Good morning. My name is Phil Human and I am one of the pastors here at Journey.
This morning we are in our second week looking at the letter in the new testament called 1 Peter. We call it first Peter because it’s Peter’s first letter to the churches – to all the churches – including our church, only removed by a couple of thousand years. But we will find it still quite pertinent to our lives.
Last week we only read two verses, and today we’re only going to read three and a half more – so I’ll start at the beginning and read them all this morning. And today I’m reading from the New International Version.
And this morning we are going to talk about how we can praise God. And one of the challenges of our spiritual life is learning how to pray – and sometimes – have you ever struggled with feeling like- I’m praying the same prayer every day? What do I pray for today that is different than yesterday?
Well, as we read through these five verses – take a mental note of all the ways we can praise God.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,
2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
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. This inheritance is 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 all this you greatly rejoice…
Now how many reasons did you find in those verses to offer Praise to the Lord? I’m only going to mention four of them – but – here’s a challenge for you to do – go back through those verses and make a list of all the things you can praise him for. I bet you will find far more than these four things. I bet you will find ten things to praise God for in these six verses. Perhaps more – without much trying.
And what you can do is – work your way through the list – praising God – thanking him. Seeing God for who he is and for what he has done and simply praising him.
If you ever read through the Psalms – you will be shocked at how many of the psalms are psalms of lament – of sorrow – we’re going through difficult times here Lord – and yet – the Psalms end with the final five psalms of praise.
And I think that the point of putting those final five hallelujah pslams together is to remind people that God is worth praising no matter the difficulty we are going through – and maybe even – especially in the times of sadness and difficulty – that there is value in praising God.
And Peter – a good portion of the book of 1 Peter talks about suffering. And I believe it’s because peter is writing to a suffering community that he begins with praise to the Lord.
We will get far more out of our prayer life if we include praise and ascribe him glory.
And so this morning – we will praise God his mercy and grace. (verses 2,3)
Praise God for our new birth. (v3)
Praise God for providing us with a living hope. (v 3,4)
Praise God for an imperishable inheritance. (4)
First – praise God for his mercy and grace. These two terms are closely related – they quite often show up together or in close proximity of one another – and in essence they are two sides of the same coin.
Mercy is not getting from God what we deserve. Grace is getting from God what we don’t deserve.
One of the best images I can think of where both grace and mercy are displayed is from the play Les Miserables. Victor Hugo’s 150year old masterpiece.
There we find Jean Valjean – a man put in prison for 19 years for stealing bread to feed his daughter. Upon release he attempts to reintegrate with society but finds rejection at every turn. He eventually ends up at the home of a kind and charitable bishop who takes Valjean in for the night. But in the middle of the night Valjean steals the bishops silver and makes a dash for it. He is apprehended by the police – who bring him back to the bishop.
The bishop displays mercy. He doesn’t rat out Valjean to the cops – but insists that the silver was in fact a gift. Had the bishop stopped with mercy it would have been enough for Valjean to praise the kindness of the bishop for the rest of his life – but the Bishop goes even further – and displays grace as well. He says – you forgot the silver candlesticks… That’s grace.
Grace is getting what you don’t deserve – Mercy is not getting what you do. Now – this definition only applies to us if we get our position right before God – and we see Him as above us – not a servant of ours. See – if we see God as our servant – then any time something goes awry in our life – then we complain – I’m suffering – and I don’t deserve this. I am receiving something I don’t deserve.
Now – if you go to a restaurant and you feel your server is being rude – you can stand up and make that claim – I a not being treated as I deserve. But does that work with God? Who among us could stand up and say before God – that we deserve that he treat us better? What standing do we have before God?
The bible insists that we own up to our crimes. Jean Valjean could have stated that God had wronged him by allowing him to stay in prison all those years – that the silver was rightfully his! And his soul would have continued to shrivel into nothingness.
The starting point in our relationship with God is to see that God is merciful, and does not treat us as our sins deserve. And that God is gracious to us – and shows grace even to those who would curse his name.
Does God not allow the rain to fall on the wicked and godly alike? Doesn’t God send the sunshine on the godly and ungodly alike – Asks none other than Jesus himself in Mathew 5.
The next time you sit down to pray – let’s start by contemplating God’s mercy and Grace to us. God for his mercy and for his grace. Receiving these gifts from God is the starting line for the next item on Peter’s list for which we offer praise to God.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth…
I remember one time when I was early in my faith journey with Jesus – I was talking to a friend at school and we began talking about faith. And I told my friend – I am a Christian. And my friend said – cool – what kind?
And I remember looking at him like, what are you talking about? He said- you know – are you a catholic- or a Lutheran – or an Episcopalian, or a Methodist… a Baptist maybe? That’s a good question – I’ll have to ask and I’ll get back to you.
So I remember asking my friend Chris Badura – I said Chris – what kind of Christian are we? And he said – that we are “born again” Christians. And I remember looking at him going, Nah! Wrinkled face – I don’t think so. That sounds like some kind of cult thing or something. That’s weird.
But I have come to realize that what Chris said is actually true of all followers of Jesus – regardless of their denomination or branch. What Peter is saying here is what Peter heard Jesus tell Nicodemus in John 3. Where Jesus tells Nicodemus you must be born again.
What Jesus and Peter are telling us is that the only kind of Christian is a born again Christian. Born not of water or of a mother – but – through faith in Jesus we are made new – spiritually born. There is a newness to the way in which we view the world.
Once we were dead to God and to his leading,, but something changed inside of us – we see Jesus and trust Jesus and now we see the world differently. We care about things others don’t care about. We don’t care about things that spiritually deadened people do care about.
We are given a fresh start. A cosmic do-over. The Apostle Paul calls it regeneration. that is the word Jesus uses to describe that one day – in the future – he is going to regenerate this broken world – and make it the way it ought to be. Without viruses – amen! Without hurricane and tornados and wildfires.
It’s painfully obvious that this world needs to be regenerated! And that will most certainly come. And that’s the word that applies to us – it’s the idea behind the new birth. Jesus says, I’m going to make the entire world right – and first – I’m starting with making you right. I’m going to make creation new. And I’m going to start with you.
See – becoming a Christian – it’s far more than just a promise that one day God will transform me and one day I’ll change. No – 2 Cor 5:17 tells us that 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
The next time we spend time praying, we’re going to start, like Peter, with praise. And we can praise him for his grace and mercy and for the new birth. For a second chance – for the hope of being transformed from the inside out.
Third – Peter goes on to tell us what the new birth brings us… We’ve been born again into a living hope.
Now I have to admit – that this term, Living Hope – I don’t think that term really resonated with me until this week as I studied for this sermon. I read it tons – like Okay – Praise God for the new birth into a living hope.
But this week I read a book by a man named Victor Frankl – entitled Man’s search for meaning. Victor was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist and a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, including Aushwitz, where for more than three years he watched people die. His wife and parents killed in the gas chambers.
But not all died in the gas chambers. What Frankl noticed was the importance of hope to those who survived the camps.
For instance – Frankle gives this poignant illustration – he says that at one point he had a friend he made in the camp reveal to Frankl a dream that this man had. It was early February when, the man explained, he had a very clear dream where it was revealed that the war would be over and they would be released from their concentration camp by March 30. That idea kept the man’s spirit’s high, believing that he had received a vision he had placed his hope in a March 30th release.
As March 30 neared however, it was pretty clear the war was not going to be over. They would not be released. The man sunk into deep despair and died on March 31st.
Frankl went on to note that the week after Christmas 1944 and and before New years 1945 – the death rate among the prisoners were always abnormally high.
“It was simply that the majority of the prisoners had lived in the naïve hope that they would be home again by Christmas. As the time drew near and there was no encouraging news, the prisoners lost courage and disappointment overcame them.”
Their hope had vanished and with it went their life.
The preface to the book points out a play by Arthur Miller called an Incident at Vichy – where 8 men are detained by the Nazi’s for questioning. Believing the interview to be nothing more than a verification of identity – one of the men brought with him all of his papers, his university degrees, along with letters of recommendation from prominent citizens.
The Nazi asks him, “Is that everything you have?” The man nods. The Nazi throws it all in the wastebasket and tells him: “Good, now you have nothing.” The man, whose self-esteem had always depended on the respect of others, is emotionally destroyed.
And this is what happened time and again in the concentration camp. Whatever it was that you had placed your hope in – whether it was your money, your status, your relationships, your charm, your work ethic, your family… The concentration camp took from you. You were stripped of everything.
Frankl tells of walking through the line to Auschwitz, with a manuscript of his research that he had collected – a manuscript he was desperate to keep alive- and then – into the pile it went to be burned.
And so – with those illustrations in mind – we begin to see the difference between a dead hope and a living hope. Don’t we see? Money, wealth affluence, success? All of them are dead hopes. Popularity? Status? Dead hopes. We mustn’t place our hope in something that can burn up, walk out, vanish like mist. No we need a hope that is a living hope. And that living hope is found in Jesus himself.
This is extremely important for Peter’s listeners. They are enduring horrors at the hands of Nero. And Peter knows that the only safe place for their hope is found in the living hope of Jesus Christ himself.
I heard a pastor say one time that there is no way to get through life without knowing how to get through suffering. And there is no way to get through suffering unless you have a living hope.
Praise God – he has shown us the proof of purchase for this kind of hope by resurrecting Jesus from the dead. It is the receipt, the proof, that what Jesus said is true. That a new birth is available to all through faith in Jesus. Forgiveness for our past. Strength for today. Hope for tomorrow.
Praise God for his grace and mercy. Praise God for our new life. Praise God for providing us with a hope that can never be taken from us and thrown into a trash can. A hope that says, my God is in control and I can trust him.
The resurrection proves to us that death itself does not have the final word in our life. God our father calls us his cherished daughter and beloved son. He is ours and we are his.
And, finally in this short passage – Peter tells us to praise the Lord for a future inheritance – that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,
There will come a time when we will receive an inheritance that no one can take from us.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
This promise is our inheritance. And like all inheritances – someone has to die in order to receive it. And this imperishable inheritance is no different. Jesus died on the cross in order to provide us the living hope that comes to all who place our faith in him.
The promise that someday everything will be put back in it’s place. We will walk with God as Adam and Eve walked with God – as friends walking through a garden. It’s all ours.
Can we close our time with prayer this morning?
In your heart – praise God for his grace and mercy.
Praise him for the new birth.
Praise him for the living hope.
Praise him for an imperishable inheritance.