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Needed: Sustainable Hope

Easter is in the rear-view mirror and won’t return for another fifty-four long weeks. Which means, we have a serious problem: we are in need of a sustainable source of hope. It doesn’t take much to lose hope. An early alarm on Monday morning, a few difficult clients, some far too energetic children, the pressures of tax season, and what we find is that the experiences associated with Resurrection Sunday (excitement, wonder, joy, hope, transcendence) have been all too quickly replaced by what we know as the usual, mundane, habitual, and pressing. Perhaps on top of this you are currently facing a season of additional pain through personal loss or suffering. Hope just doesn’t always feel like it fits in this sin-cursed world. So, just as we don’t rely on our Easter dinner to sustain us for the rest of the year, we need something more than Easter Sunday to sustain our hope in the weeks and months ahead. What we need is some divinely given fuel for our hope—something to remind us of the hope we celebrate on Easter Sunday, all year around. Thankfully, we have 1 Peter. 

A Hope-filled Letter

While Rome was being consumed by the Fire of 64 A.D., Emperor Nero ignited a fire of persecution on the Christians unlike any experienced before. On the cusp of this great trial, the Apostle Peter writes to a bunch of worn out and fearful Roman Christians in the books of 1 and 2 Peter. Incidentally, if you remember, this is the same Peter who on the night of Christ’s death denied Him three times. And, by God’s grace, this is the same Peter who was commanded by the risen Christ to “feed my sheep.” This Peter, who would soon meet his own death in martyrdom, now writes to strengthen the faith and secure the hope of his weak brothers and sisters. His encouragement to them offers a deep wealth of insight for us today. 

Though the entire letter is worthy of sustained reflection, let’s hone in on verses three and four of chapter one. Starting in verse three Peter writes, 

“According to [the Father’s] great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Pet 1:3-4). 

In these two verses, three truths present themselves as fuel for our quickly depleting hope-tanks.

The Divine Beginning of our Living Hope 

“according to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again” 

Peter begins his encouragement by highlighting the divine beginning of our living hope. God is the one who initiated our hope. In fact, we had no part whatsoever in the process! We see this clearly in the ‘emotional beginning’, “his great mercy.” It was God’s compassion that led him to act. Prior to God’s active compassion, we were all dead in our sin and rebellion, “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). But, God acted. The result of this action, through his Spirit, effectively “caused” our new birth. In this new birth, God, by His Spirit, awakens our dead rebellious hearts to the truth and beauty of the gospel. And, even more glorious, He gave us the faith to believe! God, therefore, is the only reason our hope began. Just as you are confident in the stability of the building you are in because it was made by expert hands, your living hope is stable and secure because the architect and builder of your new life in Christ, is God himself. Peter then moves from this divine beginning, to the equally wonderful divine means of our hope.

The Divine Means of our Living Hope

“through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”

We often sing about the glorious reality that Christ’s resurrection defeated the curse of death. What we most often mean by this confession is that Christ’s physical resurrection made a way for us to one day be physically resurrected. This is a glorious truth and Peter will get to it. But, what Peter first points to in this statement is not physical resurrection, but spiritual resurrection. We were born again through Christ’s resurrection. Ephesians 2:1 says, “and you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” The ‘dead’ is not just in reference to the reality that with sin comes physical death. Though we will all one day physically die, we have all already been spiritually dead. In Christ’s resurrection to new life, we are given new spiritual life. Therefore, just as Christ’s resurrection is a fact, our living hope is a fact. But, Christ’s resurrection isn’t just the means of our new birth, it is also the means of our sure future hope.

The Object of our Living Hope

“to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”

Though we all have ideas of how we would live if it were our final day, none of us actually live like that. There is, of course, a perfectly sound reason for our hesitancy: namely, we don’t know if Christ will return tomorrow. We have health insurance, life insurance, savings portfolios and wills, simply because God has not given us assurance of the time of his return. But, he has assured us of the reality of his return. 

Peter offers us three descriptions of our inheritance that should be reason for great hope. First, our inheritance is imperishable. Unlike all of our earthly possessions, that so quickly rot, stop, and die, our future inheritance will never perish! Second, our inheritance is undefiled. If we are honest, nothing in this sin-cursed world is ever truly pure. Our motives are stained, our efforts imperfect, and our products could always use improving. Our inheritance, however, is perfect, because it is designed and purchased and protected by the Perfect One in a perfect place. What we will receive will be truly and forever free from any stain of sin. Lastly, our inheritance is unfading. No longer will we experience pleasures as fleeting. Wonder will remain. Love will not diminish. Joy will be ever-present. What an inheritance!

On the basis of these three truths, be encouraged! The sovereign God of the Universe designed, purchased, and preserves our living hope. Our inheritance is just around the corner. We will obtain possession of it through His sustaining grace. In Christ, we know that this trial-filled road is going somewhere! Therefore, may we be people who, “though [we] do not now see Him, [we] believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of [our] faith, the salvation of [our] souls” (1 Pet. 1:8-9).