if they were away all day you wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with them like you do. And if they weren’t there they would probably wouldn’t be where they are spiritually, and neither would you. You’ve had to work with them on their diligence, their integrity, their lying. And you’ve had to rely on God more, and learn to trust Him for each day’s strength and graces.
And it is only after you remember how blessed you are that you are willing to rip up the enrollment forms that you so hastily printed out. Your encouragement to keep pressing on in home education came only after you have recognized how much you have benefited from it all.
Perhaps you’ve experienced the same thing with your exercise program, or your new devotional habits. When someone is waving a big piece of pie in your face or if you are tempted to blow off your prayer time, it can be hard to keep plugging along. And perhaps the only thing that helps you persevere is knowing how much you’ve benefited from this daily regiment.
The truth of the matter is, “when the goings get rough, the tough tend to peter out.” And what we need most is simply a reminder of what God has done in our lives. The fuel that allows us to persevere is the recognition of how blessed we are.
And the same is true for our spiritual lives. Sometimes it’s not easy being a Christian. When the masses of humanity are flowing in one direction, often times we feel like we should just give up and go with the flow. We can get sick of being so meticulous when it comes to our morality. Everyone else is having a jolly old time doing whatever they please. And as they do so they invite us to come along and join them. And it gets old after a while, having to say no all the time. You start feeling a little too Puritan, and your friends and family start hounding you for it.
Add to that all the other pressures that accompany the faith and you can sometimes feel like you want to give up. And if that is your case, then you must consider what God says in this passage. Because in this passage Peter reminds us of how blessed we are as Christians. He encourages us to persevere in the faith by reminding us of our salvation.
In verse 10 he starts out by saying, “Concerning this salvation.” He makes it the main focus of his argument in these verses. And he wants us to focus on the blessings of this salvation, specifically how it was predicted for us, proclaimed to us, and how it is possessed by us.
He begins, in essence, by saying, you are blessed because this salvation was predicted for you.
I. This salvation was predicted for you
Note that carefully. It wasn’t just predicted. It was predicted specifically for you—for your benefit. Look at what Peter says in verse 10, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you.”
Think about that. Here you have a man who has been inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God comes upon him and opens his mouth so that he prophesies. And the things he prophesies are the most excellent, the most glorious concepts that ever could be uttered. They spoke about the very person of Jesus Christ and how he would become the Savior of men.
And when they were done speaking (or when they were done writing out their prophesy) there’s no doubt that they were overwhelmed by the things they had just uttered. And as they thought about it and pondered their own words, they’d marvel at what they had said. But despite their the great blessing of having spoken such grand things, they were still very much in the dark! They searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit was indicating. But alas, the full knowledge wasn’t theirs to have.
That’s why it says that they were serving not themselves, but you. You here today are the beneficiaries of that revelation. You have the opportunity to grasp the concepts that were so elusive to the saints of old. You have had the full revelation of Jesus given unto you so that you can comprehend the wonders of his person and redemptive work. You have the overflow of information that they were lacking. All they could say is that a Messiah is coming. That’s the best they could do. But you have the 20/20 vision of the gospel and the New Testament witness to him.
Earlier this year CBS News did a story on a man by the name of John Bramblitt , a man who is known to be quite an accomplished artist. His work is absolutely wonderful to behold. Much of his work is dedicated to portraits—painting pictures of people who come to his studio. And his artistry is defined by bold and expressive use of color. The colors are typically of such intensity and beauty that they automatically evoke emotion and elicit a sense of awe. When you view all his work, you can’t help but confess that his paintings and portraits are unbelievable masterpieces.
What really makes them so unbelievable though, is that this painter of these brilliantly colored portraits is completely blind! A bout of epilepsy left Bramblitt with the ability to see only one shade of color: pitch black. He learned to paint simply by the sense of touch. He can mix his paints by simply feeling the different texture of each of the oils. He also learned how to apply paint by outlining an image and using his fingers to guide the brush strokes. And when he goes to paint a portrait he begins by taking a picture of his subject with his hands.
You might think that its an absolute sham, but I tell you it is true. His portraits are of an unbelievable caliber. They are so good that he travels the country displaying his work in galleries for all to see. And yet, the irony of it all is that he’s never seen a single one.
My friends, just like that artist who created marvelous works with his hands those prophets long ago expressed some of the most profound realities with their mouths. And those prophets didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy the fullness of their predictions, just like that artist doesn’t have the opportunity to fully enjoy the great works he produces. But those of us who are gathered here today have the fullness of the revelation. All of us get to witness the full brilliance of their predictions because through the gospel we have been made to cast our eyes upon JESUS!
My friends, those prophets, if they could speak to us today, would tell us that they are green with envy at you. They admire you because you get it all. You are blessed far above them.
I hear people from time to time saying, “Wouldn’t have been great to be there when Isaiah lived? To hear him speak? To be right there when he spoke those prophesies?” Well my friends, the answer to that is no! No, it wouldn’t have been great. Because they didn’t have the full picture! They longed to be where you are. They longed to have what you have.
So consider yourself blessed. You are the recipient of the full revelation of the saving work of Jesus Christ. And all that the prophets did was for you to enjoy. All that they said and did was for your benefit.
If you are tempted to think that there’s nothing to this whole Christianity thing, just remember: The whole of history has been served up just for you. Every tid-bit of revelation since the beginning of time was written out for your benefit. And Peter reminds you of this so that you might remember just how blessed you are.
But let’s not forget that this salvation wasn’t just predicted for us. We are blessed (and we should be encouraged to persevere in the faith) because it was also preached to us.
II. This salvation was preached to you
In verse 12 Peter says that this salvation has “now been announced to us through those who preached the good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.”
You are blessed because of what you have heard—not just the prophesies of long ago, but the present realities of the saving work of Christ. You heard the good news of the gospel. The truth that Christ has come in the flesh, that he was pierced for our transgressions, and then raised up again on the third day as the victor over the grave—that message was delivered to each and every one of you.
You’ve been blessed because you have had the opportunity to hear that. You need to remember just how great a blessing that is. Of all the people in the world who have never even heard of Jesus, let alone those who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel message presented in its entirety—of all those people God chose to send his Spirit to you. And he had someone preach and tell you that you don’t have to go to hell for your sins. He came to you and told you that Christ can save you if you just trust in him. Do you understand how great a blessing that is? It is tremendous!
In my younger days I played football. My Senior year we got a new coach. And after every game and after every practice this coach had us all take a knee recite the Lord’s Prayer together. And one day after practice, as we were walking back to the locker room, one of my teammates said to me, “What’s that all about?” I said, “What’s what all about?” “That prayer thing? What’s that all about?” I was a bit flabbergasted that he didn’t even know the Lord’s Prayer, one of the most basic elements of Christianity. So I said, “It’s a prayer that Jesus taught his disciples.” And you know what he said? He said to me, “Who’s Jesus?” He’d never heard of Jesus.
When I heard that, I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe it. Here was a kid right here in “conservative Ashland” who had absolutely no clue who Jesus was. Maybe he had a vague notion of him and something having to do with Christmas, but there was a huge vacuum of knowledge.
And right there, while my heart was breaking for this guy who had never had the pleasure of hearing that Jesus can save him from his sin, I realized how blessed I was. I was blessed because I had had many people preach that gospel to me over the years. Several years before there was a minister who explained to me that there was redemption in Jesus Christ. I was blessed because the Holy Spirit had been sent from heaven, on a direct mission, to intercept me so that I could hear the great blessing of God’s mercy and grace.
And you should recognize how blessed you are too. You’ve had that same opportunity. And many of you can look back and remember that first time you heard the gospel preached. You can remember exactly where you were and how elated you felt as the power of God came over you and washed away your sins.
Others of you may not remember a specific date or place, but you know you’ve listened to many preachers, and you’ve had many encounters with the gospel. What a wonderful thing that is. What a wonderful thing to know that it has been announced to you your whole life. Because there are a lot of people who have never heard the gospel; not even once! They’ve never had the opportunity. And that makes you blessed of God.
Just think of the myriads of people in hell today. There are thousands upon millions of souls who are now suffering eternal, conscious torment. Every one of them envies you, and every single one wishes they could have sat here today in your place and heard me talk about how they could come to Jesus and have the forgiveness of sins and release from the condemnation they are now facing.
My friends, remember how blessed you are that you have had this salvation announced to you.
And I do want to interject this: If you are here today and you have not ever heard these how you can escape the wrath of God due to you for your sin—Or maybe you’ve come to church all your life but you’ve never really understood that you need a Savoir, let me say that this is your day. I am here today for this purpose: to announce to you the good news. This salvation can be yours. The Spirit of God has been sent here today to tell you that you don’t have to go to hell. All your sins can be forgiven and you can be made right with God. All you have to do is come to Jesus and receive him as your Lord and Savior. If you put your faith in him and believe that he took the penalty you deserve by dying on the cross, eternal life can be yours.
If you are such a person, know that Jesus is now offering you the salvation we’ve been talking about. And don’t be one who is left out. Receive him by faith and let this be the day that you come to share in this great blessing.
And yes, that is the greatest blessing of all. Now, certainly, it is a great blessing to know that it predicted for us and it was preached to us. But the greatest blessing of all is to actually possess it.
III. This salvation is possessed by you
That’s what is emphasized in the last phrase of verse 12. It is one of those lines that fills you with a sense of wonder. Peter says that this salvation is something “into which angels long to look.”
The language that is used here is that of deep investigation. It literally means “to stoop down to take a closer look.” You know how when you are standing up and see something on the ground, but you can’t quite get a good look at it. If you want to check it out, you must stoop down—perhaps get down on your hands and knees—so you can get a little closer and examine it a bit more intently.
At one of my relative’s house they had a key painted into the floor tile when they were moving into the house. It’s a little joke that they played. If you are standing in that doorway, you look down and see this key. And your automatic reaction is to crouch down and pick it up for them. But when you get there you find that it’s not real. So you stoop down a little more to examine it and see how wonderful the artistry is.
That’s what’s being said about the angels and how they react to your being saved. It is so amazing that they really want to get closer to it so they can check it out a little more intently.
You know, it is almost as if they gawk at us. The wonder of salvation—the immense glory of being converted and having a saving relationship with Jesus Christ—these angels wish they could understand it in the same way we do. They squint their eyes and cock their heads, wishing they could have the same kind of intimate, experiential knowledge that we have.
But you know what? They can’t. It’s not for them to possess. They can only peer over the fence like a jealous neighbor who covets what you have in your back yard.
When my wife and I lived in St. Louis, we would travel the beltway that looped around St. Louis almost every day. We had to travel it virtually everyday to get to school or to work. And sometimes the 8 lane highway would get all jammed up. Cars would be lined up for miles upon miles, and it would be a mess of traffic. When that happened we’d turn on the radio to the local news station to listen to the traffic report and see what they had to say. And a lot of the time they said that 270 was backed up from here to there for a “gapers delay”. We didn’t understand that for a long time. What we did know was that we would finally get to a point where there some cars had wrecked on the other side of the road. And once we passed that point we could start driving again. We could get back up to the speed limit, rather than poking along like we did. That had us flummoxed for the longest time. We never understood why the traffic would be backed up so far on our side when the wreck was on the other side of the road. After a while my wife figured out what a “gapers delay” was. When there was a wreck on the other side of the road, people on our side would slow way down because they wanted to check it out. They were gaping at it, longing to get a closer look at what had happened there. They wanted to see the cars that had collided and if there were any casualties.
And that my friends is exactly what happens in heaven. All the angelic beings are busy flying around, going about their business. But there are times when they come to a standstill. Everything stops because they just want to stop and look at what happens when a sinner like you collides with the mercies of Jesus Christ.
So if you are ever tempted to give up on Christianity, just remember that. Remember that you have a distinct advantage over perhaps the most glorious beings that God has ever created. You possess something that angels can only gaze at from afar with wide-eyed wonder. You possess a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and a unique relationship with him.
You can easily imagine a couple who has been having some rough times in their marriage. Perhaps the finances are a little shaky. Maybe they are having some problems communicating. Overall, things are rather tense. Perhaps they are even to the point where they are wondering if the marriage is going to work out.
Let’s then say that the wife is out with some friends. They are sitting around a table at a restaurant talking, as girls tend to do. They are covering all sorts of topics, particularly their relationships. And as they talk the women start to confess that they deeply admire this woman because she obviously has a man who loves her deeply. One lady confesses, “I wish I had a husband who would talk to me like yours does. All my husband does is watch TV and play video games.” Another friend pipes up and says, “And he helps around the house too. How do you get him to do that?”
Before you know it these ladies are asking her advice on what they could do to get the kind of relationship she has. And as she sits there she recognizes, that though they’ve been facing some trials, she’s the envy of friends. She recognizes that the blessings of her marriage far exceeds what otherwise may be.
My friends, that is what Peter is telling you. You might feel like things are a bit tense because you have chosen to follow Christ. You might be facing all kinds of trials, and you might be tempted to give up on Him. If that is the case, you need to remember how the blessings far outweigh the pains. There are multitudes who envy you. The prophets of long ago do. The souls languishing in hell are perhaps envious to the point of resentment. Even the angels in heaven eye you with a yearn-ful curiosity.
And may that be an encouragement to you. May you be encouraged to press on as a pilgrim in this world.
Having done so and thus having regained his strength, he arose from his prostration with a bright and beaming countenance. And he exclaimed, “Now, I thank God, I am strong, and fear not what man can do unto me!"
With that he returned to his companions at the stake, placed the chains securely around himself, and suffered his execution with a spirit of valor.
What was it that so enlivened this poor soul, and what was it that caused him to rise up again to face death with such courage? Here he was with life and death in the balance, one option just as viable as the other. What was it that stirred him up to virtually beg his persecutors to come at him with their torches?
It was his having come for one instant to prayer and sought the face of God. It was in that moment that he caught a glimpse of his Master’s supremacy. And having been reminded of God’s exceeding greatness all his fears were quenched. He was ready to give his life, and he was able to face the fires that would consume him.
Indeed that is the only thing that can cause any of us to stand strong when we are opposed for our faith. When we are faced with the fires of persecution, be it a literal burn or simply the brandings of men’s tongues as they ridicule us, we need to have a greater fire kindled within us. And the only thing that can do that is God. That is why it is absolutely necessary that we have a sound doctrine of God firmly ensconced in our minds. For it is only when we comprehend the excellency of the Lord that we will have the strength to stand the temptation to deny our faith.
That is exactly why Peter starts this epistle the way he does. Peter bursts into an exuberant doxology right out of the starting gates. His first note is that of adoring praise. That is because he knows that what you need most is not a personal cheerleader. Your number one need is not someone chanting: do better, stand stronger! He knows that what you need is to have your eyes cast heavenward so that you may be reminded of who God is and what God has done on your behalf.
And when you look at the opening line here you find some of the richest theology in all of Scripture. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ In these words Peter gives you a lesson in the very nature of God. He distinguishes who your God is, and sets him above all the rest of the gods in the pantheon. And if you want to stand strong in the midst of persecution, you need to appropriate what is said here about God. And, of course that means understanding that God is God.
I. Strength to Stand comes from knowing something of who God is
It says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The first thing Peter does is point you to the divinity of God. In other words, the suffering that you are experiencing is not without purpose. You suffer because the one to whom you pay allegiance is wholly and unmistakably divine. As such he is above all things and deserving of our utmost loyalty.
When I’m at work and my boss says, “Don’t put those there.” You know what my response is? I don’t put those there. I don’t question him. And if someone else tells me to put the do-hicky there I don’t do it because he’s not the boss! I only listen to the guy who is in charge.
That’s something of what Peter is getting at. When it comes to life in this world, don’t forget Who is in charge. He’s the boss because he is God, and there is no other that is divine like God.
But not only does Peter remind us of his divinity, but he points our attention to the fact that he is Trinity.
We don’t see it in whole, but we do see something of the plurality of the Godhead here. He’s not just God, but he is the God “of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now the words “Lord Jesus Christ” all point to the fact that Jesus is not just any ordinary fellow. Each of these words stand for the deity of Jesus. The names of Jesus are always a good study. And if you have studied them, you know that “Lord” means Master. Jesus means “the Lord saves.” Christ is means “anointed one.” And each of them points to the reality that Jesus is essentially divine.
So in one sentence we have recognition that Christ is divine and God the Father is divine. So Peter’s praises point us to the plurality of the Godhead.
Why is this mentioned? Well, just as his deity reminds you that he is above creation, his Tri-unity reminds you that he is above reason. He is so radically different—His greatness is of such enormity, that he cannot even be comprehended.
I understand that the world mocks this idea. One of the first things an atheist or unbeliever will attack is this notion of the Trinity. They think it is absurd. But we have a different reaction, don’t we? Whenever we meditate on the fact that our God is one, yet three, our reaction is that of wonder and amazement. It so bewilders us that we cannot help but stand in awe of him.
And that is exactly what we need when we face persecution. We need that reminder that this awesome God—this God who is so big that we can’t even comprehend his true being.
But as we contemplate the nature of God let us not forget that while he is divine and Triune, he is also a tender and loving Father.
Peter says that he is the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” With this word “Father” we are reminded that He is not a God who is far off. He is a God who draws near to us and takes personal interest in us. He is a God who relates to us with a tenderness and affection that only a father can express. He enters into a personal relationship with us and sheds upon us all his fatherly goodness.
This is such a radical nuance to our faith—that we have a God who is a “father.” Just think of how vapid atheism and agnosticism is. There is no transcendent in which you can take comfort. There is no other worldly love to console you.
The same is true for Islam. The god of Islam is no fatherly figure. At least not a tender one like you have described in the Bible. It is interesting that earthly fathers in Islam many times tend to be cold, controlling and abusive. I believe that is replicating something of their god.
Our religion is very different. We have a God who can be denominated Father. We have One who relates to us tenderly and affectionately, with all his benevolence being expressed towards us at every minute.
He’s divine, He’s Triune, He’s a Father. That should make a difference, especially when faced with the notion to turn away from him or deny him.
I have an ongoing bet with the Mormons who come to my door. When we start talking I’ll will sometimes say to them, “If you can prove that your god is greater than mine, I’ll become a Mormon.” (I ask them that if I can convince them that my God is greater than theirs, if they would convert to my religion too. I haven’t had any takers though!) I make it a like Elijah when challenged the Baal prophets to see whose God could burn up the offering. I welcome the chance to compare my God to theirs. I say bring it on! And I talk about the divinity of God, how his divine nature so exceeds the pitiful little Mormon god. And I talk about the Trinity. They balk at it, but they have to admit that if it was true my God would be greater. And when it comes to the Fatherhood of God, they might call their god “Heavenly Father,” but he is a wishy washy, mamby pamby Father who has no sense of justice and righteousness.
All this is to say, think about your God! Think about how awesome he is! There is none like him! There is not one who can compare to him. And there should be no other who energizes you like him. If you need strength to stand, all that you need is found in him. The supremacy of who he is will evoke your unwavering devotion.
And if that doesn’t do it (I can’t believe that it wouldn’t!—but if it doesn’t give you the strength to withstand any opposition), then think about what God has done for you.
Peter packs some serious amnion in this passage. He comes out with both barrels firing. What he does here is put on a little shock and awe. Because not only does he praise God for who he is, but he goes on to praise God for what God has done in your life.
II. Strength to stand comes from knowing what God has done
You might say that his Theology automatically leads into a Soteriology. His doctrine of God gushes over into a doctrine of salvation. These verses explain something of the wonder of the salvation we have received from God.
Now, I want to admit that I will not be able to expound every phrase contained in these verses. There’s a lot here. It’s a lot like a chocolate cake: it’s so rich that you can’t devour it all in one sitting. But that even should hint at the fact that God has done tremendous things on your behalf!
I do want to highlight a couple of things though. Perhaps I can summarize some of this passage by noting three things that God has done on your behalf with this salvation. When you need strength to stand, think about the fact God has given you a new life.
It says, “According to his great mercy he has caused us to be born again to a living hope.” To say that you were born again is to talk about the miracle of regeneration. It is that moment when the Holy Spirit came into your life and gave you a new heart. He resurrected you from the dead, and caused you to live for God and for righteousness.
Think about that! God has radically altered your very nature. He has removed that heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh. And he has filled you with new desires and a new orientation towards. So now you have a completely new life to live than when you were first born.
Have you ever stopped to think about where you would be today if you hadn’t been born again? I can’t even imagine where I’d be! I know the trajectory that I had, and I can’t even begin to imagine where that road would have led.
But each of you here who have been born again have now a radically different life than what you might have. And you know deep down in your heart that it is a better life than what might have been. Even if you would have had a million dollars by now, you wouldn’t trade the life you now have for it. You wouldn’t even think of giving up the righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit that you have come to possess because of your being born again.
And along with this new life God has given you a living hope. It says, “You’ve been born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Now what is a living hope? Well it’s the opposite of a dead hope or which is wishful thinking. You know there are two kinds of hope. One kind of hope is the kind of hope you have around Christmas. You hope that your husband will get you something good this year and not a vacuum or another pair of fuzzy bunny slippers. That’s wishful thinking. You cross your fingers and hope he does, but there’s not a chance that’s going to happen.
This is the kind of hope that built a whole presidential campaign. People were hoping and wishing that President Obama would do all sorts of grand things to make America a thriving country. Putting their trust in him was all for not though. It was all dead hope.
But the hope that God gives us is a living hope. It is a sure confidence that God will do what he has promised. It is the full expectation that the new birth that we experienced will lead to something greater—to eternal life in the new heavens and new earth. That’s what Peter means when he talks about the inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. Peter is talking about entering the Promised Land once and for all.
We know that it is coming. We know that we’ll one day walk through those gates because God has promised that we will inherit it. This is not a wishful thinking kind of hope, because it is based upon God’s faithfulness to his own word.
And you live with that living hope. No one else does. I talk to people about salvation and about going to heaven all the time. And people always say they are going to heaven. But when I talk with them about how they know this, they give me all sorts of silly answers. In the end their hope is dead. It’s a false hope. It’s only wishful thinking.
But not you my friends. God has placed in you a living hope, a sure expectation of the world to come because Jesus Christ has washed away your sins.
And you know that you wouldn’t trade that for anything!
But there is one other thing that God gives you. He not only gives you a new life and a living hope. He also gives you unbroken security.
Verse 5 says that, “by God’s power [you] are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Here you have an awesome assurance. If you fear falling away, don’t. God here promises that it is absolutely impossible! You are eternally secure because you are being guarded by the power of God. There is no way you can slip out of it because God’s grasp on you is greater than your grasp on him. The salvation you possess through faith cannot be ripped away from you because they would have to pull the omnipotent hand of God off of your soul finger by finger.
Think about it! God himself is guarding your soul. Your faith is securely locked up in the greatest fortress of all time!
Fort Knox is where the government holds a large portion of its gold reserves. And it is one of the most secure places in all of America. Do you know what it would take to get into Fort Knox?
To get in there you would first have to slip through razor wire fencing that encompasses the grounds. And you would have to evade the US Mint Police who are on guard there. Then within the premises is housed a United States Army post. So if you don’t get caught by the police, you have a whole battalion with which you have to deal. All the while you approach the depository you must be invisible to the array of alarms, cameras, and armed guards you will meet along the way—not to mention avoiding the Apache helicopters, tanks and other forms of artillery which are based there.
Should you happen to get to the vault where the gold is stashed, somehow you have to get by the 25 inch thick granite walls or opent blast proof door (which, btw, weighs a mere 22 tons!). And of course, if you use the vault door you would have to know the entire combination of each of the several locks, which must be dialed all at the same time. Once you do that, it’s no problem. All you have to do is unlock each of the smaller compartments within the main vault.
But you know what? It would be easier to r all the gold out of Fort Knox, than to take your salvation away from you. Because you are being guarded by the power of God. And that is one fortress that is absolutely impenetrable.
You want to know what God has done for you? He’s given you a new life, a living hope, and a security that will abide to all eternity! It’s no wonder that Peter praises God with the intensity that he does. It is no wonder that Peter starts this letter this way. You can’t help but praise God when you think about all that he has done for you! And you can’t help but be strengthened by it either. All your fears of men and what they could do to you will be dashed to pieces when you consider the work of God which he has wrought on your behalf.
The great church father Polycarp is a good example of this. Polycarp was a Christian who came to be captured by some soldiers in the Roman Empire. When they came to his door, his captors were surprised at his peace of mind. He made no attempt to escape, nor did he give any sign of fear for his life. And when he was afterward called before the crowds for his execution, the elderly man did not express any sign of waivering.
Indeed, when called to recant he expressed he could not. He said, “Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never once wronged me. How then can I blaspheme my King, who hath saved me?”
He knew that God had done so much for him, it was impossible for him to deny his God.
I understand that you are not being threatened with burnings or have any real fear that you will be murdered for your faith. But we live in this land as foreigners. At every turn we are ridiculed for our faith. We are told that only fools and weak persons need religion. To say that we are minority would be to put it mildly.
But my friends, let not your hearts be troubled. You need not fear the overwhelming tide of unbelief that is against you. Neither should the forces that wish to pry you from your beliefs deter you. Your God is greater than them all. Only keep your eyes fixed on who he is and what he has done. When you do, you will have strength to stand, and you will be made to replicate Peter as he declares the praises of God.
buy, Christian and his dear friend Faithful would only put their fingers in their ears and say, “Turn away mine eyes from vanity.” And because they were deemed societal freaks one of them was caged and the other one was killed. One was put in jail, the other was put to death.
This was a scene from the book Pilgrim’s Progress, the point in which Christian and Faithful entered the town of Vanity Fair. In this incident, John Bunyan accurately portrayed something of the life of the Christian. He illustrated the radical disparity that exists between those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and those who do not. He depicts how to everyone in the world we are foreigners. Everything about us is completely different.
This has most certainly been your experience. I know for certain you have said to yourself, “Why is it that I always feel like a stranger in my own neighborhood.” “Why is it that at family gatherings—when I am surrounded by my own flesh and blood—that I feel like I don’t belong?” Everyday when you go to work, though you’ve been there for years and you’ve rubbed shoulders with the same people for 10-15 years, you still feel like an alien.
It is because you are a Christian. You dress differently. You talk differently. You have different interests. You have little to no interest in the pursuits and pleasures that they hold near and dear. Even your humor is different. You find yourself making yourself chuckle when someone cracks a joke, because deep down inside you don’t find the humor of it. And sometimes you find their hilarity revolting.
You, my friends, are a strange breed. And for this reason you suffer the things you do. For most of you it may just be that feeling of alienation. Yet you realize it has the potential to lead to outright persecution.
That’s why we have so much in common with those to whom Peter wrote. You see there in our passage that Peter calls them “exiles.” That is they were strangers (outcasts, foriengers). They were people who were aliens in their own neighborhoods. These were people who were considered by most to be misfits –oddballs. That’s because they were men and women who had become Christians. And due to their radical adherence to Christ the people around them thought they were a little eccentric.
That’s why Peter takes pen in hand. He wishes to offer a word of encouragement. God doesn’t want you to become disheartened. He doesn’t want you to be disenchanted or disenfranchised with the faith. He knows that its difficult being bound for Zion, but yet having to live in this world. It’s not easy being a pilgrim among pagans. That’s why he writes this letter to you. In these words he encourages us to persevere in the faith with the same tenacity that had first brought you into these conditions. And he does this by lifting your eyes to God.
And how does he encourage us? Well its by reminding us that we are guided by God, governed by God, and graced by God.
To help us persevere in our journey the first thing Peter does is remind us that we are guided by God.
I. We are guided by God
Look at the very first words of this epistle. Peter starts off by introducing himself. And he introduces himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” It’s noteworthy that the first thing Peter does is flash his business card. He wants you to take particular note of his office. He specifically highlights the fact that he is no ordinary joe in the church. He is “an apostle of Jesus Christ.”
Now what is an apostle? Simply stated an apostle is a messenger. If you want to be more technical an apostle is an official ambassador. He’s one who is officially designated by a ruler to deliver a message. And Peter is saying that he has been commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ himself to deliver a specific message to these people.
Now wouldn’t that just lift their hearts to hear this? Imagine getting a word straight from heaven itself. Imagine getting a letter addressed right to you from your king. Wouldn’t that be phenomenal? That would be wonderful, wouldn’t it?
Here you have God himself speaking, reminding you that you don’t have to traverse this world all by your lonesome. God has not left you without any guidance. He has sent forth his messengers, his apostles, to give you specific instructions that you might be properly guided in your journey through this world.
You know, every pilgrim needs a map, don’t they? One thing they need is something that will direct them on how to proceed in their travels.
I’m glad that they invented this little gadget we call the GPS. The GPS is God’s gift to mankind. Because with this little device makes it so that we men don’t ever have to ask directions ever again! I love that little thing. As you’re traveling along the highway the little lady in that box says so kindly, “In 1.2 miles take exit right.” She’s such a great help. I love having her along with me whenever I go places. Because she won’t let me get lost.
You probably know how the GPS works. There’s a satellite up in the sky. And that satellite sends a signal down to that little box. And then the computer takes that signal and relays it on to you. And the word she speaks keeps me on track. I don’t have to worry about getting sidetracked or lost because that message keeps traveling in the right direction.
And my friends, we have one in the heavens above that has sent us a message through the Apostle Peter. Here in this book we have divine directions so that we don’t get lost or discouraged on our way to Zion.
It’s easy to get lost, isn’t it? It’s easy to become disheartened. I mean it doesn’t take much. We’ve already talked about how different we are. That’s why I want to encourage you to always be immersed in the Scriptures. There is nothing more encouraging than reading the Bible and hearing what God has to say in it. As the old saying goes, “7 days without the Bible makes one weak.” If we don’t have that regular exposure to the Scripture, we’re not going to be able to stay on track.
And I want to remind you dads in particular of this. I want to remind you how crucial it is to be taking the Bible and reading it to your family each day. Family worship is the most important part of the day. It is one of your greatest responsibilities as a father and a husband.
Dads, you have to remember how much your children need to hear God’s word from day to day. I’ve witnessed this in my kid’s lives already. They are growing up, and as they do they are constantly being in contact with the world. They are constantly being reminded that they are different.
I sometimes joke with my daughter. I tell her, “As you get older, you’re going to find we are weird.” And she’s finding that to be true. We are weird. I think it began with bathing suits. Very early she noticed that the bathing suits that we picked out were a lot different from the other boys and girls. We just have a different view of modesty. And, as you may suspect, our family has a different taste when it comes to the music we listen to. There is a huge difference in how our family interacts. Mom and dad always seem to be around. We are setting our parameters a lot tighter than other kids in the neighborhood. You know, we’re just weird!
And as your kids grow up, they need to hear God speak. They need to hear the message that God has not left them to wander about on their own. They need to know that our God is a living God who takes personal interest in them. They need to know that God is guiding them.
So don’t be lax in your family devotions. Take 10 minutes or so. It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just take the Bible and read a little section of it. It might be a single story. It might be a whole chapter. You can decide what is appropriate. Just make sure that they hear it. Just allow them the opportunity to be reminded that God has sent his word to them.
The very first thing pilgrims need to know is that they are guided by God. Persevering in the faith requires that we hear it. We must ever be taken back to the fact that God is guiding us.
But you know what else we need? We need to be reminded that we are guided by God. But we also need to remember that we are governed by God.
II. We are governed by God
Peter wants his audience to know that God is in absolute control. That’s why he addresses this letter the way he does. He says, “to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion.” Note that word, “dispersion.” This word deals with the fact that Christians were sprinkled throughout these different regions. Originally it was used to describe the Jews who had been taken into exile in the Old Testament. You remember that God had told them at the very beginning of their history that if they didn’t obey He would cast them out of the land and send them to live in foreign countries. And that’s exactly what happened. And it came to be known as “the Dispersion.”
I like that word because it reminds us of God’s hand in it all. The word dispersion literally means “to scatter.” It comes from the world of agriculture where one would sow seed. The farmer would take a handful of seed and he would disperse it about the field. He would scatter it wherever he would like.
So we see here that these Christians were where they were because God’s omnipotent hand had placed them there. It wasn’t any random happenchance that they came to dwell among these pagan people. God had sovereignty determined their exact location.
And you my friends are not where you are because of some inadvertent fate or fortune. You live in that neighborhood because God wanted you there. You are facing the circumstances that you do because God has ordained it by his eternal decree.
And isn’t that comforting? Isn’t it great to know that the almighty hand of God is being manifested in your life in such a way? Isn’t it wonderful to know that life’s events are not accidents or some haphazard game of hit and miss?
I tell you, I really don’t know how unbelieving people do it. My wife will say this from time to time too. Sometimes things get a little chaotic and life gets a little overwhelming. And she’ll say to me, “I don’t know how people who don’t believe in a God who controls history can do it.”
To tell you the truth, a lot of them can’t do it. Some people just opt out. They’ll commit suicide because they see that as the best way out of their circumstances. A lot of people today are nervous wrecks. They have no peace. They run to a bottle of pills or some other means of escapism just to get by for another day. They can’t handle it, because life seems to be a mess of miserable, arbitrary events.
Not us though. Not us. We know that history is His Story. And though we might not understand our current situation, we face today with gusto because God governs and upholds all things by his eternal providence.
I think we can think about it a lot like how kids play with matchbox cars. I know I love playing with Matchbox cars when I was growing up. And still today when my daughter gets out the cars and all the accessories I love to sit down and play cars. But you know, I noticed that we pay with the cars differently. I think it has to do with the fact that I’m a boy and she’s a girl. Katelyn likes to take the car she has and roll it carefully around and park it right in the exact spot. Then she’ll do the same thing with the next car. She carefully takes each car in hand moves them all the way to the appropriate spot. I, on the other hand, like to race them and make them go flying as fast as they can across the room. I’ll rear it back and let her go and it will go racing and crashing where ever it might.
You see, a lot of people today think we are like those Matchbox cars that I fling around. Nothing is in control; it’s all just a wild crazy ride that’s going nowhere but everywhere. And people with that kind of view typically crash—just like the toy cars. But all of you need to remember that life is more like my daughter’s cars. Each one is gently governed by a tender and omnipotent hand. And he is gently leading us and placing us right where we should be.
So when you go to work tomorrow, you can smile a bit. You can rest assured that it’s not by chance that you rub shoulders with those particular people. God put you there with those people for a purpose. He put you there because he knew it would be best for you. He put you there because he knew it would be the best for them. (Just think! They get to be around you!) Jesus said, “Let your light shine before me, so that they may see your good deeds and glorify God.” Most of all remember that He put you there because it would be the best for God himself! All things work together for His glory. And He directed all things—He sovereignly ordered the course of events so that you would be born into the house you were, living in the neighborhood you do, and interacting with the people you do on a daily basis. And he did it so that he would receive glory.
We are pilgrims among pagans, and so we must lift our eyes unto heaven; remembering that we are guided by God and governed by God. But friends, above all things let us never forget that we are graced by God.
III. We are graced by God
In this passage Peter spares no amount of ink to emphasize this. You see that he addresses this letter “to the elect exiles of the dispersion.” He doesn’t say, “To the believing exiles.” Or “to the faithful exiles.” He could have simply said, “To the exiles” and left out a modifier altogether! But no. He denominates you as the elect. That is, one’s who have been chosen before the foundation of the world. Ones who were appointed long before time ever began to receive the benefits of Christ’s merit. Ones who, in his eternal counsel, God selected and ordained to everlasting life.
And this is reiterated in verse 2 where it says that this election occurred, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” This of course, does not merely mean that God knew in advance who would belong to him. But rather it indicates that God has set his affection upon them in advance and actively foreordained their salvation.
The language hearkens back to the Old Testament and notes the special choice God had for the people of Israel. In particular we can think of Jeremiah. In the opening chapter God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; and before you were born I consecrated you. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” The foreknowledge God had of Jeremiah was not simply his knowing beforehand that Jeremiah would be born and become a prophet. But it highlights the fact that God had decreed that Jeremiah be conceived and play that particular role in Israel’s life.
And this is the language God uses to describe you. Think about it: You were no afterthought to God. God had you on his mind before he initiated any construction on the universe. Before one brick was laid—before one spark of light was kindled—God was thinking about saving you and having a relationship with you.
If there is one thing that should stir you up on your journey, it is this—because if there is anything that can get a traveler down, it is his shame.
You might be able to stand the opposition of men. You might have the fortitude to overcome persecution. But though the external forces cannot do much to you, you can be worn down by the enemy within you. The feeling of guilt you have for your own sin can bog you down so that you don’t want to press on in the faith.
If you may permit me, let me draw again from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Those of you who read the book may remember the Slough of Despond. The slough of Despond was a murky bog into which the main character fell. You can imagine wallowing in the filth of swampy muck. The stench wafting up from the slime and mud and the toll it takes trying to wade through it. It was such a quagmire that he eventually found himself helpless and hopeless, not being able to press on in his journey. His thoughts tended towards turning back and forsaking his journey. As a matter of fact, the friend that accompanied him did turn back. It was simply too much for him.
That marsh represented an attitude of mind. It stands for the melancholy feeling you get from the conviction that God cannot be gracious to you. It is the overwhelming sense of shame because you have offended God.
Sometimes our greatest enemy is our own self. Our sin can be the biggest roadblock when it comes to pressing on in the faith. We can get stuck in the slough of despond and think, “Why would God want anything to do with me? Can I really come to the Lord’s Table and have communion with him? I don’t even know if I should even be sitting in these pews!”
If you have such feelings (and I’m sure some of you have), you need to remember that your salvation isn’t dependent upon what you did last night. It’s not dependent upon what you did last week. It depends upon the election of a merciful and gracious God. It is dependent upon what He has done long before history commenced.
‘Tis not that I did choose thee, for, Lord that could not be;
This heart would still refuse thee, hadst thou not chosen me.
Thou from the sin that stained me hadst cleansed and set me free;
Of old thou hadst ordained me, that I should live for thee.
You have been graced by God. And you must not forget it. For it is key to keeping you from halting on your pilgrimage to Zion.
In the book of Psalms there is one section entitled, “The Psalms of Ascents.” They were the pilgrim songs—songs that the Jews would sing as they made their way to Zion for one of their yearly festivals. And as these men set out on that long journey to Jerusalem, they would sing Psalm 121. As the heat bore down on them and their feet began to become weary of their travels, they would sing, “I lift my eyes up to the hills, from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of Heaven and earth.”
As we set forth on our journey today, let us remember the same—just as Peter has taught us. Our help comes from the Lord; the one who guides us by his word, governs us by his power, and graces us with his election.
Kindled Fire is dedicated
to the preaching and teaching ministry of
Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.