that eternal destiny that God has for us. We are going to have that inheritance that does not fade away. That is what we should be working for. That is what we should be thinking about. This is all related to the doctrine of inheritance. This runs through this whole chapter.
We look at verse 4 where our living hope is toward something, “an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away that is reserved in heaven for you.” It is related to this salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. It is ready to be realized as glory at the revelation of Christ in verse 7 and all through this section it is all focused on these future glories that will come. That is our orientation. We need to learn to focus on the future because it is real. The more real it becomes to us, the more transformative it is today. I think one of the reasons a lot of Christians never seem to really have any victory over sin in their Christian life is because they are so consumed with the here-and-now that they have not focused enough on Jesus for the Word to be transformative. Jesus becomes secondary in their life, rather than what the Scripture says that Jesus should consume our lives. He is not just something else that we do. Everything that we do should be organized around that role that we have been called to in the body of Christ. Next time we will come back and look at the doctrine of inheritance.
“Father thank You for this opportunity to be reminded of our hope, that this is positive, it is optimistic and living for tomorrow means that no matter what happens today it really does not matter. Politics will change. Economics will change. Circumstances related to health and family and friends are all going to change because we live in an ever-changing world. But You never change and our inheritance is not going to change. The Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We need to build our lives around that which is totally stable and unchanging. The only way we can do that is to just be immersed and saturated by Your Word. May we respond to this challenge in Christ’s name. Amen.”