The biggest events in our society are planned around victory. In just a little while the Super Bowl begins. By today's end, we will recognize one victorious team as the professional football champion of the world. Just a month ago we recognized the University of Miami football team as the number one college football team in this nation.

It is not just football teams. In a few days we begin the winter Olympics. And we will be very interested in how many gold metals American athletes win. In March we have the national basketball tournament to recognize one victorious team as the number one collegiate basketball team in America. Late spring and early summer we have a professional basketball play off series that ends by recognizing the number one professional basketball team in the world. We also have a professional hockey team playoff series that ends in a victorious team being recognized as the number one hockey team in the world. Then in the fall we have the World Series to determine the number one professional baseball team in the world.

And that is not all of our preoccupation with victory. Every state has its championship high school teams. Most cities have their champions in all types of leagues that even include competitions among children.

In this society we stress the importance of winning. Victory! You can easily get the impression that winning is everything. Nobody wants to lose.

Listen (or read with me) as we focus on 1 Peter 1:3-5.
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, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

  1. We might conclude Peter wrote this statement to some Christians who "had it all together," who were "outstanding as godly people," and who were "beating evil black and blue" as they were victorious over the forces of evil.
    1. The letter of 1 Peter does not confirm that conclusion.
      1. Listen to Peter's statements in the verses that immediately followed:
        1 Peter 1:6-9 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 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, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
        1. Distressed by various trials (in the sense of temptations)?
        2. Proving the genuineness of their faith?
        3. Tested by fire?
      2. Later in chapter one there is the sober challenge to be holy.
      3. Chapter two begins by instructing them to "put aside" all malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.
      4. Chapter two also urges them to understand they do not belong to a physical existence in a physical world.
      5. Chapter two also requests that they allow Jesus to teach them how to suffer.
      6. After urging them to understand how to restructure their human relationships, chapter three begins a long emphasis on the reality of suffering in spiritual existence.
    2. The assurance given to these Christians about a living hope based on God's mercy was not given to Christians who had no struggles.
      1. The assurance of an inheritance that could not be destroyed, that could not be made undesirable, that could not fade into meaninglessness, that was reserved for them, was not given to Christians who struggled with temptation.
      2. The assurance that they were protected by God's power was given to Christians who suffered and went through fiery trials.
      3. Turn the emphasis around: in spite of the fact that they struggled with temptation; in spite of the fact that they had evil they needed destroy; in spite of the fact they struggled with suffering, they were assured:
        1. They had a living hope that could not be taken from them.
        2. They had a wonderful inheritance that could not be destroyed.
        3. Their inheritance was reserved for them in heaven.
        4. Their struggles and suffering did not have the power to destroy their living hope or inheritance.

  2. For just a moment I want to focus on the assurances that Peter gave these Christians in 1:3-5.
    1. The first thing I want you to notice is Peter began his letter with these assurances.
      1. Peter did not end the letter with the assurances.
      2. Peter did not say:
        1. If you past the test of your trials in an acceptable manner;
        2. If you "clean your act up" and imitate God's holiness;
        3. If you get rid of the hate filled acts (malice), the deceit (guile), acting like godly people some times, and acting like evil people other time (hypocrisy), the jealousy between you (envy), and ruining the reputations of each other (slander);
        4. If you live like people who do not belong to the physical;
        5. If you develop the right kind of relationships in your families;
        6. If you suffer with the right focus and attitude;
        7. Then you have these assurances.
      3. I want you to see a very important contrast.
        1. There is an enormous difference between declaring, "If you behave in X manner you have Y assurances,"
        2. And saying, "These are the assurances given to you; these assurances should cause you to behave in this manner."
      4. Christians do not behave in certain ways in order to get something; they behave in certain ways because they have received something.
    2. That is a key understanding in 1 Peter.
      1. "The living hope is yours--it is based on what God did in Jesus' resurrection."
      2. "The wonderful inheritance is yours--it is based on what God did when He made you part of his family."
      3. "The reservation is yours--God made it in your name."
      4. "The protection is yours--it is based on God's power."
      5. "It is not only yours, but God is fully prepared to give it to you."
    3. We can respond to God's assurances in two ways.
      1. We can say, "All right! I can abuse God's kindness and generosity and live any way I please."
        1. "I can keep right on deliberately being evil and deliberately doing evil."
        2. "God has given me these things! I will do what I want!"
        3. That is a horrible conclusion that results in our destroying the mercy, kindness, grace, and gifts of God."
      2. Or, we can say, "Thank you God! If I take Your gifts, I must show You my gratitude!"
        1. "There are only two ways available to me to show my gratitude:"
          1. "One is the kind of person I become."
          2. "Two is the way I behave (live my life)."
        2. This response understands how desperately I need God's gifts.
      3. This response understands there is nothing I can do to deserve God's gifts.
      4. The only thing I can do is demonstrate my appreciation for God's gifts by who I am as a person and how I live my life."
    4. When a Christian appreciates what God gives him or her, he or she wants to serve God, not irritate God.
  3. In Peter's assurances, we as Christians must have some basic understandings.
    1. The living hope is a confidence, not an unrealistic wish--Christian hope is not wishful thinking but firm conviction based on God's actions.
    2. In the same manner, the inheritance is not wishful thinking, but a firm confidence in God's promise.
    3. God's salvation in the individual Christian's life is not easily destroyed.
      1. Our forgiveness is not an "iffy" proposition--it is not uncertain, based on God's unstable thinking that changes every hour.
      2. Our relationship with God is not based on a grasshopper concept that hops in and out of salvation.

Is it not interesting that the typical focus of the church has been on how easy it is to lose salvation and the emphasis of God in scripture is on the dependability of salvation?

One thing Peter said that you must see and never doubt: the assurances to a Christian on the certainty of salvation are based on what God did and does, not on what we do. God gives the person in Christ salvation. No person earns salvation. Obedience is our expression of gratitude. Never put your faith in what you do. Always put your faith in what God does.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 3 February 2002

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