Living Hope

It's the hope that kills you.

When we lived in Ukraine, part of the difficulty was the lack of predictability, especially around shopping. We simply did not know when what might be available. And so something like a grocery list became an exercise in guess work, a wish list that had little bearing on what we actually came home with. We discovered that it was futile to get our hopes up that our plans had much influence on results. And so one of the missionaries developed a strategy called, ‘Expect nothing, and be pleasantly surprised’.

Supporters of Scottish football have a similar coping mechanism. It’s easier to survive by embracing the art of low expectations. It’s better for your emotional and mental health to have NO HOPE  than it is to set yourself up for your dreams be destroyed in a cruel manner.

Before an important match supporters are hoping that their team does well: they want them to win, to qualify for the Champions League or UEFA or simply to stay up and avoid relegation. However, people know that their team may not be good enough or that they need to rely on another team or sometimes a bit of luck to help them. This gives fans hope and allows them to dream. However, this optimistic feeling can be destroyed by a bad decision, poor play or bad luck leaving the fans’ dreams in tatters. And so – to avoid the PAIN of hope being dashed, we develop the coping mechanism of having NO HOPE. And so, because people’s experience in football is it’s the hope that kills you, because we want to live – we kill hope.

And so here’s the thing: we often take this kind of attitude – not just about football – but into the rest of life. To cope with the vicissitudes of life – life’s ups and downs – we set aside hope. But in 1 Peter 1.3-9, we see a different kind of hope on offer – strong hope, persistent hope, confident hope - hope that is so strong it produces joy.

1. Born Again

v. 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,

First of all, PETER erupts in great praise – he is blessing God – the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus. And then, he explains why is so full of praise. His first reason for praise is SALVATION: He says here that according to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again.

Now, that phrase born again refers to regeneration – being born spiritually. This is the instantaneous work of God when he makes us spiritually alive. Being born again is the work of God; Eph. 2.5 says God made us alive. It’s also described in John 3.3-7.

Peter clarifies that God causes this in our lives on the basis of his mercy. Mercy is kindness or good will toward the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them. When it is used about God, it is often used, as it is here, in relationship to salvation. So our salvation – is the WORK of God, he causes it; and it is on the basis of GOD’S MERCY – his motivation is his own kindness.

Then he says that this is Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead: the resurrection of Jesus is both the MEANS and the DESTINATION. In other words – we can be saved because Jesus was raised from the dead, and the resurrection of Jesus is the DESTINATION OF OUR SALVATION – we will inherit glorified bodies like Jesus. Peter comes back to this them in this passage.

But notice the God dimension of salvation – it’s God’s mercy, it’s God’s causality or action, and it is God’s raising Jesus from the dead. Now, our focus is hope, but the same thing is going to be true of hope. The point is that our salvation is not ‘manufactured by man’, but by God. And the same thing is true of the hope we’re talking about. I’m not encouraging to you to start thinking optimistic thoughts; I’m inviting you to step into something GOD has created

2. Living Hope

The key phrase in this entire passage is that we have been born again into a living hope. This living hope is what Peter unpacks for us in this text. But what I want you to see is that the FACT that we are born again into this hope means that there is a transition.

We used to be without our outside of this hope, then we are born again, then we have this hope. So this hope is like a room or a place or a zone in which we are standing an into which we come THROUGH being born again.  So we used to be outside of this hope, now we have it.

This means that the hope Peter is describing is a kind of spiritual or uniquely Christian hope. It is quite different from normal hope or human hope or natural hope.
So let me briefly unpack the difference between Biblical hope vs natural hope:

Natural hope goes like this: we want something to happen or to be true, and we usually have a good reason to think that it might. Natural hope means that we want something to happen and we think that it is possible. Natural hope is to wish for a particular event that is within the realm of possibility; it is to cherish a desire with anticipation. That’s natural hope.

But biblical hope is the joyful, confident anticipation and expectation of something that is certain; specifically, the joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation.

So – notice the key difference: natural hope plays in the arena of the possible; biblical hope lives in the arena of the certain. In other words, with natural hope, we are feeling good about something that might happen or that we want to happen.

With biblical hope, we are feeling joyful because of something that is ABSOLUTELY, COMPLETELY DEFINITELY going to happen. Peter calls this biblical hope or Christian hope a living hope.

For this hope to be alive, means that it is living, it is an active force in our lives, we continue to live in this arena, this zone of hope.

Dead hope is when we stop having hope; this is the amount of hope that a Livingstone football supporter has that his team will win the Scottish Premiership league. That’s dead hope. If he were honest, he’d admit that that’s not even within the realm of possibility.

But we have living hope – it lives because JESUS was raised from the dead, demonstrating God’s intention to raise us from the DEAD, AND we have been given the Holy Spirit as a down-payment of our future redemption.

3. A Guaranteed Future: Inheritance and Inheritors

The second way this living hope is described is as a guaranteed future. He points to two dimensions of the guarantee – he keeps an inheritance safe for us, and he protects us so that we can inherit the inheritance he has for us.

Look at verse 4:
to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

SO we have been born again – to a living hope, to an inheritance. The phrase ‘to an inheritance’ is parallel with ‘to a living hope’. That is, this is a further unpacking of the ‘living hope’ described in verse three. And so what Peter is doing in verse 4 is giving a further explanation of the living hope. In other words, the living hope is equivalent to what he describes here:

Living hope equals an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. Now, notice that this living hope has three characteristics: It is an inheritance, It is permanent (imperishable, undefiled, and unfading); It is preserved (kept in heaven for you).

In verse four, our hope is described as an inheritance, and the point is that the inheritance is certain. The certainty of the inheritance is found in the phrase ‘kept in heaven for you’. That means GOD is the keeper, or the preserver, of our inheritance. And so the certainty of the inheritance is rooted in the question of God’s capacity to keep it. This really boils down to this: CAN GOD DO WHAT HE HAS PROMISED?

Look at the words Paul uses to describe this inheritance: imperishable – it cannot die; undefiled – it does not get messed up; unfading – it is permanent; its glory does not diminish over time. Now, more than just a description of our inheritance, this is also an indicator that Peter is pointing forward – not only to eternity – but to the resurrection body with which we will be inhabiting eternity.

Notice how PAUL describes that body in 1 Corinthians 15.42-44:

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

Notice these words – imperishable, glory, power, spiritual. This is the kind of body we will inherit for eternity. It’s like going on a trip to a hot and humid place, or to visit the arctic tundra – you have to get clothed for the place you’re going to be. And were going to be living in a land called eternity, and so we have to be clothed in a body that is suitable for that environment. And so back to Peter – the inheritance that we are going to receive is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.

Now, to help us understand this, think about a human inheritance. This is like reading your parent’s will before they die. The will is already written, and in that sense, it is certain. But you have NOT inherited yet because they haven’t died yet. And so this inheritance falls into a unique category that we might call ‘certain but not yet experienced’.

This is the nature of our inheritance from God: it is certain but not yet experienced. Now, this is what makes this difficult for humans, because we only experience the future as contingent. In other words, for us, we don’t know the future, and the future feels very uncertain. But it is not uncertain for God, and so he can speak with certainty about it.

This is the NATURE of biblical hope: we live now with joyful confidence in a certain future rooted in eternity.

This doesn’t mean that we are immune to the ups and downs of life; this doesn’t mean that we don’t feel, that we don’t cry, that we don’t weep, that we don’t mourn, that loss doesn’t touch us deeply. But it means that all of those things are temporary; when we experience pain in this life we do it in the context of this LIVING HOPE because our eternity with GOD is CERTAIN.

ETERNITY is like a rock; this life is like a vapour. This life is REAL BUT TRANSIENT; eternity is MORE REAL, but permanent. This life is like shadows; eternity is like the object that causes the shadows. Shadows are real, but ephemeral – marked by a very brief lifespan. The invitation of this text is to LIVE NOW in the LIGHT OF ETERNITY.

The big point of all this is that OUR FUTURE WITH GOD IN ETERNITY IS GUARANTEED.

In verse 5, Peter gives us FURTHER DESCRIPTION of the LIVING HOPE he is calling us to embrace.

who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Here, he describes the other part of the guarantee – he guards us – and he also points again to the nature of the inheritance he has for us: Notice that verse four, ends with you and verse 5 begins with who. And so the who and the you are the same people; or YOU are the WHO and the WHO is those who have been born again (from verse 3).

In verse four, the YOU WHO people described as those for whom God is keeping an inheritance in heaven. In verse 5, the YOU WHO are those who By God’s power are being guarded through faith: God is not only keeping our inheritance, he’s keeping us. Imagine a person who worked all their lives to build an inheritance for their child, but then, their child dies before them. There is an inheritance, but no one to inherit it. That’s really sad. What a waste!

So there are two potential problems: first, imagine inheritors but no inheritance – this would be someone whose parents die, but their parents didn’t save anything, and so there’s no inheritance. The other problem is an Inheritance but no inheritors. In this case, the parents saved a lot to pass on to their children, but their children died before them, and so there is no one to receive the inheritance.

Now, here’s the point: God is not going to let either one of these things happen. Regarding the inheritance – the Bible clearly teaches us that there is one – that’s what verse four is about – we KNOW that God has an inheritance for his children. But equally, God is not going to let us die before we inherit. He is going to ensure that we make it to the end so that we can receive the inheritance he has for us.

Remember – who is the us? The us is you, the us is who, the us is those who have been born again. The point is that it would do God no good to keep an inheritance for us, and then we’re not there to inherit it. And so, in the same way that God can keep our inheritance safe, he can keep us safe.

Now, the power phrase here is ‘who are being guarded’: GOD is guarding us, and he does that through faith. That is, even God is working in and through our faith; he sustains our faith by his power – this is how he guards us.

Notice the phrase for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Now, you might be thinking – I thought I already was saved. If I’m already saved, how can salvation be revealed?

It’s important to understand that salvation occurs in three time zones – past, present and future (See Romans 8.29-30). In the past, I have been saved, in the present, I am being saved, and in the future, I will be saved. In the past, we have been justified; in the present, we are being sanctified, and in the future, we are being glorified. That is, even though we are LEGALLY as saved now as we will ever be, we have not experienced the totality of the salvation that God has for us. That salvation includes glorification, when Jesus returns and clothes the righteous with immortal, glorious bodies. And so, this dimension of our salvation – our inheritance of glorified bodies suitable for inhabiting eternity – this is going to be revealed in the last time.

4. A Rejoicing Present

The practical application of all of this is that we can live with HOPE and JOY now. This is what we see in verses six through nine. Let’s begin with verse 6:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,

First, In this – in the inheritance that God has promised, that he is keeping, that is certain.

Second, in that inheritance, you rejoice. So for Peter, normal Christianity is MARKED BY REJOICING because we have such DEEP, profound revelation of what is coming. It’s like kids who know there parents are very, very rich. They’re not glad to see mum and dad die, BUT – they know what’s coming – a mega-sized inheritance.

Third, this rejoicing is in the face of for a little while you have been grieved by various trials. This phrase - for a little while - speaks to the totality of our earthly lives before inheriting future salvation; it also means it is temporary, and reminds us about how short this life is in the context of eternity. ‘Various trials’ speaks to challenging nature of this; there is resistance, challenge, difficulty, friction, and fog.

So, to understand why Peter thinks that it makes sense to live in JOY in the midst of VARIOUS TRIALS:  

Imagine a really rich parent who dies and leaves a MASSIVE fortune to their child. While they were living, they only gave the child a regular stipend to sustain them in a certain level of lifestyle, but this was just a fraction of their total wealth. And so, although the child is sad because their parent has died, yet they are rejoicing because FINALLY they are receiving this inheritance. And so, on the way to the reading of the will where they will finally, legally, inherit all this wealth, they go over a pothole, and their tyre gets punctured and goes flat. When they step out of the car to change the tyre, they slip on loose gravel and fall down and scrape their knee and tear their trousers. Because of the delay, they are running late, and so they hurry, but they are caught by the traffic camera and get a speeding fine. THIS DAY IS NOT STARTING WELL! It seems like everything that can go wrong is going wrong. But through it all, they are smiling and laughing and filled with joy. Why? Is this unbridled optimism? Is this denial of the circumstances? Is this irrational exuberance? NO – they have their eye on the prize. Even though they are experiencing some momentary, light affliction, even though – to use Peter’s words – they are grieved by various trials – they are still walking in joy. Because they know what is waiting for them; they know what their inheritance is, and in the context of the enormity of that inheritance, flat tyres and scraped knees and traffic fines are NOTHING. This is what the Christian life should look like: we are SO DIALED IN to the inheritance waiting for us, that we stay in HIGH REJOICING MODE because the challenges of this life are inconsequential: real, but temporary; sharp, but transient.

5. A Genuine Faith

Look at 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 honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Again, the contrast here is between the temporary and the eternal, the earthly and the heavenly. Tested faith that is genuine has in inestimable value. The value of tested faith is only fully appreciated when Christ returns. But the contrast is with gold. Pure gold is both very heavy and very valuable; a kilogram of gold is worth £43,000.

The point he is making is that it is only genuine gold that has value. If someone gave you a kilogram gold bar – you might be thrilled, but you might be suspicious. So to find out if the gold is real, you test it by fire. That is, you put it in a crucible and subject it to extreme heat; the impurities separate, you ladel them off, turn up the heat, other impurities rise, you ladel them off. Eventually, you have PURE GOLD.

And pure gold – gold tested by fire – is incredibly valuable. BUT – it’s also temporary. One day, gold will perish. BUT YOUR GENUINE FAITH WILL NOT!  Peter is saying that genuine faith is incredibly valuable – and this faith is demonstrated as being genuine by our capacity to live in joy in the face of these trials. In other words, the ability to keep your eye on the prize and live in JOY through the midst of trials is an indicator of the purity and the quality of your faith.

6. The outcome: The Salvation of Your Souls

Finally, we come to 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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The point is that we can live in joy now; joy is not reserved only for the future when Jesus will be clearly seen at his revelation.

For me, one of the encouraging things about verse eight is that we share this same experience with these New Testament believers. Because the characters that populate the New Testament are those who had personal encounters with Jesus, it’s easy for us to think that this was the normal pattern – people who knew Jesus personally, and it is only later that people believed in a Jesus whom they had not met. But this is not true: most people who responded to the gospel did so on the basis of the reports of these eyewitnesses.

And so Peter says that even though they have not seen him, they love and they believe in him. And this is us, isn’t it? We love someone we have not seen; we believe in someone we have not touched. HOW? Because God has caused us to be born again to a living hope.

But even though we have not seen him, like these believers – we rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.  In other words, the HOPE that we have is so profound, it’s very difficult to put into words. Even though I have used LOTS of words to try to describe what Peter is teaching in this text, words seem to fall short in capturing the glory of the inheritance we have in Christ.

And so the basis of our rejoicing with an inexpressible joy is our salvation – what Peter describes here as the end result - eternal salvation – the completion of Gods saving work.

7. CONCLUSION: It’s the HOPE that enlivens us as we remembe the future.

Remember that it’s the hope that kills you? No – actually, it’s the hope that enlivens you. That’s because hope is about remembering the future that God has for us. Remember the football supporter unwilling to be hopeful about the new season. But if you ask him about the glory years, he’s willing to talk forever with a big smile on his face.

That’s the point: we can talk about our glory years with hope because they lie in the future and they are guaranteed in and by God. Christian hope is not optimism a about a possibility but confidence in a certainty.

What now? If you have noticed, so far in these seven verses, there are no ‘imperatives’; there are no ‘therefore, DO THIS’. Often in the epistles, we have indicative and imperative statements: indicative statements are about identity – THIS IS WHO YOU ARE! Imperative statement are action statements: THIS IS WHAT TO DO, THIS IS HOW TO LIVE.

The way it works is that our identity is the foundation for our action; our being comes out of our doing. And so we often learn WHO WE ARE before we get to WHAT TO DO. And this passage, located in the beginning of the letter, does not address what to do, it addresses identity – WHO YOU ARE.

The big point is relatively simple: IF YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF YOUR SALVATION, you will live in hope. IF you can understand the nature of the LIVING HOPE into which you have been born again, your life WILL BE marked by joy.

In other words – joy – or rejoicing – function as an indicator of the degree to which you are dialed in to eternity. WE LIVE NOW in the context of ETERNAL INHERITANCE. That’s why our lives are marked by joy. But if you are NOT marked by joy, it may be that you’ve forgotten about your inheritance.

REMEMBER the guy who was on his way to receive an inheritance? He had a flat tire, got a scraped knee, tore his trousers, got a speeding fine … but it didn’t bother him. IF YOU ARE GETTING BOTHERED, it may be that you’ve gotten your eyes off THE MAIN EVENT and are looking at the ‘temporary light affliction’, the various temporary trials that cause us grief.

So what you can do is take a little JOY test: is the song in your heart dialled into the KINGDOM radio station of your eternal salvation, or is it dialled into the fluctuating nature of this life? This doesn’t mean we ignore the human pain and suffering of this life but that we view it and experience it and minister to it FROM the context of our eternal reward.

JOY is the appropriate expression of remembering the future God has for you. This is why one way of understanding hope is very simply remembering the future. GOD has secured an AMAZING, guaranteed future for you in Christ. Live like it.

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