Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Man’s Trash is God’s Treasure (A sermon based on 1 Peter 2:4-10)

Ever feel like your life isn't really accomplishing anything worthwhile? Ever feel insignificant or worthless? Know someone else who feels this way?Then you need to know the real solution to the problem--God's solution--and remember who you really are: You're not trash. You're God's treasure, precious to him, and dearly loved, because of Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection. Now he makes you his priests too, to remind others who they really are through Jesus. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on 1 Peter 2:4-10 and be encouraged...

Easter Means No Fear… of Insignificance

Man's Trash is God's Treasure

A sermon based on 1 Peter 2:4-10

Sunday, May 22, 2011 – Easter 5A


This week I read a news article about a company in China that manufactures iPhones under contract for Apple.[*] The company, named Foxconn, has been having some real problems that have made Apple consider using another company for the production of their phones. The problem? Last year 11 employees, jumped to their deaths from factory windows. That's how much they hated their jobs and how insignificant they felt.

But what struck me about the article, was the solution that Foxconn came up with. On the one hand it made me chuckle. But on the other hand it made me very sad. You see, their solution was to put up almost ten million square feet of mesh netting wrapped around the building to catch jumpers.

I chuckled because it seemed utterly ridiculous to treat just the symptom (the jumpers) and not the problem (of unhappy, depressed, suicidal workers). (To be fair, the company did also hire a few counselors and increase workers salaries.) But I'm saddened that they don't have the real solution to the despair and pain that those workers are feeling.

This morning, I want you all to pay careful attention. Because even if you're not feeling hurt and pain and near despair, I promise that someone you care about either is feeling that pain, or they will down the road. With dead-end jobs, or no jobs, with struggling marriages and disintegrating families, with sickness and disease, and guilt and frustration, countless people are left feeling worthless, hopeless, and insignificant.

So I want you to pay careful attention to the real solution—not just some safety net that will leave the despairing looking for another way out of their problems and pain—but to God's solution: "Know who you are—who you really are—because of Easter." God, through Peter, reminds us of what we were. We were sinners. We were miserable losers. We were trash. …But not anymore!!! Now we are saints! Now we are royalty! Now we are priests! Listen again to God's encouragement given to you (and through you to others), that man's trash is God's treasure. We read 1 Peter 2:4-10…


4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:

"See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,"

8 and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall."

They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.


I.              Man's Trash (Christ) is God's Treasure… 

You know, there are times that I feel relatively insignificant. I wonder if what I'm doing with my life really makes a difference. After all, what I do I really have to show for my efforts? I've never built a mega-church. Thousands of souls aren't being saved through my preaching. Maybe a handful? …at best!

And while that is significant work, I'm even more comforted when I think of Jesus. What did his ministry look like? He was the perfect preacher. He was the perfect teacher! He never missed a teachable moment. He never misspoke! He always conveyed the truth that he was sharing in exactly the right way. But what did he have to show for it?

He had no mega-church. Thousands didn't come to believe in him until after his death. His followers were very few. The leaders he trained were only 12. (And one of them, didn't work out so well. …And the other eleven? Well, they all deserted him when he needed them the most.) And when he preached to them, rarely did they get it. You got that from the Gospel lesson, didn't you? "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" …Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." And Jesus' three year ministry ended in his execution!

From outward appearances, it would seem that Jesus' ministry was pretty insignificant. He had little to show for all his work. And I imagine that at times, Jesus too was tempted with thoughts of failure, insignificance, and despair. In fact, Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 49:4, that the coming Messiah would think, "I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing." But was he worthless? Was he insignificant? Of course not!

Though he was "rejected by men… The stone the builders rejected…"  he was—he is!—also "the living Stone… chosen by God and precious to him… a chosen and precious cornerstone…"

In other words, looks can be deceiving.  What man considered trash, a stone not worth building with because it didn't fit their plans or their design, was really God's treasure. Precious to him! Most valuable! His Son, whom he loves, with whom he is well pleased!

You guys ever watch Antique Roadshow on PBS? You know the one, where someone brings in something that looks like garage sale junk, but turns out to be some rare and priceless heirloom from the royal line of some king that has been lost throughout the centuries and now it's worth a few million dollars?

That's the way it was with Jesus. While the world saw him as trash, he was God's treasure. And he's our treasure too! In Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. He's precious, not just to God, but to us, because he gives us life. He gives us meaning and purpose. He gives us significance!


II.            Man's Trash (You) is God's Treasure… 

Now, let's face it. There are some days when my feelings of insignificance and worthlessness are really well-earned. When I don't do the work that I've been called to do as faithfully as I possibly could, I deserve to be called worthless before God. When I use the gifts and abilities that God has given me to serve my petty, short-lived, worthless ends… well, how insignificant I choose to become!  

And at one point I didn't even get it! Like the person who comes on Antique Roadshow convinced they have a priceless heirloom only to discover that it's worth less than you could buy new at Walmart, so too when I was convinced that I was something special, apart from Christ, because of my sin, I was worthless. I was useless. I was deserving of hell. I was trash for my self-centered, godless, worthless way of life. And so were you.

But… that's no reason to climb out the window of the 12th story, because that's what we were. …Not anymore! And everything has changed because of Christ!

In our text Peter quotes several Old Testament passages that refer to Christ as a rock of some sort. In the first, Isaiah calls the Messiah the "precious cornerstone." Now to us, a cornerstone is merely ceremonial—the place where you inscribe the date of construction and a brief dedication. But in those days the corner stone was the first stone laid down. It was perfectly square so that every other stone that was laid lined up perfectly with it. If that one stone was off—even by a little—the rest would be too.

The second passage refers to Jesus as the "capstone." This was the stone at the very top of an arch to "cap" it. All the other stones leaned in against it, then the scaffolding could be removed and the wall built around the arch. But if that capstone were removed it would all come quickly crashing down.

Ever play the game Jenga? You know, the game where you stack little wooden blocks, then pull one out of the middle to place on top without knocking over the tower? Ever notice that when you play that game no one ever pulls a block from the bottom layer? Why not? For obvious reason, right? You remove the bottom block and the rest will come crashing down. It's a game changer.

That's what Jesus is to us. Pull him out of the foundation of your life and everything will come crashing down. But when we build our lives on him, put our trust in him, and believe in him, we will not be put to shame—ever! "The one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

My worthless behavior can't shame me. By Jesus death and resurrection and they've all been taken away—the so-called little sins and the so-called big! satan can't shame me! His accusations won't stick! I am forgiven! My petty and insignificant goals can't shame me. I've been given a new and noble purpose in why I live my life and the way I live my life because of what Jesus has done for me! He lives! And I will live! And I do live—for him—right now! Easter is a game changer!

And it changes who I am! And who you are too! "Once you were not a people," you were insignificant, "but now you are the people of God," you're special! You belong to him! "Once you had not received mercy," you were junk, "but now you have received mercy." You are God's treasure, precious to him, dearly loved, and fit for service in his church because this is who are now: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

So what if others think you're worthless?! God chose you to be his own! To be his representative! So what if others think you're nothing special?! God calls you royalty! Sons and daughters of the king! His princes! His princesses! So what if you have a job that's less than fulfilling?! God has placed you there at this place and at this time to serve as his priests—to represent him before the people in your life. Who cares if others think you're worthless trash?! God calls you his priceless treasure!

And he gives meaning to life and purpose to your every task—even to those that seem most mundane and meaningless. Because as you "…eat or drink or whatever you do…" shuffle papers, drill for oil, change diapers, or work as a janitor, and "…do it all for the glory of God," (1 Corinthians 10:31), you will be, "[declaring] the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

If (or maybe when?) the day comes that you feel like worthless trash, then remember that it went the same way with Jesus. Remember that looks can be deceiving! And remember who you are! You're not trash! You're God's treasure! His priest and representative! And take heart!

And when you encounter someone else who's feeling the hurt and the pain and is near despair, because of dead-end jobs, or no jobs, struggling marriages or disintegrating families, because of sickness and disease, or guilt and frustration, then, as God's priests, share with them the real solution: That Christ changes everything! He changes them, from trash into treasure. He changes the way they view their lives, just as it does for us, as together we remember who we are!

"[We] are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God…" Because of Easter, we have no fear of insignificance! For he is risen! He is risen indeed! Amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

Monday, May 16, 2011

Easter Clears Your Name (A sermon based on 1 Peter 1:17-21)

Sorry to get this out a week late. I'll try to get yesterday's sermon out to you all tomorrow...

How nervous do you get when you're about to take a test? When you're up for review or an evaluation at work? When you stand before a judge? It's not always fun to be judged, is it? Especially when you know that you're performance has been sub-par. How frightening it can be to think about standing before God to face our eternal judgment. But even though God will judge us and will judge us impartially each according to our work, we don't need to be afraid of that judgment. We know what Jesus has done to clear our name. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on 1 Peter 1:17-21 and rejoice that because of Easter, we don't need to fear God's judgment. Easter clears your name...

Easter Means No Fear… of Judgment

Easter Clears Your Name

A sermon based on 1 Peter 1:17-21

Sunday, May 8, 2011 – Easter 3A (Mother's Day)


"Moooooom! He hit me!"

"He started it! He hit me first!"

And soon, both boys are standing before the judge. And in our house, usually neither boy gets off without a sentence. The judge judges impartially and rarely is there any innocent party.

This Mother's Day many of you moms may be thinking of the many times you've had to play the role of judge. And thinking back to some of the cases that have come before your bench, you may even get a laugh or two in hindsight.

But when we're talking about God's judgment seat, it's no laughing matter. Peter reminds us that the thought should rightly fill us with fear. Listen again to what he says in 1 Peter 1:17-21…


17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.


 I.              God Will Judge You in View of Your Work 

"[God] judges each man's work impartially…" What a terrifying thought isn't that? After all, how nervous does someone get when they stand in an earthly court before an earthly judge to determine the guilt and penalty for a traffic violation. How much more terrifiying when one stands before God in court where the sentence will last forever and one's eternal soul is on the line.

But why should it be terrifying? Because if God judges each man's work impartially, that means he will not base his judgment on how smooth you can talk, not on what character witnesses you have, not on what a good citizen you've been. No. He will judge impartially on one basis alone. Peter tells us what it is in the verses immediately preceding our text: "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'"

So… how well have you done? Have you done what the Law demands? Have you done enough to satisfy the Judge? You know, I think too often we think of sin only as doing those things that God forbids us from doing. But sin is so much more. It's also failing to do what he's commanded. It's failing to live up to the full potential that God has given to us! It's failing to be perfect!

Consider just a few: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Have you always given yourself to the service of others, seeking their best interests before your own? Or have you sometimes been self-serving? Only caring about your needs? "Give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord." Have you always used your gifts and your time toward the goal of growing the Kingdom of God? Or have you sometimes sought only to increase your own kingdom and your life of luxury and ease? "Live your lives as strangers here." Have you always been eager to be different from others as you live your life for Jesus? Or have you sometimes chosen to blend? Chosen to be strangers with Jesus instead of with the world?

And the Judge "judges each man's work impartially." That means no excuse will work. "But I'm a 7th generation Lutheran!" So what?! Who cares? "But I went to church every Sunday!" Then why didn't you live what you learned?! "But I gave so much of my time, my money, myself!" Your sacrifices could never pay for your sin! "But I was a pretty good person." But "pretty good" isn't perfect.

You see, standing before God's judgment seat isn't like standing before the judges you hear about on Access Hollywood that say, "Okay, you drank 15 beers then got in your Ferrari and wrapped it around a telephone pole going 90 mph almost killing 17 people in the process, but… you know what? No one was really hurt and, well, you're a celebrity. So how about 3 days at rehab and we'll call it even?"

No! God judges each man's work impartially. Literally "without regard to face." Like Lady Justice who wears her blindfolded lest she be swayed by some irrelevant factor, God judges justly, blind to everything but this simple truth: You are not perfect. And like Lady Justice, God carries a big sword too. In fact, his sentence is worse than a sword. His just judgment means that every person deserves the punishment of hell.

Yes, knowing that we have a Father who judges each man's work impartially, should rightly fill us with fear. But not in the sense that we're terrified of God. That's not what Peter means when he says, "live your lives as strangers here in… fear…"

 II.            God Will Judge You in View of Your Christ's Work 

You see, Peter explains why this fear isn't fright or terror at God's judgment seat in the next verse: "For you know that… you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers…"

God rescued you. He bought you out of the sentence you were sure to otherwise face. He redeemed you from the empty and meaningless way of life that was handed down to us, namely, living to serve ourselves during this short life only to face the just wrath of the Judge on Judgment Day. He redeemed you. That is, he ransomed you. He bought you out of your slavery to fear, to sin, to death and hell. And he did it with the only price that could be paid: "Not with perishable things such as silver or gold…" For no amount of money could ever pay for the soul of a man. After all, what good is money to God?! No, "It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect."

Martin Luther once said that, "Just one drop of this innocent blood would have been more than enough for the sin of the whole world." But Jesus, true God in every way, gave his perfect, sinless, life ("without blemish or defect") to pay for our sin. And that payment, unlike silver or gold, is imperishable. That means it can never spoil or fade or lose its value! That means this payment will last for all of eternity!

And what God won for you on the cross, he delivered to you by faith! "He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God." God created the faith in your heart to believe the message by Jesus' resurrection. Easter convinces us! And so Easter clears us!

In one sense, we are no longer judged by what we do. It's not how good I've been or how bad I've been that determines my eternal outcome. But it's how good Jesus was for me, and how God punished him in my place. But in another sense, we are still judged by our works. But now, by faith in Jesus, every sin is gone and every good work is made perfect with every impure motive forgiven. So all God sees in you and me is perfect works of service to him and to others all the time! All God sees in us is perfection. All he sees is holiness, just as he is holy!

A little boy entered the lingerie section of the department store. He wanted to buy his mom a new slip for Mother's Day. Very timidly he approached the saleslady and presented his problem: "I want to buy my mom a slip, but I don't know what size she wears." The lady asked, "Is your mom tall or short, fat or skinny?" "I don't know, she's just… perfect," said the boy. The salesperson dutifully wrapped up a slip in what most people consider a perfect size: 34. But two days later, the same salesgirl met the perfect mom who came to the store herself and exchanged the slip for a size 48. But to that little boy, mom looked perfect. It's true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Friends, that's exactly how God looks at us. Because of the forgiveness won for us through Jesus' sacrifice we are able to stand before the Lord cleansed of every spot and stain. We are perfect.

You see, Jesus wrote the check for the payment for our sins in his own blood. And because of Easter we know that the check has cleared! And because the check has cleared, we know our names are cleared! Because of Easter, we don't need to be afraid of God's Judgment. We know we'll stand. We know he will declare us, who cling to Jesus and him alone (and not to our works), to be not guilty, to be… perfect! "Your faith and your [(certain)] hope are in God." So we can face the judge with our heads held high and without any hint of fear in our eye.  

 III.           You Judge Your Life… in View of Christ's Work

Now, earlier I said that knowing that we have a Father who judges each man's work impartially, should fill us with fear. But I don't mean we should tremble at the thought or lose any sleep when we think about Judgment Day. You see, I think the NIV translated correctly when they translated the word "phobos" (from which we get our word phobia) as "reverent fear."

You see, when we consider the just punishment that we deserve, and the gracious judgment that we know we have instead by the redemption that came through Jesus blood, we can't help but revere a God who would do such a thing for us! And, standing before him in holy awe, say to him, "My life is yours!"

This is the fear St. Peter is talking about. Reverent fear is respect for God, the one who owns us. As Luther began his explanation to each of the 10 Commandments: "We should fear and love God that we…" You see, in view of his grace to us, won for us by the cross, proven to us by Easter, given to us by the Spirit, we realize that we don't belong to ourselves. We belong to God. After all he purchased us. He paid for us on the cross. And Easter is his receipt. So, no longer our own, we, "live [our] lives as strangers here in reverent fear."

We live as strangers in this world. And we are strangers because we don't belong to this world. Heaven is our home! And so, we now judge our lives in view of that truth, in view of Judgment Day, and in view of Christ's work for us. This life isn't what it's all about. This life is short, perishable,  fleeting. But not the life to come. It will last for eternity.

So we live our lives working for what will last. Will that make you weird? You bet! But that's okay. Dave Ramsey, the financial advisor and radio talk show personality, has a motto: "Debt is normal. Be weird." In other words, normal isn't good. Weird is better. In a similar way, we are okay being weird. In fact, we long to be weird! Self-centeredness is normal. Self-absorption is normal. Chasing after an empty way of life is normal. But we're strangers. And we eagerly "live [our] lives as strangers here in reverent fear."

We use our skills and resources not for building up our personal empires, but in building up the kingdom of God. We use our time not as a thing to be spent in self-serving entertainment, but in self-sacrificing service, first to our immediate families, then to our fellow believers, then to those who need to hear of Jesus' redemption.

And we do it all to the glory of God, not out of fear, because we must or else we'll face a horrible judgment. But because we want to, in reverent fear and holy awe, in thanks to the one who redeemed us from the empty way of life in which we used to live and gives us calm and peace and no fear in the face of the judgment to come. Easter means no fear of judgment, for Easter clears our name! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Easter Makes You Rich (A sermon based on 1 Peter 1:3-9)

It seems that the financial situation in many a home the last couple of years has been anything but certain. Job security seems like an oxymoron. And retirement seems like a dream. But the truth is that every one of us is rich, and not just because you have luxuries (like a computer or phone to read this on) that many in the world only dream of having. But because of Easter we are all truly rich. We have an eternal inheritance that can never spoil, perish, or fade. And we have an inexpressible joy that will carry us through until the day when we receive our inheritance in full. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on 1 Peter 1:3-9 and be reminded of how rich you really are...

Easter Means No Fear… of Poverty
Easter Makes You Rich
A sermon based on 1 Peter 1:3-9
Sunday, May 1, 2011 -- Easter Festival 
I have some good news for you this morning! Easter sales are up this year! This past month, the National Retail Federation estimated that consumers will have spent  an average of $132.41 on Easter food, clothing and other goodies. Compared to only $119.60 each person spent last year, it could be a sign of an improving economy. It's at least good news for the retailers who have sold an estimated $14.6 billion dollars for Easter – $4.5 billion on food, with $2.4 billion on pressed suits and frilly dresses, and the other $9.7 billion on other Easter items, like candy, cards, and decorations—just  in case you were wondering. It would seem that Easter has the potential at least to make one rich.
Okay, I admit it. That's not really the good news that I have for you this morning. The good news that I have for you is that Easter has already made you rich. Because of Easter, you have an incredible inheritance that you will receive one day very soon. And because of Easter, you have an inexpressible joy right now to carry you through until that day. Listen to the way the Apostle Peter describes how Easter makes you rich in 1 Peter 1:3-9... 
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I. You Have an Incredible Inheritance
Imagine if you were there that first Easter as an eyewitness of the resurrection! Wouldn't that be all you would talk about? But look at the way this epistle begins! Peter doesn't start by making a big deal about what he himself had witnessed. He mentions the resurrection of Jesus, but that's not the center of his attention. Instead, he makes a big deal about us, about the resurrection that we have witnessed! 
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." That's it. That's what he wants to talk about. Peter, who personally witnessed the empty tomb and physically ate meals with Jesus for weeks after he died and was buried in the tomb, doesn't want to talk about any of that. He wants to talk about your Easter, your resurrection from spiritual death, your new birth into a living hope.
You see, like a child born to a heroin addict is himself a heroin addict, those of us who were born to sinful parents are born spiritually dead in sin. King David wrote in Psalm 51:1, "Surely I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." And God says through Paul in Ephesians 2:1, "As for you, you were dead in transgressions and sins." From the time of conception, we were so consumed by sin that left us spiritually lifeless, impoverished, and hopelessly headed for hell. 
But God has a lot of mercy! You see we, we who were spiritually dead because of our sin, well, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." God caused you and me to be born again. And just as a baby isn't born because he chooses to be conceived and then decides it's time to be born, so too you couldn't choose to ask Jesus to come into your life or decide to give your life over to him. Our spiritual rebirth and resurrection is entirely the work of God the Father. Literally Peter says, "He caused us to be born again."
How? "through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..." God created the faith in our hearts that trusts in Christ's work for us. We had nothing to do with it. His death on the cross paid for every one of our sins! For every time we've denied our Savior to avoid "suffer[ing] grief in all kinds of trials," for every time we've had misplaced priorities, treating gold as if it was of greater worth than our faith, for every sin we've ever committed, Christ paid. And his resurrection assures us that his death accomplished what it was meant to. Our sins are forgiven. And we will receive an eternal inheritance.
Now it's true that most religions hold out to their followers the hope of blessings in the hereafter. But the acquisition of such blessings always depends upon whether the individual has earned them or not. Therefore, such a "believer" can never be sure. His hope is tainted. And on the day of judgment every hope which is not founded on Christ's resurrection will prove to be a false, dead hope. But on the last day the Christian who has a living hope in a living Savior who did all that was needed for his or her salvation, will receive the "inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you."

Now, maybe you've been on the receiving end of an inheritance and know that while an inheritance can bring sudden wealth, sooner or later, the inheritance will be gone just like the person who left it. The things will wear out. The money will be spent. An unforeseen event may tear it all out of your hands even more suddenly than it fell into your lap. After all, in the last decade many a "nest egg" has vanished. And even if you manage to hold onto all of it, you won't have it forever. Sooner or later, like it or not, the time will come for you to give it to someone else.
But the inheritance we have in Jesus will last forever! You have been written into God's will. And so, you are rich. Never mind how much money you have or how much debt you have. In the big picture, these things are completely insignificant. You can't take any of it with you. But the inheritance Jesus died to earn you and now lives to give you "can never perish, spoil, or fade"! It's kept safe in heaven for you, waiting for you to take possession of it. No taxation can eat it up. No stock market plunge cannot devalue your inheritance. No earthquake, fire, or flood can ever destroy it. The passage of time will never make it obsolete. Our inheritance is something we can always count on because the Lord keeps our inheritance ready and waiting for us in a place untouched by sin and time. How rich we are!

II. You Have an Inexpressible Joy

"Now that's good and all for the moment of my death, you might argue, "but that moment might still be a long way off! What about the decades of suffering I might have to face in the meantime?! After all, faith in Jesus' death and resurrection and the forgiveness of sins that they bring may make me perfect before God, but they sure don't make life on earth much better." Well, no they don't. 
The life of the believer is not without challenges. And no one knew that better than Peter. He readily admitted, "Though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." Make no mistake about it. Trouble will come, trials will infect your life. We will face ridicule from those who find believing in Jesus and his physical resurrection to be a joke – from other pastors even! We won't always have everything we want in life. Sometimes we lose jobs or friends or health or loved ones in death.
Nevertheless, Peter says, "you greatly rejoice" even though we will suffer grief in all kinds of trials. He still says, "you... are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy." How? The first comfort we have is that our suffering is temporary. It will soon pass. What makes even the worst tragedy bearable is knowing that it is temporary. When a believing spouse dies, a Christian can still feel crushed by the grief, nearly overwhelmed by sorrow. The only thing that may keep him going is being reminded that he will see her again. Easter gives us that comfort that death is not the final word!
 But perhaps even more comforting is that God doesn't stop with the phrase, "Kept in heaven for you." He doesn't say, "I wish I could help, but I'm in heaven. You're on earth. You're on your own for now." No! He says this, "…kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." Not only does God promise to make you rich in heaven, but he lets you enjoy a part of that inheritance right now. We don't have a dead Savior, but one who is alive... right now! One who promises to shield you with the force field of his power surrounding you and protecting you every step of your walk on earth until you're safe in heaven! And because we're shielded by God's power, the grief and trials won't win! Your finances may go down the drain, but your life in Jesus won't go with them. Your family may forsake you, but your brother Jesus will stay at your side. Your good works may be ignored, even hated, by people, but they will always be glorious to God. Your body parts may wear out, but Jesus will always be your strength. Your body may go into the grave, but not even the grave can take the life you have in Jesus.
But how come we still face trials and pain at all? If God shields us why do we hurt at all? Because God uses them to strengthen our faith in him. Peter writes, "These have come so that your faith... may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. "When you suffer, God isn't leaving you, he's proving your faith. He's proving to you that your living hope isn't in your finances or your family or your own life. Your living hope is in your living Savior. God lets trials come to you with a view toward Judgment Day, so that your faith in Jesus will be alive and well when Jesus returns. And it will all result in eternal, uninterrupted blessings of bliss. View your trials as God does - he's insuring that glorious things will come to you on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. And even these make us rich!
 You know, Martin Luther  once said, "Everything that is done in the world is done by hope. No farmer would sow one grain of corn if he did not hope it would grow up and become seed; … no merchant or tradesman would see himself work if he did not hope to reap benefit thereby." In other words, would you really go in to work this week, if there was no hope of getting paid? But we do know that trust—our living hope—in our risen Savior will pay off! It will give us an indescribable inheritance in glory! And even now it fills us with an inexpressible joy as we're shielded by our Savior and strengthened by him.
There are no more payments which need to be made for sin. The Grim Reaper no longer can touch our joy or our lives with his once-formidable scythe. His power is gone. His threats, empty. His master, Satan, can now be felled by "one little word." Though he cackled loudly that Friday afternoon thinking all souls were now his, the last laugh belongs to Christ and to his people—the pure laughter and inexpressible joy of those who have truly been made rich! Easter means no fear of poverty! Because Easter has made you rich! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Amen!

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611