Jesus, Hope for Humanity-Part 2
1 Peter 1:3 ※ 1 Peter 1:13
According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope. (1 Peter 1:3)
Hope. The very word suggests waiting. If we are hoping, then I guess that means we are waiting. “I hope the rain clears up soon”, obviously means “I’m waiting for it to stop raining”. So what is it that we are hoping and waiting for this Advent?
When I was a kid, Christmas meant waiting for Santa, and hoping that he gives me that gift I knew my parents could never afford. So even as a small child I understood that Christmas was about waiting and hoping. Of course, I hadn’t yet learned what I should be hoping for. And now that I am an adult, and can tell you that I don’t like waiting. At all! And I’m not the only one. Most adults I know hate waiting. Actually, I cant think of any children who like waiting either. Henri Nouwen said,
“For many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go. And people do not like such a place. They want to get out of it by doing something.”
If Christmas is all about hoping, and hoping is all about waiting, and if everyone hates waiting, then why is Christmas so popular? I imagine it is because we have gotten out of it ‘by doing something’. We go shopping, we mail cards, prepare dinners, and go to the theater, we trim the tree, hang the lights, watch our favorite Christmas shows, drink eggnog or hot chocolate and warm up next to red stockings hanging from burning fireplaces, and the list really could go on. And to be honest I love all of it, but none of it feels anything like waiting.
Tonight I would like to examine the word hope once again. We will look at 1 Peter. One could say that 1 Peter is an epistle of hope. In fact, if you were to pick up a commentary on 1 Peter chances are that commentary might actually have the word “hope” in its title. That is because Peter is writing this letter to a church who he believes is living in the very last days. They are experiencing tremendous suffering and trials for their faith, and so he writes this letter to give them hope and to remind them to stand firm in the face of suffering, because Jesus is coming back soon.
That last part is particularly important to us today. Jesus is coming back. Do you believe that? Do you want him to come back? Is his return something that you long for – are you waiting for it? The Christmas season of Advent is about waiting and placing our hearts in a hopeful exception of the arrival of Jesus. The word advent literally means “arrival”. At Christmas we celebrate that God kept his promise and that the long awaited messiah came on Christmas day. But we also celebrate and contemplate that there is still another promise of his return that we are waiting for.
As we look at 1 Peter I want us to see the kind of hope that Peter is telling us to have. That hope is centered around Christ’s second coming. But first I think we should begin with a discussion. Lets jump right into this.
DISCUSSION #1 Is his return something that you long for and wait for – like a bride waiting for her groom, or like a kid waiting for Christmas morning? If not why?
※ the hope Grace
Peter opens this letter by offering praise to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who, because of his grace or great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope. Ten verses later he concludes, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13)
Now, I want to get to all those things that Peter said between verses three and 13, but first, can I just stopped to ask, “Don’t you just love that word ‘grace’?” Poets have called it the sweetest sound. And when I hear the word it just does something inside of me. Maybe it’s because I am acutely aware of how desperate I am for grace.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
And this is true, not because of anything that I’ve done or deserve but because of grace. How sweet is that sound.
※ God is full of Grace
Even sweeter than the sound is the reality that our God is a God who is full of grace and mercy. The Scriptures are replete with instances and examples of him extending his love and mercy and grace to people who could never deserve it.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:4–9)
Over and over again, God is teaching us that he is long-suffering and patient with wretched sinners, like you and me. He waits very patiently, and extends mercy even to our enemies. I could tell you the story of Noah. How God was sad that he had to destroy the world with the flood, and yet he extended grace to anyone who might get on the boat. I could tell you the story of a man named Methuselah. He is a living illustration of the long-suffering and patience of God. Everyone knows, even non Christians, that Methuselah was the oldest man to have ever lived. His name literally means “after death it will come” because God had promised that after Methuselah dies, he would send the flood. Essentially God is saying, “When Methuselah dies, I’m going to judge the entire earth, but as you can see, I am allowing Methuselah to be the oldest man to show my patience and long-suffering for sinners to repent.” I could tell you the story of Jonah, the prophet of God who was asked to bring a message of grace to the wicked city of Nineveh. God was giving them a chance. He was offering them grace and mercy and Jonah was called to be the instrument of that grace. Listen to Jonah’s own words:
“Is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” (Jonah 4:2)
Isn’t God’s grace amazing? God’s mercy and grace extends to sinners like you and me but also to those whom we might never think could or should be saved. In fact, it is God’s desire that this hope of grace be extended to the entire earth. This thing we call grace changes everything. The band U2 sings,
Grace, its a name of a girl
its also a thought that changed the world.
Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.
※ a living hope
Now this hope is not just the hope of the grace that we will receive when he returns, Peter also tells us that it is a living hope. It not just a one time event that saved us it is a living active thing. This hope was given to us by someone who preached good news, and like a living virus it is being carried by us to others who desperately need grace and hope. Peter had told us in verse 3 that according to his great mercy, God has caused us to be born again to a living hope. It is living first, because it is “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Christ is alive, therefore we who have died with Christ have also been made alive. But secondly, Peter vividly describes this hope as something we have been born into. We have been born again to a living hope. The word living is a present active participle. It is a present, that means today, and active, that means action.
Last week we talked about hope being a fire that burns in our gut and causes us to move or act. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” Timothy Keller said, “We are hope based creatures. What we believe, or hope for, effects the way we live.” And Peter is telling us that we have been born again into a hope that is lively.
One Scholar comments,
“In the Bible, hope is never a static or passive thing. It is dynamic, active, directive and life sustaining. In other words, a biblical hope is not an escape from reality or from problems. It doesn’t leave us idle, drifting or just rocking on the front porch. If our hope is biblical and based on God’s promises, it will put us in gear.”
※ Born again to a living hope because we love Jesus
Jesus is alive. We may not see him, it may seem that he is far away, but he is alive. He’s alive and this means everything to the believer. Listen to verse 8, I love this verse.
“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,” (1 Peter 1:8 ESV)
Essentially, Peter is saying that though we’ve never seen Christ with our eyes, we love him. And though we cannot see him now, we still believe that he is alive. Jesus is not dead, and we do not have a dead hope. He is alive, and we have been born anew to a living hope.
I love that Peter says that we love him. Oh, I pray that I would love him more and more. “The Greek word is the celebrated a˙gapa◊w that so often in Scripture is used of God’s love for man (see John 3:16). The context suggests a deep sense of personal affection for the One whom they’ve never met in person but whose presence in a spiritual sense is beyond question.”
Jesus is alive, and our hope is active and living and we love Jesus. That love causes us to live differently. It effects the way we live.
DISCUSSION #2: Since we have been given amazing grace and since we have a living active love for Christ -how should this effect our waiting?
※ WAITING WITH THE LIVING HOPE OF GRACE
During the Christmas season you will hear many verses and sing many songs that come from Isaiah. I really love the book of Isaiah. You’ll hear verses like, “For unto you a child is born, unto you a son is given.” (Isaiah. 9:6) “The Lord will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2) Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1) And almost all of those verses will be heard in Christmas carols. I hear Handel’s Messiah ringing in my ears each time a read them.
If a could, I want to give a brief synopsis of the entire book of Isaiah. The book of Isaiah has often been called the Bible in miniature. There are 66 books in the Bible and 66 chapters in the book of Isaiah. The first 39 chapters deal primarily with the judgment of God, paralleling the OT of first 39 books of the Bible, and the last 27 chapter of Isaiah deal primarily with the Grace and new covenant of God, paralleling the 27 books of the NT. The main thrust of the entire book is that God has set apart his people Israel to be a light unto the nations. They are to lead the nations to God. They were not doing that. They couldn’t do that because of their sin. So God began to promise that he would send a savior – the suffering servant – who would take away the sins of the world. But that is not the end of the story. The last half of the book of Isaiah is about how Israel can now let their light shine. Now that you have been given grace – now that you have been saved, “Arise and shine for your light has come.”
God is on a mission and he has given us grace, causing us to be born again to a new hope, the living active hope of Grace. God’s mission has always been to give that grace to the entire world. That amazing grace is for the entire earth. Listen to these verses:
“God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)
“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:22)
“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
“For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 13:47)
How does this hope effect the way we wait, we are waiting for Jesus to come back, but until he does – we have job to do. He may tarry for 2 thousand years and if he does I imagine that not much differently than the long suffering he showed through Methuselah. He is waiting for more to hear and respond to the gospel of Grace… this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
The first Advent is a blessing, but the second is a responsibility. Jesus Himself clearly explains our responsibility of hope by the use of a terribly frightening parable. The parable is about our responsibility to wait in hope and to shine our light.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” ~ Matthew 25:1–13
It is no accident that one of the main subjects of this parable is the light of the lamps. We have been born again to the living hope of sharing grace in a world with out hope and grace. We are the light of the world.
May Christ bless you this Christmas with the hopeful experience of shining His light into at least one of the deeply dark places that so saturate our world. And may you be alert and anxious for His second advent.