April 11, 2023
A LIVING HOPE – 1 Peter 1:3-6
On April 9, 2023, Resurrection Sunday, Pastor Eric opened his sermon by asking how many of those in attendance knew that our faith is alive, and our hope is living. He reminded us that because of the empty tomb, we can have a life full of hope. He went on to explain that this hope is something that we can count on and it is something that grounds us even in times of difficulty. He stressed that this hope, unlike many other things in life, is not fleeting and cannot be taken away. It is a promise that we can rely on.
Rodney Buchanan in Easter Surprises said,
The tomb of Jesus told a story. But it was not what was inside His tomb that told the story. It was what was NOT in His tomb. There was nothing there. The tomb was empty – and that tells it all.
Read Proverbs 13:12
It is likely that some of us know someone who feels hopeless, whether this is due to difficult circumstances, the loss of a loved one, a disappointment, a thwarted dream, an unpleasant situation, or the current state of the world. Proverbs 13:12 tells us that
hope deferred makes the heart sick.
When we put our hopes in something that never comes to fruition, the feeling of despair can be overwhelming and can leave us feeling sick.
Pastor Eric said that if our lives look anything like what is described above, we should pay attention to this: Jesus was resurrected from the dead, therefore, we can have a life filled with good, real, solid, and living hope. He reminded us that Christ wasn’t just dead for three days, but that He came back to life on the third day. The empty tomb, cross, and burial clothes prove that Jesus is alive. That’s why we can have hope. He has risen!
The bones of Buddha are on display. Similarly, the tombs of world leaders are filled with their physical remains, a reminder of their mortality. Yet, Jesus’ tomb stands apart, for it is empty. This is not because His body has decayed and disappeared, but because He is not there. This emptiness is powerful proof that He has risen from the dead, just as He said He would. Therefore, we can be filled with a living hope, knowing that Jesus’ resurrection gives us assurance of eternal life. This is a hope that transcends death, a hope that gives us strength and courage to face the uncertainties of life.
Read 1 Peter 1:3-6
Approximately 30 years after Jesus Christ’s resurrection, the apostle Peter wrote,
All honor to God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; for it is his boundless mercy that has given us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God’s own family. Now we live in the hope of eternal life because Christ rose again from the dead. And God has reserved for his children the priceless gift of eternal life; it is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God, in his mighty power, will make sure that you get there safely to receive it because you are trusting him. It will be yours in that coming last day for all to see. So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here.
Hope is a powerful emotion that can have a profound impact on our lives. It can help people keep striving towards their goals and to stay motivated even when the road ahead is uncertain. It is a way to stay connected to a higher purpose and to stay positive in the face of adversity. Pastor Eric invited us to think about those who have lost hope and the devastating consequences that can follow. For some, the loss of hope led to tragedy. We may know of someone who has taken their own life as a result of giving up hope. Others may cope by numbing themselves with drugs or alcohol or have sunk into a deep depression. But there is good news. This weekend, Pastor Eric invites us to reconnect with the living hope that we have received over 2,000 years ago.
What is living hope? Living hope is a hope that is alive and present in our lives. It is a hope that is real, something that we can have faith in and trust in as we navigate life’s unknowns.
Hope is something we hear a lot about these days, both inside and outside the church. Bankers are investing in certain stocks with the hope that they will increase in value, and mortgage brokers and those looking to purchase a house or renew their mortgage are keeping an eye on interest rates, hoping they will drop. Inflation is on the rise and the rising costs of goods and services are putting an extra strain on households.
People have hope in all kinds of things, from winning the lottery to achieving peace. Unfortunately, the chances of the former are very slim. This is not the kind of hope Peter is talking about. Instead, he is referring to something more meaningful and lasting.
Hope is an elusive concept in today’s world. It is a wish or longing for something better, something that is not guaranteed, something that will most likely never come to fruition. It is a wish, a wish for something better, something more. But when the apostle Peter talks about a living hope, he’s talking about something much different than what we hope for today. He’s talking about a hope that is certain and secure, a hope that is based not on our own actions or efforts but on the promises of God. The empty cross, the empty tomb, and the empty burial clothes all provide powerful evidence that Jesus spoke the truth.
Timothy Keller said,
If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that He said; if He didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what He said? The issue on which everything hangs on is not whether or not you like His teaching but whether or not He rose from the dead.
Read 1 Peter 1:3
Pastor Eric emphasized three important aspects of this living hope.
1 – The gift of new birth in the resurrected Christ
First of all, Peter talks about the gift of new birth in the resurrected Christ. First Peter 1:3 states,
All honor to God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; for it is his boundless mercy that has given us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God’s own family. Now we live in the hope of eternal life because Christ rose again from the dead.
Dead hope is barren, false, and empty. It gives no promise of things to come, no assurance that things will change for the better. But living hope is dynamic and full of life. It is a hope born from a new birth, a new start, a new life. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has given us a new birth and a new hope.
Read John 3:3
What is the new birth? John 3 recounts the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin. In those days, the Sanhedrin had remarkable authority over religious, legal, and civil matters within the Jewish community. Thus, Nicodemus was a highly influential and devoutly religious figure. Jesus began the conversation by saying,
I assure you, everyone must be born again. Anyone who is not born again cannot be in God’s Kingdom. (John 3:3).
Nicodemus was perplexed by Jesus’ words. How could a man be born a second time? Could he go back into his mother’s womb and be born again? It just didn’t make sense to him. Christ then explained that He was not talking about a physical birth, but rather a spiritual birth. It is a spiritual transformation that occurs when one repents of their sins and puts their faith in Jesus Christ.
When we read the Bible, we come to understand that the problem of sin entering the world and disrupting the perfect world God had created was not His fault. Rather, it was because He created us in His image, with the freedom to choose. We were not created to be robots that followed His instructions without question. Instead, He gave us the capacity to think, decide, choose, and act on our own. He gave us the freedom to choose to follow Him or not, and unfortunately, the first birth chose sin instead of obedience. Adam and Eve were our first parents, and their decision to eat from the forbidden tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil brought sin into the world. Consequently, all people born after them have inherited a sinful nature, meaning they have the inclination to sin and fail to meet God’s standard of perfection. This is why we refer to our first birth as the birth of sin.
Nicodemus was a very good and religious person and yet Jesus still warned him that he could not enter the Kingdom of Heaven with his first birth. Jesus explained that the first birth is from Adam and Eve and that we inherited their DNA, a DNA of sin. We are born with a sinful nature, and it is this sinful nature that leads us to sin. Thus, even being a good person or following a religion is not enough to enter the Kingdom of God.
Sometimes, when Pastor Eric speaks to Christians, he wonders whether they really understand how one gets to heaven. Many people believe that being a good person is enough, but that is not the case. The Bible requires us to live by a much higher standard of righteousness than those without faith. We need to be good people, but we need to do more than that. Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins and provide us with the possibility of eternal life. What would have been the purpose of Christ’s death on the cross if it was simply a matter of being good? It is essential that we place our faith in Jesus Christ and accept Him as our Lord and Saviour.
Read Luke 23:32, 43, and John 3:3
At the time of His crucifixion, Jesus was on the cross with two thieves on either side of Him. Were those two people good church attendees? Were they good religious people? No. Luke 23:32 says they were two criminals. They deserved to be crucified, according to the standard of justice in that day. Yet, one of the criminals put his faith in Christ and asked Him to remember him. Jesus replied,
I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43).
How can that be? The criminal was not a good person, had never gone to church, and was likely never baptized. This means that it cannot be religion or being a good person that saves us, but rather something more. This is confirmed in John 3:3 ESV when Jesus said,
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Are we born again? This is a question that we must all ask ourselves, for it is the most important decision we will ever make. It is a choice that we must make for ourselves, and one that will have implications for not only this life but also for the life to come.
Read Luke 18:9-14 and Matthew 5:3
In order to be reborn, we must come to an understanding that we are spiritually bankrupt and in need of God’s mercy. We must be willing to humble ourselves and take on the attitude of the tax collector in the Temple. He was aware of the extent of his sin, and instead of looking up to heaven with pride, he beat his chest and asked the Lord for mercy. This realization is the first step in the process of being reborn. We must recognize our need for a Saviour and be willing to surrender ourselves to His will. We must accept His grace and mercy and allow Him to transform us from our old, sinful ways. We must be willing to die to ourselves and our sinful desires and be willing to take on a new life in Christ.
The Pharisee, on the other hand, was full of pride and arrogance, believing himself to be superior to everyone else. He was so sure of his own righteousness that he thanked God that he was not like the tax collector. The Pharisee felt he had done so much to earn God’s favour, boasting of his own acts of piety. He said,
O God, I think you that I am not as bad as other people. I am not like men who steal, cheat, or commit adultery. I thank you that I am better than this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I give a tenth of everything I get!
(Luke 18:11-12). However, the tax collector stood at a distance, humbly admitting his sins and begging for mercy. He prayed, “O God, have mercy on me. I am a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). Jesus said it was this tax collector, and not the Pharisee, who returned to his home justified before God.
Making the decision to accept Christ as our personal Saviour is of utmost importance. It is a decision that should not be taken lightly or put off until a later time. Pastor Eric is offering us a chance to make that decision and it would be wise for us not to leave until we have done so. We should not forget that tomorrow is not guaranteed, and therefore we should make this decision now. Pastor Eric is not trying to be dramatic or emotional but is simply reminding us how essential it is to accept Christ as our Saviour. Let us not forget the importance of this decision and not delay any further.
Read John 11:25
Our living hope is based in part on the fact that Christians will one day go to heaven. John 11:25 makes this clear when Jesus says to Martha,
I am the resurrection. I am the life. Everyone who believes in me will have life, even if they die.
The resurrection is not simply an event that happened in history, it is a person – Christ Himself. He is the resurrection and in Him there is no end. This means that when we accept Christ and His gift of salvation, we are promised eternal life in heaven with Him. Our hope is alive because it does not rely on a finite being, but rather an infinite one – the Author of life. Jesus is not bound by death, but instead is the source of life itself.
2 – An inheritance that endures
Read 1 Peter 1:4 and Matthew 6:19:21
Peter’s words ring true – we have an inheritance that is imperishable and secure. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been given new life and a place in God’s Kingdom. Our inheritance is kept safe in heaven, and it is ours forever. As Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:4,
Now we wait to receive the blessings God has for his children. These blessings are kept for you in heaven. They cannot be ruined or be destroyed or lose their beauty.
This inheritance and promise are not things that will ever disappear, but things that will endure and remain with us always. In His great mercy, God has given us an inheritance that is eternal and secure, a gift that can never be taken away.
Jesus encourages us to think differently about accumulating treasures. He teaches that we should not accumulate treasures here on earth, where they can be stolen, destroyed by moths and rust, or lost. Instead, we should save our treasures in heaven, where they will be kept safe for us and will last forever. This is one promise of many.
The Bible is filled with promises and blessings for believers with respect to their inheritance. These promises and blessings are so numerous and powerful that sometimes we don’t even fully comprehend them. Here is a brief glimpse of just a few of them:
- Eternal life (John 3:16)
- Crown of righteousness for those who eagerly await the return of the Lord (2 Timothy 4:8)
- Crown of life for those who endure trial and persevere in faith (James 1:12)
- Crown of glory for those who faithfully shepherd God’s people (1 Peter 5:4)
- Inheritance of God’s Kingdom for those who are heirs of Christ (Romans 8:17)
- The joy of the Lord’s presence and fellowship (Matthew 25:21)
- The joy of being in God’s presence and seeing Him face to face. (Revelation 22:4)
- Rewards of faithful service and stewardship of God’s resource (Matthew 24:14)
- Recognition and honour from God for those who have served Him faithfully. (Matthew 10:32)
- A place of honour and authority in God’s Kingdom (Luke 19:17)
- A glorified, imperishable body in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:42)
- Reigning with Christ in His Kingdom (Revelation 20:6)
- Sharing in the glory and inheritance of Jesus as joint heirs with Him (Romans 8:17)
- Rest from earthly toil and labour (Hebrews 4:9)
- We will worship and praise him in His presence. (Revelation 22:3)
- Fellowship and unity with other believers in heaven (Hebrews 12:22)
- Perfect peace, perfect joy, and satisfaction in God’s presence. (Revelation 21:4)
- Continued growth in knowledge and understanding of God (1 Corinthians 13:12)
- Freedom from sin, suffering, and death (Revelation 21:27)
- Eternal rewards that will never fade or perish (1 Peter 1:4)
And the list goes on…
Read 1 Corinthians 2:9
God has an infinite number of blessings in store for those who love Him. In 1 Corinthians 2:9, God reminds us that
No one has ever seen, no one has ever heard, no one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.
This means that God’s plans for us are so amazing that we can’t even begin to fathom them.
As our understanding of heaven deepens, our excitement for going there increases, and our longing for life on earth diminishes. This is not because we are unhappy with our lives or wish to hasten our demise, but because we understand what awaits us in heaven. We can only wait in anticipation for the day when we will experience the glory of heaven firsthand.
Read Philippians 1:23-24, 1 Corinthians 2:9, and Romans 8:18
We echo Paul’s feelings when he had a difficult time deciding whether he wanted to depart this world and be with Christ or stay behind to help the Church with its faith. He expressed his dilemma, saying, “It would be a hard choice. Sometimes I want to leave this life and be with Christ. That would be much better for me; however, you people need me here alive.” (Philippians 1:23-24). Paul was torn between his desire to be with the Lord and his dedication to serving the Church. When we know what lies ahead, we have a living hope that fills our hearts with joy and anticipation.
Some of us have misconceptions about heaven. We can easily be fooled into thinking that in heaven we’ll be stuck on a cloud playing the harp all day. We can’t help but imagine that heaven would be a dull and boring place. However, if we take the time to read what the Bible has to say about heaven, we will discover how exciting and awe-inspiring it really is. The Bible paints heavenly life as full of joy, peace, and wonder. It explains that the streets of heaven are made of gold. On earth, asphalt is of low value. However, the Bible tells us that the lowest-valued material in heaven is gold. The streets of heaven are pure gold. This is a testament to the magnificence of heaven. In heaven, gold is not nearly as awe-inspiring as it is here, on earth. It is everywhere, like asphalt, and has no special significance. In fact, gold is the least impressive thing in heaven. It’s a powerful image that shows us that no matter how precious something might be here on earth, it will be so much more precious in heaven. This is a reminder that the things of this world have no real value compared to the riches of heaven. Furthermore, the walls and gates of the city are adorned with precious jewels, pristine stones we have never seen. In heaven, we will be able to explore the beauty and glory of the Lord, and we will be reunited with our loved ones. In heaven, we will be free from sin, suffering, and death. So, we are not to be fooled into thinking that heaven is boring – it’s far from it. As stated in 1 Corinthians 2:9,
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.
Read 1 Peter 1:6
First Peter 1:6 reminds us that although life may be filled with troubles, we can still have hope. We may find ourselves going through periods of suffering and trials, but our living hope allows us to get through these difficult times. We are able to endure because we know that heaven is the ultimate reward and that our troubles are only temporary. This gives us comfort and joy even in the midst of our struggles. It is a reminder that no matter what trials and troubles we face, we have the hope of eternity in heaven.
3 – The anticipation of the glorious return of the Lord
Read 2 Timothy 4:1
As believers, we also have a great hope in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. On that day, He will come to take us to be with Him and will judge the living and the dead. He will restore all things, defeat all evil, and establish His eternal Kingdom. This is a source of great hope for us, for it will be the day of His glorious return. What a joyous day that will be!
Pastor Eric provided list of verses that speak of the glorious return of the Lord.
They are as follows:
- It is described as a glorious and magnificent event. (Matthew 24:27)
- It is the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. (Matthew 26:64)
- It is the resurrection of believers who have died. (1 Corinthians 15:20)
- It is the rapture of living believers. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
- It is the judgment of the living and the dead. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
- The establishment of God’s eternal kingdom (Revelation 11:15)
- The restoration and renewal of creation (Romans 8:28)
- Reunion with loved ones who have gone before us (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
- Eternal joy, celebration, and fellowship with God and believers (Revelation 21:3)
- Perfect and sinless state in heaven (Revelation 21:27)
- Eternal presence of God (Revelation 21:3)
- Absence of pain, sorrow, and suffering (Revelation 21:4)
- Devine reward for faithful believers (Matthew 6:20)
- Reigning with Christ in heaven (2 Timothy 2:12)
- Perfect communion with God (1 Corinthians 13:12 and Revelation 22:4)
- Fellowship with saints and angels (Hebrews 12:22)
- Complete and everlasting peace in heaven (Isaiah 65:25)
And the list goes on…
Our living hope is found in the return of Jesus.
The world is becoming increasingly dark, challenging, and dangerous, but this is the beauty of our living hope. Our hope is not in the world, but rather in a living person who is no longer in a tomb. Jesus is returning for His Church and this should cause us to live a holy and fruitful life, as we eagerly await His coming. No matter how tough the times get, our hope in Jesus should give us strength to persevere in faith. We don’t have to fear the future because we can trust in the Lord to see us through.
As people of faith, it is essential that we remain strong in our conviction and never give up in the face of adversity. We must remember that our labour and suffering in this world are only temporary and that our efforts will be rewarded in His eternal Kingdom. It is important to stay focused and live with a sense of urgency, to make the most of the time we have to share the Good News of Jesus and His salvation with others. At the same time, we must be vigilant in our own relationship with the Lord. We must never forget to nurture our own spiritual well-being, as this is the foundation of our faith, no matter how difficult the journey may be, knowing that in the end, our hard work and dedication will be rewarded.
Pastor Eric ended his sermon with the following quote: “It is Friday. Peter is asleep. Judas has betrayed Him. Mary is crying. Hope is lost. Death has won. Satan is laughing. Jesus is buried. A soldier stands guard. A rock is rolled into place. But Sunday is coming!”
Sunday is here. He is risen!