Our Living Savior Gives Us Living Hope
A Hope that Can Never Perish, Spoil, or Fade…
A sermon based on 1 Peter 1:3-9
Sunday, April 27, 2014 – Easter 2A
Are you full? I hope you had a good breakfast, but that's not what I mean. I don't care if you're full of food as much I hope that you're full of faith, that you're full of joy, that you're full of hope.
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?
Hope is important to all we do.
But hopes can sometimes leave you disappointed. The crop might be destroyed. The job might be lost. The class might be failed. The cancer might come back.
But we have a sure and certain hope that will not leave us disappointed. And we have a living hope that moves us to live differently. We have a living Savior. The resurrection of Jesus means we have a hope and an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade. The apostle Peter, who saw the resurrected Jesus with his own eyes describes this hope for us in 1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV84)…
3 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, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 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.6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 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. 8 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, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I. A Certain Hope That Does Not Disappoint Us
"Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!" Do you believe it? Are you filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy at that truth? Do you feel it? How about during the week? Did you then? All week?
Or were you sometimes a bit distracted by the kids, by the bills, by the "to-do" list that didn't seem to shrink much, by the funny noise the car's started making again, by the mounds of homework? How about when you were suffering? When the flu left you wiped out, when you were in pain due to physical malady, some emotional hurt, or one more financial crisis—did you feel the inexpressible and glorious joy then?
Joshua Bell, quite possibly the best living violinist in the world—who gets paid $1,000 per minute to perform—played music written by Bach and Schubert on Stradivarius violin—worth $3.5 million!—for 45 minutes. But he wasn't wearing a tux. Nor was he in a concert hall. He was in a subway station. And during those 45 minutes 1,095 people passed by one of the most beautiful concerts to be played. And yet hardly anyone stopped for the free concert. It just wasn't that important to them.
Do we sometimes act like that as we walk by the Word of God too rushed and too hurried to stop and notice the great gift given to us—not just a great concert for free—but eternal life for free! How often don't we get so distracted by the minute and mundane of this life, that we fail to really stop to listen to the message, to marvel at God's mercy and love for us, to be filled again with an inexpressible and glorious joy?! Martin Luther once said, "You have as much laughter as you have faith." Have you been laughing much lately? Or have you been doing more whining?
The truth is, that for all the times we've passed by the Gospel message, brushing it off with a quick, "Oh, I already know all that," or "I have too many other things to do right now…" For all the times that we've read it, but only to cross it off our to-do list without pondering it again… For all the times that we've read it and understood it, but failed to appreciate the message there for us… well, we deserve to just go skipping merrily along on our path to hell.
That's what we deserve. But, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he [acted]!"
Do you remember that in the Gospel of Luke two separate men asked Jesus the same question. They asked, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25 and Luke 18:18). Now every time I read that I can't help but think, "What a dumb question!" What does anyone do to inherit anything? Nothing at all! Someone else dies and leaves it to you!
In his great mercy [God] has given us new birth into… an inheritance…"
You and I have been given a new birth "born of water and the Spirit" (John 3:5 NIV84) in our Baptisms, through the Word. "[We] were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:13 ESV) We've experienced our own resurrection from the dead in our conversion—from spiritual death to spiritual life. And by that new birth, we inherit forgiveness of sins, not by anything we might do, but entirely by what Jesus has done. We inherit forgiveness of sins, that's what he left us in his death. We receive Jesus' very body and blood to strengthen our trust in this sure and certain hope. That's what he left us in his new covenant—his last will and testament.
And this inheritance of ours is, "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade…"
A recent ESPN documentary called "Broke" chronicles the lives of professional athletes who once earned millions of dollars but have now gone bankrupt. According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article, 60% of former NBA players are broke within five years of retirement. By the time they have been retired for 2 years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress. Sucked into bad investments, paying child support and alimony to their broken families, saddled with medical problems, and naturally prone to showing off and living the high life, many pro athletes find that their riches just don't last.
And how many people don't win the lottery and then only a few short years later wish they'd never played. That kind of money allows them to buy things they don't need, to get involved in drugs they shouldn't use, and ruins relationships and the lives of the "winners" in general.
The riches of professional sports, of lotteries, of hard work and good investments, all spoil, fade, perish. They just don't last. And they certainly don't last beyond this life. As country singer, George Strait, has pointed it out, "You don't bring nothing with you here and you can't take nothing back. I ain't never seen a hearse, with a luggage rack." (Lyrics from You'll Be There by George Strait)
But that's not the case the inheritance we receive through Jesus. It's, "kept in heaven for you." It's kept far away from anyone or anything that could ever destroy it or even touch it. Satan cannot go there! And it's shielded for us, guarded and protected better than if it were in Fort Knox, better than it would be if a legion of angels were guarding it. It's "shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." God himself will guard your salvation with his power until Judgment Day. And that truth that our inheritance can never spoil, fade, or perish, that it can never be lost or destroyed, gives us a sure and certain hope that changes how we live right now.
Martin Luther once told his congregation that he only plans for two days in his entire calendar: Today and that Day. Confident that he knew where he was going on that Day, thanks to his living Savior, Luther would get to work today to serve his Savior now. That's exactly how this hope of ours is a living hope…
II. A Living Hope That Does Change Us
Do you remember the three parts of faith? The Latin for them is scientia, assentia, and fiducia. Scientia is knowledge. You know what Jesus did—how he lived a perfect life for you, died an innocent death for you, and rose again from the dead. Assentia is agreement. You know this to be true. You nod your head to those historical facts. But fiducia is trust. It's having that sure and certain hope that this all applies to you. It is fiducia that saves and this faith alone saves. It's who you trust, not what you do. But you also know that this saving faith is never alone. It has to act. It's not some dead faith, but is itself living and active…
The term living water was used in Biblical times for water that was not stagnant like the water collected in a well or in a pool, but was active, moving, bubbling, "living," like water from a spring or a stream.
Likewise, "God… has given us new birth into a living hope." Our faith is not dead or stagnant, but alive. It doesn't just sit still, but has to act! Martin Luther once said that this faith (that is, this trust in this sure and certain hope that Jesus' resurrection brings) is not like the foam on his beer that just sits and does nothing, full of air. Rather it was more like the bubbles, that stir within and make it move!
Our faith in this sure and certain hope moves us. That's why Peter called it a living hope. And it moved Peter. It moved Peter to preach to the crowd on Pentecost. It moved Peter to write to the churches that had sprung up as a result. And it ultimately moved Peter to die a martyr's death for his Living Savior, confident that death would not win. That was his living hope.
And this is the same living hope that moves us. It moves us to die for our Living Savior, if we must, confident that death will not defeat us. It moves us to do what may be even harder still: To live for our Living Savior each day, even in the midst of suffering. It moves us to keep our focus in the Word, to read of his love for us again and to love him all over again, even though we don't see him physically. It moves us to be filled again with an inexpressible and glorious joy as we receive the goal of our faith: the salvation of our souls.
And it moves us to speak well of him; to praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! It moves us to praise him regularly in worship, to praise him in prayer, to praise him to others as we share with them the great mercy God has shown to us all until, "Jesus Christ is revealed… [and we receive] the goal of [our] faith, the salvation of [our] souls."
So be full, dear friends! Sure, you may be ready to get lunch at the end of our worship service today. But I still don't care that much how full of food you are. But be full of faith! Be full of hope! Be full of joy! Be full of God's grace. In Jesus' name. Amen.