If you need some encouragement, if you need a reminder of how all-encompassing God’s work in and for and through you is–Peter’s first epistle (letter) will be just the thing! This Spring we are walking through 1 Peter, if you missed our introduction you can find it here.
He wrote, after all, that we might know the true grace and God and stand firm in it.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as strangers, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.1 Peter 1:1-2
As we get started, note who Peter is writing to, and think about how they would have received this letter. What does Peter say of the Trinity? What does he say of their own spiritual condition? And have you ever considered why “grace and peace” are such a common Christian blessing shared in letters? How often do you desire grace and peace to be multiplied to your brothers and sisters in Christ in your own local church fellowship? How often do you pray for it, or mention it to any of them?
Here comes one of the most beautiful of all run-on sentences:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, …1 Peter 1:3-4
Notice the subject is God; Peter is not praising these Christians, but drawing them into their shared corporate worship. According to His mercy, (c.f. Titus 3:5-7); it is by His mercy, and He will have mercy on whom He wills–it is not by our free will apart from His providence. Our wills are drawn to His as His mercy works upon us, awakening us to deeply beautiful desires, and to a true understanding of His work of redemption.
And by His mercy we are caused to be born again. The rebirth, or regeneration, is such a beautiful meditation as we approach Easter, and think about His atonement. As we never chose to be born, so we must think through our rebirth–He is the cause, the Causer, we are acting upon our free will in the realm of second causes. As He releases us from slavery, lifts the veil that blinded us, replaces our stoney hearts with one of flesh–then we see Him and know Him and delight to be born again, not at all put out that we needed His work on our behalf.
Unto a living hope. Not a dead hope; not a figurative hope, not wishful thinking, not a useless hope. This hope works within us to stir up what work would otherwise lay dormant. This hope is based on His promises and faithfulness and the future He has planned. This is not something you thought up, something you imagined, or something you long for apart from the true longings He created you for.
This hope is proven true and trustworthy through the resurrection of Jesus Christ! Pause here to ponder the resurrection; if you want to take every thought captive, so as to believe what is true and let go of what is false–then you will cling to these, and return to them often as your hope wanes in light of circumstances and opposing worldviews.
In this next section Peter is reminding us to look ahead, strain our eyes toward what lies ahead, to what will be revealed when Christ returns. This is not a call to figure out a timeline, or to try to know the times and epochs that Jesus says we cannot know. It is a call to live life as a vapor, knowing we are not promised a tomorrow here on this earth, with the heart’s cry of “Come Lord Jesus!” (see Revelation 22:7-21; especially verse 17.)
5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;1 Peter 1:5-7
This hope, this heart’s cry, will remind us that we are never alone, He dwells in us, and He has overcome the world. We have trials, we will walk through tribulation, but we will take heart! (John 16:33). We are protected by His power–the very power that God displayed in the resurrection, displayed in His works of creation, in sustaining His universe and holding all things together. Study an atom, ponder those crazy electrons, and marvel at His great power to created the world in such a way! By His word. In this you greatly rejoice…
Trials, Endurance, and Joy
We will march through trials with Him, we will endure. And as we do, we start to see (and others around us will see) the proof of our faith! We will be acting and looking more like Christ and less like our “old self.” And this will result in “praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” These trials and tribulations are not meaningless. He will bring forth fruit, it will all be “to the praise of His glory” (as Paul says in Ephesians 1) though we do not see that glory manifested just yet.
8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.1 Peter 1:8-9
This section offends some–usually those who are listening to many voices, and not abiding in His Words. When we abide, we begin to see the possibility of rejoicing and joy being deeper than what I see or touch. The joy He gives cannot be changed by tribulation.
Peter faced more trials than I have–more than you have most likely. Yet sometimes it is the slightest thing, that last piece of straw breaking the camel’s back, which clouds our judgment, making it seem impossible to ever have joy, or to endure and persevere in this life.
We do not have to continue in that despair and joyless plodding. Indeed, He works in us for our joy; and in true fellowship we work together for each other’s joy (2 Cor. 1:24). Joy produced as we walk through a trial with Him strengthens us to face the next. This joy builds us up, and rewires our brains such that His peace really and truly guards our minds.
Look to Him, He will renew you; look to Him and believe His love, and His words. Ponder His love, muse upon His promises. Come to Him that you may find rest, and be yoked with Him. Partake of His grace, and run to Him to find the help you need. In setting your mind on things above, rather than things on earth, He will renew your mind enabling you to think and feel rightly, and to enter more fully into His joy. It is a moment-by-moment abiding life He calls us to, and in which the Spirit works this faith, belief, joy, peace and love into our true self.
Think upon these things…
As you think upon 1 Peter 1:1-9 this week, in each moment: spend less than 1/10th of your time thinking about the circumstances that seem daunting, or the pain that keeps you from believing His love. Lay these at His feet. He knows, He cares, He understands. Spend the rest of your time, more than 9/10 of your time, remembering His steadfast love, His truth, His goodness, His majesty, His glory, His beauty…all that the cross proves to us.
Spend time journaling through Peter’s definition of our living hope: an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you… And consider this alongside John 14-16, and Peter’s sermons in Acts. Consider each word, and let His word lead you in prayer.
Notice the Triune God at work, for you, before you could have ever said “I’m sorry, please save me!” Think about His great love that carried out this plan, which the Triune God planned before creation, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood!”
Surely this will build us up, and keep us anchored to our true hope. How will you obey Jesus in this?
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash