Blessed People With A Heavenly Hope

1 Peter 1:39           
Kevin E. Jesmer                                    

Key Verse: 1:3-4               12-27-23

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,” (ESV)

Dear Lord, Heavenly Father, thank you for granting us a living, real and solid hope in the Kingdom of God. This world is full of perishing things. My body is slowly perishing. My memory in this world will surely fade away. All of our works fade away. Our love for one another fades away. But I praise you Lord, for giving us a new birth into a kingdom that never, ever spoils and fades away. Please plant this glorious hope in my heart today. I thank you and I pray in Christ’s holy name. Amen!

Part 1:  New Birth Through Jesus’ Resurrection (3)

Verses 3 to 4 read, “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,…”

      In this first letter attributed to Peter, the apostle, writes to believers who were scattered throughout Asia Minor by persecution. He wanted to encourage believers who were suffering for Jesus’ sake because they were standing up for the gospel.  In this letter, Peter reminds us that Jesus suffered for us. Suffering cannot be avoided. Peter tells us that those who challenge the secular world with their “gospel centered” lifestyle can expect to suffer persecution. Christians nowadays may or may not have to endure persecution, but all will face suffering.

     One important way to stand firm in our faith in the midst of suffering is to have a heavenly hope. This is where God helps us to lift our eyes from the perishing things of this world and place them fully in his eternal Kingdom. Jesus makes this possible because when we are made into new creations (2 Cor 5:17), we are given a new identity, new hope and new life direction. We become dead to sin and alive in Christ.  We become children of God as well as his servants. We have a new hope in God’s Kingdom where we will live with Jesus for eternity in our resurrection bodies. (1 Cor 15). In this life, we have a new direction to live for God’s glory and expand the territory of his Kingdom. This is done by ministering the gospel and living a “gospel centered” lifestyle as we hold onto our heavenly hope. It is amazing! It is transformational! It is lifegiving! It is all made possible because of the wonderful grace of Jesus.

    How foolish it is to put our hope in the perishing things of the world. Why invest in things that cannot last? Perishing things only bring disappointment as they slip out of our fingers like sands in an hour glass. Once, we put our hope in worldly things, in jobs, in our societal systems, in our bodies and abilities or in relationships. We were slaves of fear because all that we hoped in was perishing, spoiling, and fading away (1 Peter 1:4b NIV) right before our very eyes. They were escaping from our grasp. Though we denied it, our hearts knew and were sad.

     Without God’ eternal hope, we are always losing something valuable. We loose loved ones, possessions, our homes, our health, and memories. Julie and I are trying hard to maintain our home. The furnace and air conditioner were recently replaced. The roof and the siding were done a few years back. The garage needs renovations as well as some electrical. It does not end. You fix some things up and it all deteriorates and needs to be fixed again. A big chunk of the income goes to home maintenance. That is because the home is perishing, spoiling, and fading away with us in it.

      Our relationships are subject to decay. Our beloved pets pass away after about twelve years. In our youth we visited our uncles, aunts, and cousins. We spent our valuable vacation time visiting family. But as you get older the visiting drops to zero and we lose touch. We actually lose all knowledge of family history and the good times we had as kids. Yet our hearts long for those times.

      Memories of our existence fade away to nothing too. Knowledge of who we were, is at the mercy of some future genealogist, or an obituary on the internet. Or, I have been seeing bronze plaques on headstones telling a couples’ short life story. Sometimes people write their own biography and have it printed as a paperback book which they hand out. My dad tried very hard to label slides of our first thirty years of our family. I really appreciate his efforts. But even his slides will fade away. Especially if my kodak slide projector breaks down or there is a fire in my house. Everything we hold dear is reduced to a picture. How sad! But that is the reality of life in this world. A reality we cannot escape outside of Christ. We all need something solid eternal to hold onto.

     Our bodies degenerate, getting weaker. When we are young, we think that we are immortal at the pinnacle of health. We tried enjoying this world to the max. But then aches and pains don’t leave. We get the diseases of the rich, obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance and later, diabetes. Then comes wrinkles, arthritis, grey hair, and whole host of things. Dementia will set in for the majority of those who live long enough. Let’s face it, we are slowly dying physically and our demise will come sooner than we think. 

      I think that for us in the west, the slow deterioration of our bodies is the most frightening aspect of aging. Our heathy bodies are linked to our exercise of freedom and our desire for peace and pleasure. With our healthy bodies we travel, enjoy nature, seek friendship and intimacy. We also gain acceptance from our peers as we continue feeding the culture of youth. When their bodies perish spoil and fade away, most despair.

    Some people are in shock when their bodies get old. “How can this happen to me?” resonates in their minds. If we lose our youth, we panic. In the west we think that if we just exercise enough and eat healthy foods than we will not get old, or we can stave off aging for thirty more years. This is the fruit of secular humanism. But aging will come no matter how much we exercise. This philosophy of doing more and more exercising also makes us merciless. There are people with illnesses that are purely genetic. They cannot overcome on their own. They need lots of medical help. But there are some who will condemn them, saying, “It is all their own fault. They just did not exercise enough and they ate crap all their lives.” That may not be true and it is merciless judgement. One day the avid exerciser will be in a hospital bed and someone will say, “I guess they never exercised enough.”

     The fact is everything in this world is perishing, spoiling, and fading away. This should not surprise us. Our bodies are simply jars of clay that are cracking, crumbling, and disintegrating back to dust. They were never meant to live forever. They were meant to breakdown. It is inevitable. This helps us to cry out to God and place all our hope, faith, and trust in Christ.

      I have been having a rude awakening with my own body. I take regular meds for various chronic ailments. It is battle to keep the weight off. But the most recent debilitating illness was extreme arthritis to my right hip in December 2022. The pain started seven years ago and slowly progressed to the point where I could barely climb stairs or go for a hike. I exercised a lot for most of my life. I eat healthy and my work is constant exercise, walking and doing stairs. I stretched and swam. And so, shouldn’t I be well right up to one hundred years old? But no matter what I did, the pain in my right hip just got worse. I started taking pain meds just to go to go work. I kept putting off surgery because I thought I had a torn ligament. I also passed the cancer test. What is this cancer test you may ask? It is when you do nothing for your pain and If I was not dead after five years, then it was not cancer. I did nothing for my right hip pain. I reasoned, “I can still work, swim, and walk. I am mostly pain free 80% of the time, like when sitting down, walking on level ground, or sleeping. And so, I am o.k.” And so, the hip pain progressed to a debilitating point over seven years. But why should all of this surprise me. After all, the Bible says that my body is a jar of clay. It is expected. God is allowing this to happen, so that I can know my weaknesses, vulnerability and mortality and reach out to him in humble prayer.

Part 2:  Jesus Saves Me From This Decaying World (4)

      I did not despair about my worsening physical condition because of my Christian faith. I could have. Nothing was helping to stave off the pain in my right hip. Walking was a major part of my job, for I am a nurse. I was facing losing my job that I have had for thirty years or spending a decade behind a computer, gaining weight. I could have developed ulcers from taking Ibuprofen. What would I do then?

     Where would I be without Jesus’ amazing grace? I try my best to navigate this world and get some enjoyment from perishing things. But I know that these can never satisfy my soul. Where would I turn to when the emptiness sets in? Before meeting Jesus there would be no place to go. Everything in my life would be perishing, spoiling, and fading away. But by God’s grace I am no longer deceived.  I know where I can go. I can seek the Lord. I can take hold of my heavenly hope. I can engage my heart in eternal things, like Bible study, devotional writing, prayer, and ministering to others. I can draw near to God.

      Faith in Christ saved me. The Bible taught me that I am body and soul. My present body is just dust of the earth. My body was never meant to last forever in this world. God made it to be just a jar of clay. As a young man, before meeting Christ. I thought that this body of mine was more than just a jar of clay. I thought it was everything. I was like a single seed. God meant for that seed to fall to the ground and die and became many seeds. But I spent most of my life polishing that seed and keeping it on the shelf. (John 12:24) How foolish and how fruitless! Now, after coming to know Christ and understanding his eternal plan for all believers, I keep the value of my body in the proper perspective. My soul and relationship with Christ is of utmost importance.

      An dear elderly man passed away in 2020. He was getting increasingly frail. In his final years he was on 3 liters of oxygen and used a walker. It was hard for him to do basic things like grocery shop and laundry. He was a very self-reliant person all his life, He worked hard, enjoyed himself, invested his money.  He had a hard time enduring other peoples’ weaknesses. But in his later years he was made very aware about his own weaknesses. It humbled him. He became thankful for help. The lesson God wanted him to learn is that in this world, things are only perishing, spoiling and fading away.  He needed to cry out to Jesus for salvation and eternal life. I pray that he experienced death bed repentance and one day I will see him in heaven where we will both have brand new resurrection bodies.

    Our God is merciful. Look at verse 3 again, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,…” God could have left us to wander in our miserable, hopeless, condition all of our lives. I am thankful that he did not. Each day would be mind-numbing for me if that was the case. But God intervened into this fallen world by sending his One and Only Son, Jesus Christ to suffer and die on the cross and rise again (John 3:16) It was for his glory and for us, to rescue us from the perishing things of this world.

Part 3: God’s Eternal Hope is Assured By His Grace (5-9)

      God’s power guards our eternal inheritance. Look at verses 5, “who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  God not only keeps our salvation for us, but he also protects us by his power until we can claim it fully. For the believers in Peter’s time, this did not mean that they would be saved from death. Look at verse 6, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,…”  Many suffered privations and died as martyrs. God may choose to protect some from death. It is all according to his will. But we can be certain that God will bring us home to be with him. Our everlasting, almighty Father has made it so. His promise is sealed in the blood of Jesus. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39) … nothing…not even ourselves! That is my faith every time I take communion at church.

     God is not going to prevent me from the affects of aging. He will not protect me from the slow erosion of diabetes, nor the aching pain of arthritis. He will not shield me from being ignored by loved ones because they are uncomfortable around my Christian faith. My body will perish in this world. But to be certain, because of Christ and his suffering, death, and resurrection, I will dwell with Christ in the everlasting kingdom of God. It is not about my disciplined Christian living. It is because of God’s power, grace, and love for me.

     We can see the point of all that God is doing in verse 7, “…so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Through all the suffering in life our faith is being forged. Our faith is being proved genuine. And when we get to heaven, Jesus will greet us and say, “Well done my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).  Yes, I had excruciating right hip pain. But I did not blame God, saying, “How could he let this happen?” God helped me to find spiritual meaning in each painful step. He strengthened my faith by gracefully providing for my surgery and recovery. Now I can comfort other patients in the hospital who have had their hip replaced. Jesus helped me to limp into church after a night’s work and serve him at church every week.  All of this strengthened my faith. I hope it gloried Christ. It was all by his power alone.

      The greatest outcome of living by faith in this perishing world is that we grow in our love for God. Look at verses 8 and 9, “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, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Even though we have not seen Jesus, we love him. He is our source of joy. Even though we suffer painful and difficult trials, our faith grows brighter and purer because we love Jesus and he loves us. Even though we do not see him, we believe in him and are confident that he will keep all his promises. Jesus is everything to us. Where would we be without him? Without him there would no hope. But with him and his great love, we have everything! Especially, we have eternal life in Christ’s kingdom and strength and inspiration to live each day in this world as victors.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the living hope you have given me. Thank you for giving me your sure promise to hold in my heart as I live by faith in this world.

One Word: Love Jesus and live by faith.

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