- 1 John 4:7-21
- 1Peter 1:13-2:3
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, let’s just quickly recap what we have learned over the last few weeks from 1 Peter 1.
- The elect of God, in Jesus Christ, through the renewing work of the Holy Spirit, received a hope which is anchored in heaven, guarded by God till the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- We know this is true because the prophets of the Old Testament wrote down what they researched—driven by the Holy Spirt—and all of what they prophesied focussed on Jesus Christ. The apostles continued in this line and preached from those prophesies because Christ Himself taught them the meaning of the prophesies: they saw Him, walked with Him, listened to Him saw Him die, and met with Him after his resurrection.
- The Holy Spirit uses this holy inspired Word of God about Jesus Christ to create new birth: undeserved sinners are born into the heavenly family of God. They are rescued from the emptiness and hollowness of not knowing God, into a relationship with Him through the preaching of the Word through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
We continue today with more marvellous news.
God’s redemptive work endures forever
This is a glorious truth of the Gospel: not only is the Gospel by nature the enduring Word of God, it’s effect is enduring. Simply speaking: The new birth brought about by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit is not fleeting with short-lived effects.
When the Spirit has given a sinner new life, that sinner can bank on the fact that the Spirit will sustain that new life till the end of time. This is what we refer to as the perseverance of the saints. For this we must give God all glory. No matter how severe the test, how dire the refining, how dreadful the persecution, how terrifying the opposition, God will not withdraw the grace He once poured out by his Spirit: it is based on the eternal redemption of Jesus Christ. To sustain us in times of trial and tribulations, his enduring Word—the Bible—is our bread, our light, our lamp, our compass, our comfort, and indeed a hammer to crush the hardest of heart. That’s why we need to immerse ourselves in its message and live by it.
What Paul says about Israel is indeed true about people who associate with the church, and even have their names written on the rolls of the church:
But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” (Romans 10:16, NIV)
My dear friend, has the Gospel come to you in a saving way, giving you new birth and new hope? Then cling with all your life to this truth: What God has begun, He will complete. The words of this Hymn might be yours:
What from Christ that soul shall sever,
Bound by everlasting bands?
Once in Him, in Him forever,
Thus th’ eternal cov’nant stands;
None shall pluck you,
None shall pluck you
From the Saviour’s mighty hands.
With all these glorious things in mind the Word calls us to live as adopted children in his holy family
Verse 13 begins with “therefore”. The good news of grace and new life we spoke about up to this point in time from the basis for what follows—“therefore”.
Prepare your minds for action
To “gird the loin” was a metaphor the people in the Middle East at that time understood well. These people normally wore long gowns, and when someone prepared for any strenuous activity, he tied his robe securely (by using a belt, for example), to make sure that his robe would not be in the way. The metaphor therefore came to mean “be ready for action”; or these days we say, “Be focussed!”
After the new birth and the outpouring of the grace of Christ righteousness, new Christians begin living a new life. Their thinking is now different.
The old mind was in control of the worthless things of this world. Some translations use the word “sober-minded”; this is the opposite of being under the influence such as the sinful mind. Other translations choose the expression “self-controlled”.
The idea is something like this: the army officer is addressing the soldiers. The command is always, “Attention!” The mind of the soldier should be fixed on the officer, because his command is important. How many times did you hear your dad say, “Do you understand?” Your mind needs to be in the right place.
The same applies to the Christian. When God speaks, we jump to attention and pitch our ears with focussed minds to what He says.
A hope which sees the end from the beginning
Peter then uses very interesting words one following the other. The first describes completeness or something final. Our Lord used this word when He said, “It is finished.”
Sometimes we need to very careful with Greek words and avoid similar sounding words in English as if it always means the same; yet, this Greek word finds its way into the English language in words like tele-vision, tele-phone and tele-gram. What the “tele” in these words does is to connect two things which are far apart with one another, to mean completeness: one speaks the other listener, and although they are not with one another they share in the same conversation.
When Peter uses the next word, “hope”, we begin to understand what he has in mind. It is as if he says: make your hope a reality. Be so attuned to what your Officer-in-Command says that what he is talking about will control your life from beginning to end, and from the end to the beginning. Our minds needs to be so attuned and focussed on the Good News of the Gospel that our hope for the day of the return of Christ actually shapes our daily walk, now and here.
This is where Peter is going in the next phrase: not only did we received grace when we received “great mercy” by receiving a “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1Peter 1:3); but Christ will return (He will be “revealed”- 1 Peter 1:14) and give us even more grace! This must drive us; our minds must be focussed in Him, our hope.
The reason: we must be obedient children
To be born again, to be given a new life, is the language of the Bible to describe adoption into the family of God. Once we were not children of God; our minds were shaped by our sinful, corrupted heart; we were controlled by the desires of fallen nature, we lived in ignorance, our lives were meaningless and hollow.
We need the say more about the reference to “when we lived in ignorance.” We know an expression, “Ignorance is bliss”; but, there is another, “Ignorance is no excuse.” Peter uses this word not be mean “innocence”; he uses it in the same sense as the prophets who referred to stubbornness. Ignorance in this sense implies knowledge, but a stubbornness to turn one’s ear from the knowledge and continue living as if you did not hear it.
But grace changes everything: those who are receiving the Gospel call to receive Christ, also receive the grace of the Holy Spirt in spiritual new birth. The hollow life of what lies behind is changed into the life of an obedient child.
A homeless person who lives on the streets has the right to make his own rules: he can sleep in when he wants, he determines if he wants to take a bath, shave his beard or comb his hear. He even has the freedom to have a meal when he wants and where he wants. But is a filthy life, the food is poor, and his clothes smell.
But once he is taken in and cared for by someone who cares for him, someone who is even willing to adopt him as his own child, he understands that what he considered as freedom, is what made him a beggar. Now in the new household, he lives according to do the bidding of his new father who took him in.
Our old sinful life was unholy, because our owner then was the father of sin. Under God there is a radical change: the sinful life is traded in for a holy life. Because our Father is holy, his household must be holy; his children must be holy.
Living as aliens and strangers
This, then, leads to the logical conclusion: we are born from above, our hope is from above, our grace is from above, our home and address is in heaven—therefore, we have no place in this world anymore. We are strangers and aliens.
Right in the beginning of this letter Peter alludes to this fact: he writes “to God elect, strangers (aliens) in the world.” (1:1)
This world is not our home. Your new home is where God reigns. And we have the privilege to talk to our Father. This is a beautiful expression: we may call on God who is our Father. “Our Father, who art in heaven.” If He is in heaven, and our hope is in heaven, and our Lord Jesus Christ will be revealed from heaven, and we have the grace so see our present life as being governed from heaven, our lives now will be a life of “reverent fear.” Being God’s child is always to have respect for Him; He is your holy Father, and He is after all also our Judge.
This is only one part of our life as adopted child in the holy family of God. Next week we will, Lord willing, continue in this chapter where it talks about our relationship with other sinners who have been adopted as children.
I’m thinking of the words in Psalm 123:1-2
I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy. (Psalm 123:1–2, NIV)
He has shown us mercy in Jesus Christ. So, gird up your mind for action. Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do. Amen.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 29 April 2018