A Godward Hope in Turbulent Times (1 Peter 1:1-2 Sermon)
INTRODUCTION - PLANE RIDE
Last week, I flew from Trujillo, Peru to Chicago, O’Hare. This plane is what the aircraft looked like.
What the picture doesn’t quite show is how remarkable flight is. We had nearly 200 people, if not more than that. If everyone weighed 100 lbs, which we didn’t, that would be 20,000 pounds of people sailing at 500 miles per hour. What is even more incredible is that the typical Boeing 737 takes off weighing something like 165,000 pounds. That is like taking some 36 Honda Odysseys sailing off the dunes and hoping to land 3,500 miles away. It is hard to conceive the engineering it takes to make these planes fly. But they do, and I am here to say successfully. Praise the Lord! But it wasn’t without bumps.
Try something for me. Hop in your seat right now. (Hop) That is what it felt like for a bit of the flight. It wasn’t long. Many slept through it. Some in our group may not have noticed it. But I did. Now, pretend you are on that plane with me. You didn’t hop; the airplane did the hopping. That is turbulence.
As the plane went through turbulence, I wondered what if we crashed? It happens rarely, but it could happen. What would Katie, my wife, do if that happened. I know where I am going, so I told myself, “It would be fast and painless, and there was nothing to worry about it.” But how would things go for Katie? The turbulence continued. The seat belt signs went on. The captain announced over the speaker, “If you don’t have to get up, stay seated until the seatbelt lights go off. Air traffic control said we would be experiencing some slight turbulence as we approach our destination.” That is life. It isn’t always smooth. I made it safe.
QUESTION FOR YOU?
Here is a question: How do you handle life’s turbulence? The rough ride can come from many directions: sickness, death, financial problems, job problems, school problems, and relational problems. All of us have been sinned against and treated unfairly. How do we deal with trials, difficulties, and hardships? How do we handle life’s turbulence?
1 PETER HAS AN ANSWER
1 & 2 Peter has an answer. Today, we begin our series in 1&2 Peter. Let me encourage you to read 1 Peter, five chapters, in one sitting. Join us for our Sunday school at 9:00 AM. What is this letter about? On Monday this last week, we pastor put our heads together to try to summarize 1 Peter. Here is our working attempt:
Peter writes to God’s dispersed people that our sure hope in Christ enables them to live in a way that displays God’s glory in all circumstances.
Let me repeat that: Peter writes to God’s dispersed people that our sure hope in Christ enables them to live in a way that displays God’s glory in all circumstances. With that as the big idea, how do the first two verses enable us to glorify God in turbulent times? Do they? I think so.
Let me show you. Would you open your Bibles to 1 Peter chapter 1? I am reading the English Standard Version of the Bible. 1 Peter chapter 1, verses 1 and 2. We won’t stand because there are just a couple of verses.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
God help the Word, your Words, move us to know you better. You are great and glorious and worthy of all praise, glory, and honor. We need you. I need you. Your word is truth and a light unto our path. It helps us. It directs us. It inspires us. God, we pledge allegiance to you and your Word. Yet, often we act like we don’t. We want to align ourselves with you and your purposes this morning. Help us now we pray. Amen.
OVERVIEW OF AN EPISTLE
What do you know about this letter from these two verses? This was an epistle by Peter to a group of churches. If we compare it to his other letter, 2 Peter, it is not that different.
“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
Both letters begin with from and to and a blessing. They are from Peter to the church, and God has preserved them for you and me.
Let’s keep digging for understanding. Who was Peter? Peter was a fisherman. His original name was Simon. He was one of the first followers of Jesus and brother to the disciple Andrew. They left their nets to follow Jesus as he ministered throughout the region of Galilee. Simon soon became part of the inner ring with James and John. They saw Jesus at the Transfiguration and prayed with Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane. During the years, Jesus changed Simon’s name to Cephas or Peter, the Greek word for rock. Jesus said the church was going to be built on this rock, and it was. Peter played a pivotal role in Jerusalem, evangelizing the Jewish population. Thousands came to faith through his preaching.
What else do we know? He was bold and headstrong. When Jesus invited him to walk on water, he did. When Jesus asked the disciples whom they thought he was, Peter spoke first. In his boldness, he declared that he would never fall away. Jesus disagreed and said that very night he would not only fall away but deny him not once, not twice, but three times! Peter did exactly that. Peter had to process the guilt of this blasphemous trilogy. Yet, as much as Jesus endured, nothing could stop him from accomplishing his purposes. He conquered the grave. How would Jesus respond when he met at length with Peter? We read how, in John 21, Jesus offered grace and peace and a path forward as a follower.
PETER IN ACTS
Peter took that path restored. His faith resulted in a stronger conviction that would not buckle under the pressure as he had in the past. They beat him, and he kept his faith. They imprisoned him, and he kept the faith. They killed him, and he kept his faith until the dying end. His time on earth was filled with turbulence and rejection by his people and this world. He was an exile and sojourner. He knows suffering. So when he talks to a people suffering, he has street cred.
So, who was Peter writing to? Verse 1 tells us he wrote to those in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Where is that? Here is a map. I modified it to show you where these people lived.
This is modern-day Turkey. This letter was likely delivered in that order by a man named Silvanus, whom Peter mentions in chapter 5 (5:12). A neat thing about this region is that Pastor Jeff is on vacation near there as we speak! How cool is that?
What else do we know about these people? Peter describes them as “elect exiles of the Dispersion.” What does that mean? In ancient times conquering kingdoms, instead of killing everyone, enslaved people and dispersed them throughout the world, decreasing their likelihood of insurgency. Stalin and Mao did that in the 20th century. However, this dispersion and exile were spiritual, not geographical. In a spiritual sense, every follower of Christ is an exile and sojourner with citizenship and identity rooted in God and his kingdom, not a political or ethnic group today.
RELATES TO US
Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20 that we are citizens of heaven. We are not home yet.
C.S. Lewis wrote, in Mere Christianity,
“The Christian says, 'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
We were made for another world, reality; a New Heaven and a New Earth, as Revelation describes it. Like the elves in the Lord of the Rings sailing to the Undying Lands or Reepecheep in Narnia sailing west to where the sky meets the sea, we are all on a journey and not there yet. Don’t get too comfortable, friends. Things change fast. Turbulence happens. Do you long for another world? Well, that is good. We are supposed to. We don’t want to get too comfy. We have a much better reality than what we see and experience in front of us. Be careful what you root yourself in and what you hope for.
HOW COME? THREE REASONS
Why? Why does Peter have such confidence that his readers are these elect exiles? How do they become elect? How can they have peace and grace in turbulent times? Peter writes three reasons which give hope and peace and grounds from God’s election.
THE FATHER’S FOREKNOWLEDGE
First, if you are taking notes, they were elect because of the Father’s foreknowledge. So point number 1,
CHOSEN BY THE FATHER’S KNOWING
Look at verse 2
according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.
What does that mean? Feel free to email me later or talk to me about your take, but I think that means that God knew in advance what he was going to do when he elected people. Does that mean he predicted that people would repent and believe, so those were the people he saved? Is that what Peter meant? Maybe that is how you read it. That is what I used to think. Is that what Peter meant? I don’t think so. The NIV translates it, “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” The word “chosen” is understood as “elect” or “Eklektos” (ἐκλεκτός) in Greek. God is the one electing. It is in accordance with his foreknowledge, not man’s action. The danger with claiming God knew what we would do in advance is that the accent, the grounds, the reason, the cause for salvation if salvation and election are the same, is us. We become the reason for God’s grace and peace and election. He chooses us because of our behavior and our thoughts. That is not what Peter is saying. Peter is saying. He is saying God is all-knowing. God knows everything. It is not like the world was out of control, and he just happens to know how things will work out, no he is sovereign. There is nothing he doesn’t know. He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10): every bad thought, word, and deed as well as the good. He knows the turbulence you face and cause. He sees the pain of the present and chooses some.
SYSTEMATIC LOOK AT FOREKNOWLEDGE
Romans 5:8 says it this way, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God foresaw our rebellion. Romans 8:29 says,
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
God knew the extent of our traitorous nature before we are conformed to the image of his Son and predestined before we are conformed. God sent his one and only Son to die in our place, not because we deserved it. He came for sinners, not the righteous. That is radical and hard to swallow. It is the nature of a loving God. One helpful way for me to picture this redeeming kindness is a race. I see myself with the rest of humanity on a course running from God. God looked down and turned some of 180 degrees showing mercy and the truth. Why this one and not that one? Why were you born in this century or last? Why in this country to the parents you have? I don’t know, except this, he longs for you to glorify and enjoy him. For such a time as this, you were born. His choosing is according to his knowledge. Why? Because of his love.
LOVE OF A SON - ILLUSTRATING GOD’S LOVE
A couple of weeks ago, one of my sons, leaving the sanctuary, looked back at me and said, “I love you, dad.” It was a passing comment. He said it simply, but my heart melted, my eyes welled up with tears. I quickly thought of the love the Father had for the Son. The Father’s perfect love. What would it be like to lose a son? Some of you know that horror, earth-shattering, gut-wrenching pain of loss. God, the Father, knows as well. He willingly chose to give up his Son. Why? He did that because he loves you. You and I don’t deserve it. That is the point. That is love. Salvation isn’t a fee for service. We are saved by grace alone, not as a payment. God, the Father, predicted that and predestined that in love for you who believe. That is love grounded in foreknowledge, giving us and Peter’s readers grace and peace in turbulent times.
TILL WE HAVE FACES - GOD LOVES US ANYWAYS
In our men’s book club last week, we discussed C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces. The discussion was lively. Lewis uses mythology to examine the human condition. The main character wore a mask much of the time. She blocks off her true self and history because of the pain it causes her. Lewis seems to point us to the necessity for us to understand our true self and sin to grasp God’s grace. We must remove our mask and see who we are and who God is. Too often, we want to do things our way and in our strength. We want to earn it. We want to deserve it. We want to merit it. God foreknew the good, the bad, and the ugly. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Peter believed that and now writes to a people who were in difficult circumstances and needed the hope of a better life to come not based on their morality. So, he reminds them that before God chose them before he knew them, they had done nothing. Isn’t that powerful?
1 PETER 1:3
Oh, and I just remembered this. Look at 1 Peter 1:3. This is one of the verses for next week. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Who caused us to be born again? It was God the Father. The evidence and call for us to praise God seem clear. Blessed be the God who does what we can’t because of his love.
HOLY SPIRIT SANCTIFIES US
Another reason they were elect was that the Holy Spirit Sanctifies them. That means the Holy Spirit purifies and shapes them.
CHOSEN BY THE FATHER’S KNOWINGCHOSEN IN THE SPIRIT’S POWER
Peter goes on,
“according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit.”
A DEFINITION OF SANCTIFICATION
What does that mean? Let me demonstrate. I need a volunteer. One volunteer. Can you come up here? Thanks. What is this? “Flour.” Now, I want you to shape this flour into the shape of a bowl. Great. That doesn’t work that well, does it? What is this? “Water.” Now, shape this water into the shape of a bowl. Okay, that doesn’t work that well, either. Now, try this. Great job. Give him/her a round of applause. You can have a seat. God takes the mess, the raw ingredients of life, and makes us into something categorically different. We were dead to God and now alive (Ephesians 2:1). He molds our simple selves into more and more the image of His Son through the reforming power of the Spirit. We are the clay, and he is the potter.
SYSTEMATIC LOOK AT SANCTIFICATION
The Bible says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Do you want to know God’s will for your life? Are you ready? Be sanctified. Mic drop. Does that sound like a chore or torture? If it does, perhaps you have a distorted view of sanctification. God’s way is best. He knows. He made us. It is like following the specifications for a machine.
I must confess I am not handy, but I try. I change my own oil. One time, a few cars ago, I bought the wrong kind of oil. It was full synthetic. I thought it would be better. It lasts longer and is more expensive. It has to be better. However, the owner’s manual didn’t say to use this kind of oil. Talking to mechanics, they told me the full synthetic might operate better under heat, yet, it penetrates more. If used on vehicles that don’t specify it, it can ruin the car over time. I don’t think that is what destroyed my transmission and engine because I changed it right away, but it didn’t help. The reason I bring that up is we have an owner’s manual as humans too. Our manual is the Bible. If you stray too far from it, you destroy yourself and others. The Spirit is here to help you in turbulence times. He is making us more and more like his Son through sanctification and those whom God knows, he chooses, and those whom he chooses he sanctifies.
WHO IS SANCTIFYING?
2 Corinthians 3:18 says,
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory”
Who is doing the transforming? God. What do we do? We behold. He transforms, and we watch him work. What is the result? It is obedience to Jesus, which leads to my third point and final point.
JESUS OBEDIENCE AND FORGIVENESS
CHOSEN BY THE FATHER’S KNOWINGCHOSEN IN THE SPIRIT’S POWERCHOSEN FOR OBEDIENCE TO JESUS
Being elect is for our obedience to Jesus. Look at verse 2.
“according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.”
What does that mean? God chooses us according to his omniscient, sanctifying power, with a purpose to make us obedient forgiven sons and daughters.
A SYSTEMATIC LOOK AT OBEDIENCE
Paul puts it this way,
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12–13)
Notice we work, and Jesus works to make us more holy. From our perspective, we may be working, from God’s perspective, he is empowering. That is love that is sanctifying, knowing, and electing.
Peter doesn’t limit Jesus’s involvement in our election to an obedient end; he also mentions a sprinkling of blood. What is that? In Hebrews 11:28, it says Moses kept the Passover by the sprinkling the blood. The 10th plague of the plagues of Egypt, while the people of Israel were exiles, was the angel of death, the Destroyer. He passed over God’s people and spared them from death because of the blood of the lambs on doorposts. God saved his people and purified his people because of the blood of the lambs. The covenant in Exodus was inaugurated and consecrated by the blood of lambs. All such blood foreshadowed Jesus’s blood given for us. John the Baptist said, behold the Lamb of God (John 1:29) who takes away the sins of the world. How did he do that? He gave himself up for our sins. Hebrews teaches without the shedding of blood; there is no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22). When Jesus took the Passover Supper and reformulated the practice taking the cup after the supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Matthew records him saying it's his blood given for the forgiveness of sins. How fitting was that today when we celebrate communion?
SYSTEMATIC LOOK AT BLOOD
We see in several places in the New Testament the blood of Jesus does what we cannot. 1 John 1:7 states, “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin,” all sin. In Hebrews 10:22, it states, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” We see this blood after the Passover in Exodus 24.
And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Exodus 24:6–8)
What if we had a bowl of lambs blood from the Wisner’s farm and threw it on you right now? I think you would probably run me out or get out of the way. But that is precisely what Moses did over 3000 years ago. Why? Because it made a statement and covenant promise. It symbolized something to come. Sin is horrible. Obedience is impossible; without the forgiveness of Christ, we are lost. The blood in Moses’s day was a shadow of what was to come in Christ. God gave up his one and only Son for you. He loves you that much. He knew you, he purifies you, empowers, and forgives you. That is why you can be elect. Not because of your greatness, but because of his. God takes what is impossible and makes it possible through the gospel. You are cleansed by faith and faith alone. The Father knows in advance the good, the bad, and the ugly. He knows the difficulties you face and turbulence you will make.
Peter writes to people who have problems and offers a blessing that will become more and more pronounced in the weeks to come.
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
That is my prayer for you, this church. We need God’s grace, don’t we? I do. Paul says it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:8). God’s grace is our only hope. We need God’s Grace, and we need God’s peace. We need the peace that passes understanding. Jesus said,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
When we look at the storms of life when the earth seems to shake with all its might, remember God chose you, knew you, purifies you, empowers you, and forgives you because of Jesus the Lamb of God’s blood. As pastors, we desire that you would know and experience God’s affection in a way that would fuel worship and obedience in every circumstance, in turbulent times and smooth. Shalom.
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