Born Again Into A Living Hope
I grew up in a Christian home. I went to a Nazarene church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, while attending a Catholic school from preschool to 2nd grade. It never crossed my mind that there was not a God, let alone people worshiping different gods or no gods. I left St. Vincent de Paul school and began attending Coyote Ridge, a public school that was near my house. There is where I encountered a culture shock. Although there were many Christians around me, there were atheists and other religions. In fact, my best friends in elementary and middle school were a Jew and a Hindu. It was not until I started high school at Independence High School that I faced persecution for being a Christian. In my first semester, my 3rd period was gym class. In Arizona public schools, gym class is a mandatory class that you cannot get out of. So I dreaded 3rd period each day. Every day I wore a wooden cross necklace that I got from my confirmation class at St. Thomas Aquinas. One day while changing for gym, I hung it on a locker and forgot to secure it within mine. I came back after class to find it cut in half on the floor in front of my locker. I later discovered that it was a group of people who found Christianity as a joke. I even had friends who poked at me for being a Christian and it really took a toll on me. That situation only exacerbated when I transferred to Phoenix Country Day School. I was out of my comfort zone surrounded by people who were more wealthy and privileged than myself. Most of the students there were Atheist or Jewish or plain up anti-Christian. I found myself one of the few Christians at the school. At that point in my life, I was not firm in my faith. I was already questioning my religion now with the added stress of having to defend something I was not completely sure of. This was the impetus to dive deep into the Word and do outside research. Though it was trying, this time of life refined my faith and gave me a foundation. I learned why I believe what I believe and I made my faith alone. It was not atypical for fellow students to mock Christianity or look at Christians as intellectually inferior. In the end, it was a pathetic form of persecution. It was nothing compared to the persecution of the early church.
During Nero’s reign in Rome in 62-32 A.D. Christians of the early church were persecuted. Christians of the church of Jerusalem were being tortured, killed, and driven out of Jerusalem and forced to scatter throughout Asia minor. The early church refused to worship the emperor as a god, so they were seen as atheists by some. They refused to worship at pagan temples and they rejected the pagan culture, so they were seen as pretentious for not joining their celebrations. Even in modern day, our morals do not fit with the standards of the world. We profess abstinence until marriage, we profess sobriety, we profess forgiveness. Most people view Christians as pretentious for having a higher standard than the rest of society, but really we are being true to God’s word. Why do we stick to it? It would be so much easier to go with the flow than to go against the current, right? In some aspects sure, but our reward is not of this lifetime.
Peter starts off with “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Right off the bat, Peter displays an unwavering confidence and gratefulness to God despite all the persecution He and the church experienced. If I were in his situation, praise and thankfulness would not be my first thought. Because of Christ, my friends and family are being abused, persecuted, separated, and more. What Peter knows, that I would not have realized, is the great trade off that we get when we follow Christ. “In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope though the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into the inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade.” We have to realize that by following Christ, we are already receiving mercy and love that we do not deserve. We are born into a new birth, a spiritual birth. It is the act of the Holy Spirit adopting us into the family of God where we have a new identity and a new inheritance. We are born again. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3 that nobody can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again and born of water and the Spirit. Your Spirit is born again into a living hope. It is a fresh beginning based upon our salvation in God and promise of eternal life. Salvation is the “deliverance from eternal consequences of sin.” Anybody who believes in Christ has eternal life. That birth into a living hope is dependent upon our trust and believe in Jesus. Jesus died and resurrected. He is the only person in history to be resurrected, not resuscitated, but resurrected and not die again. No other religion has their god come to Earth and die; no other religion has anybody resurrecting from the dead. Because of His resurrection we have an inheritance. Not one of the world where moths and rust can ruin it, but a spiritual one. We get an inheritance of eternal life in the eternal city with our father. Our salvation does come from our works but from our faith of God’s works. Because of this, it cannot perish, spoil, or fade. It cannot be stained by our disobedience or mistakes.
“This inheritance is kept in heaven for you” you being the Christians scattered in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia whom he is writing to, but it also can refer to you as followers of Christ. Your inheritance is untouchable so there is nothing to fear. “This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith [in Jesus] are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” Our money is protected by the bank, there have been depressions, bank robbers, computer errors. Our materials are shielded by our houses can be broken into or burned down. But our souls…our souls, our afterlife, our inheritance is shielded by God’s power. We are insured until the coming salvation in the new heaven and new earth is revealed in the last time being judgment day.
That is something to be excited about. Eternity with God. Peter says “In all this you greatly rejoice” not just be content but rejoice. We have scored the ultimate prize because of Jesus. “though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” Peter acknowledges that suffering will happen. It is not ignored nor sugarcoated. In fact it is expected. But like Peter says, it is for a little while. Compare your time on earth of suffering to the eternity of joy and peace with our heavenly Father. Peter explains to us why we suffer. We suffer all kinds of grief to prove the “genuineness of your faith.” It is a test, a crucible to refine your faith. True faith that withstands hardships is worth more than gold. While gold perishes when it is under fire, faith strictly purifies. Faith is the “trust or reliance upon something or someone despite a lack of concrete proof.” A genuine faith will result in “praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Whenever we battle grief or persecution we always ask the wrong questions like “why are you allowing this to happen to me God?” Instead, we need to have a new response so we can endeavor to see from God’s perspective. We need confidence in God’s direction. He holds us up and has a plan for our lives and we need to have confidence that it is good. We need to persevere through the hardships and not give in to anger or bitterness. And we need courage to face the trials because we have Jesus. He does not abandon us, but instead suffers with us and carries us. He is a high priest that can sympathize with our weaknesses and adores you more than you can comprehend.
Jesus says “Blessed are those who have not seen [me] and yet have believed.” We have not seen Jesus yet we believe and we love him. We still don’t see him now, and we believe. Because of this we “are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy” for we are blessed. You will get the end result of your faith. Evil will be punished and your faith will be rewarded with the salvation of your soul. The end result is justice and salvation when we faithfully serve God. Such hope should motivate us despite the persecution you will endure. Expect the persecution, but do not be afraid. Your take away for this week is faith yields salvation, and salvation yields hope.