April 5th, 1943. A German pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer was arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo for his political activities against the German Nazi regime. He had been speaking out against the Nazis, but eventually his words got him into trouble. He was passionate about the Lord and the church that was being persecuted, so much so that he felt he had to become involved in some situations that later on, in reflection, he thought he perhaps should have avoided.
Two years later, there he stands, facing the death sentence. On the day when the sentence was to be carried out, a Sunday, he led a service in the prison which housed men of various nationalities. One prisoner, an English army officer who was also facing the death sentence but was later set free, wrote these words describing the last day of Bonhoeffer's life:
Bonhoeffer always seemed to me to spread an atmosphere of happiness and joy over the least incident, and profound gratitude for the mere fact that he was alive... He was one of the very few persons I have ever met for whom God was real and always near... On Sunday, April 8, 1945, Pastor Bonhoeffer conducted a little service of worship and spoke to us in a way that went to the heart of all of us. He found just the right words to express the spirit of our imprisonment, and the thoughts and resolutions it had brought us. He had hardly ended his last prayer when the door opened and two civilians entered. They said, "Prisoner Bonhoeffer, come with us." That had only one meaning for all prisoners--the gallows. We said good-bye to him. He took me aside: "This is the end; but for me it is the beginning of life." The next day he was hanged in Flossenburg. 
The camp doctor who witnessed the execution wrote: “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer...kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
"This is the end, but for me it is the beginning of life." Wow! What was it that so possessed this man, that at the very moment of his death, he could say that? How was he able to able to cling to such hope that even the sentence of death cannot take away?
Sure, we are probably not going to face execution for our faith soon, but we admire people like Bonhoeffer don’t we? These bold believers, who to the end, have not just survived, but thrived despite circumstances. What is the secret? But we also understand pain. Perhaps not the pain of execution, but trials do come our way that we didn’t expect. Sometimes they never seem to end. Some days it might be hard to get out of bed because of them. Discouragement and disillusionment get to us that ends up sucking up our joy. Unmet expectations, unanswered prayers, fractured relationships, frustrating people and dry seasons that can leave us overwhelmed. You might be like, “I don’t know what you are talking about Pastor. My life is going well!” That’s great…but remember trials are a coming! There’s an encouraging word for you! Aren’t you glad you came to service But this is true as it has been said that there are three kinds of believers: either you are out of a trial, in a trial or about to go through one.
Peter is writing to people in pain. He helps them first orient their minds toward who they are in Christ. This is key because he cannot help them live lives for Christ if they perceive themselves different from how God perceives them. We looked at that the last two weeks. So Peter is helping them see that regardless of the shape, form or intensity of pain of that trial, here are the things we must put our hearts around to take root in our soul and return over and over again if we are going to survive.
Peter here throws before us a 12 oz. steak. There is no way we can put the whole thing in our mouth, so we are going to have to cut it up in bite-size pieces and I hope you don’t sit there and look at it, but chew it for yourself! In fact, 1 Pet. 1:3-9 is one long complex sentence in Greek full of intensity and bubbling over in praise and it is so intense, I am once again going to look at one verse today. The title of the message is “Hope that springs from our great salvation.”
This guy is fired up! It’s probably been thirty years since Jesus had died and resurrected, but Peter, an old man, is still full of praise to God! Look at how he begins in 1 Pet. 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” He seems to stop and praise God throughout the letter. Look at 1 Pet. 4:11 and 1 Pet. 5:11. Again and again he cannot stop praising God. He is trying to help his audience rapture their heart in praise to God despite their circumstances and modeling it for them as well. He too will be executed soon, but nothing is going to stop him from praising his God!
Actually in the Greek here in 1 Pet. 1:3, there is an implied imperative. So literally, he is saying, “Bless God!” It’s a command to praise God and to sweep our hearts upward in the joy of salvation and all that it entails. You have to choose to praise God. It is a choice of the will. But they may have thought, how can we praise God Peter? Don’t you see our circumstances? Can’t you feel our disappointment? Don’t you understand how disillusioned we are? Peter says, “Ok. Let me tell you why God is worthy of our praise no matter what we are going through.” There are four reasons to praise God our Father despite whatever we are facing. First of all, because:
I. He has brought us into a relationship that is real (v.3a,b)
Look at 1 Pet. 1:3. Notice what he calls God: God and FATHER. This is the second time he has mentioned God as a father already (1 Pet. 1:2). What he is saying is that, as a father, God is now personal and knowable. This is not simply a token, “God bless America,” where God is vague. Which God should bless America? Peter makes no doubt who he is talking about here. He is also saying that God “fathered” us by giving us new birth, which we will get to in a second.
This God our father became knowable when He revealed Himself as “our Lord Jesus Christ.” Calling Jesus “Lord” here is saying Jesus is God. Nero the Emperor is not Lord. Don’t give your allegiance to anyone else is what Peter is implying here with this declaration. Lord means “Sovereign Ruler.” The name Jesus means “Savior” as it signified Jesus’ earthly mission. Christ is not Jesus’ last name! It is a title that means “the Anointed One” or “Messiah.” It is actually Jesus the Christ. As God’s Anointed One, Jesus carries out God’s redemptive plan in history. This Jesus the Christ is Lord, thus God and He is ours! Four times in three verses (1 Pet.1:1–3) Peter employs the name Jesus Christ. What else is there to talk about right?
Now we get into why this God is worthy to be praised. He says, “according to His great mercy, he has caused us to be born again.” Notice “according to.” It is not “out of” His great mercy, but “according to.” There is a difference. For example, if I am a billionaire and I give you ten dollars, I have given you out of my riches; but if I give you a million dollars, I have given to you according to my riches. The first is a portion…the second is a proportion. This is why the mercy is “great.” It wasn’t a trickle of mercy, leftover, but in abundant measure, multiplied to us!
This mercy was the motive behind why God “fathered” us into being born again for eternal life. This sounds like Paul in Eph. 2:4-5. Mercy is the outward manifestation of pity. John Macarthur notes, “Mercy is not the same as grace. Mercy concerns an individual’s miserable condition, whereas grace concerns his guilt, which caused that condition. Divine mercy takes the sinner from misery to glory (a change of condition), and divine grace takes him from guilt to acquittal (a change of position).” Mercy says, “though you are miserable and helpless, I will take you from misery to glory.” Grace says, “Though you are guilty and worthless because of your sin, I will take you from guilt to freedom.” Praise God!
This mercy caused God to act on our behalf by causing us to come to life again. Mercy is compassion in action. It is the movement in the heart of God to take pity and compassion on us. Jesus was trying to explain this to Nicodemus in John 3:1-7, who was confused about what Jesus was saying. How did God bring us to a second birth? Look down at 1 Pet. 1:23. The life giving Word of God brought us life. The focus here is that God brought us into a real relationship with us just as we were physically born into a real relationship with our biological parents.
Let me help us grasp us further. Ray Pritchard asks, “How do you know you were born? Ponder that for a moment. It’s not as easy to answer as you might think. You’re here so you must have been born, right? How else could you be here if you had not been born? But we can think of other answers:
"I have a birth certificate that proves I was born.” Those can be faked. "I have pictures of me as a baby.” How do we know the pictures are really of you? "I have a paper with my baby footprint on it.” Very cute, but your foot is a lot bigger now. How can we be sure it’s your footprint? "I have an affidavit signed by seven people who witnessed my birth.” That’s impressive, but perhaps they’re all lying.
And so it goes. Once you discount the outward evidence, how do you prove you were really born? There’s really only one answer: “I’m alive, and my life proves I must have been born.” That’s really an unanswerable argument.
So let me ask a second question: How do you know you’ve been born again? The same principles apply. You can bring forth various proofs, such as baptism, walking the aisle, raising your hand, praying a prayer, joining the church, and so on. Those outward signs are not useless, but you could do all those things and still be unsaved. The only real answer is the same one I just mentioned: “I know I’m born again because I have the life of God in my soul.” You might not even know when it happened, just like you might not know when the sun rose this morning, but that it has risen and is shining brightly.
I pray we stop emphasizing all that we have done in getting saved (I accepted Christ and I gave my life…which is true, but we might forget to emphasize that GOD SAVED ME) and emphasize more that God did it. He had great mercy on me. He brought me into a real relationship with Him. May our prayers always thank God for His great mercy in saving us. I was dead, He made me alive. I was blind, He made me see. I was lost, He found me. I was an orphan, He adopted me and “fathered” me! When was the last time you thanked God for His great mercy He has shown you? Never lose the wonder of your salvation! And in the midst of my suffering and trial, I remember this: I don’t deserve anything. Not a dime. Sometimes I hear people say of someone going through a trial, “She doesn’t deserve that.” Actually, the only thing we deserve is hell. And God is no man’s debtor. What makes life livable, pain tolerable, and disappointment endurable is to know deep in your soul that God’s mercy is so infinitely great, causing you to be born again! And if God does nothing else in my life for the rest of my life except save me, I still have all the reasons in the world to praise Him.
Secondly we can praise God in the midst of our trial because:
II. He has infused us with a hope that is living (v.3c)
He didn’t just save us to give us fire insurance. You know, “get out of hell free” card Look at the last part of 1 Pet. 1:3. Here is where this ministry gets its name. God has birthed us. But just as the baby is not born just for the sake of being born, but with a confident assurance that he/she will grow into maturity in adulthood, the believer is born again to hope, which is the strong and confident assurance that God will do good to us in the future and fulfill every promise that He has made. Biblical hope is not “hope so” hope (like I hope I pass that test or I hope the Cubs win the World Series this year). This is the definition of hope: a confident assurance that God will do good to us in the future and fulfill every promise He has made.
But notice it is a living hope. For these suffering Christians, they should revel and praise God for the new birth God has brought into their lives, but not think that God has left them, like babies on the street to die. Commentator Peter Davids writes, “This hope is not a desperate holding-on to a faded dream, a dead hope, but a living one, founded on reality, for it is grounded in “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Or as Samuel Rutherford says, “I rejoice in the hope of that glory to be revealed, for it is no uncertain glory that we look for. Our hope is not hung upon such an untwisted thread as, ‘I imagine so,’ or ‘It is likely,’ but the cable, the strong tow of our fastened anchor, is the oath and promise of Him who is eternal verity. Our salvation is fastened with God’s own hand, and with Christ’s own strength, to the strong stake of God’s unchangeable nature.”
In other words, you can bank on this hope. You can count on it. You can plan your whole life around it. Why? Because of the object of our hope, who is Jesus Christ! Our hope is only as strong as the object of it.
Notice again that it is a living hope. Our hope is living because Jesus, the ground of that hope, is ever living. Warren Wiersbe adds. “A ‘living hope’ is one that has life in it and therefore can give life to us. Because it has life, it grows and becomes greater and more beautiful as time goes on. Time destroys most hopes; they fade and then die. But the passing of time only makes a Christian’s hope that much more glorious.” This living hope has vital power in itself and exerting the same upon the soul, in full vigor, making it fresh, strong, efficient, active, powerful and efficacious. It is thus dynamic. It is also in the present tense, indicating that it is ever working to alter our perspective, shift our thinking and change our behavior. This is why I used the word “infuse.” God injected that into us so that no matter how hard it got, we would never give up.
So hopelessness and despair are not from the Lord. There are no hopeless situations. There are only people who have grown hopeless about them. The Enemy of our soul would like to feel hopelessness because that is what hell is. It is hopelessness. That’s why in Dante’s poem “Inferno,” the entrance to hell has this inscription, “Leave behind all hope, all you who enter here.” Now I am not saying everything will work out just as we planned, but that no matter what, we will survive, because Jesus survived!
I was struggling to find an illustration for this until I thought who better than Peter to understand this? Peter remembers the crucifixion as the time he let down his Master when he needed him the most. He was hopeless, weeping bitterly that he had denied Jesus three times. All of his promises of never leaving Jesus and willing to die for Jesus were dead words, broken promises and he must have thought that he would go to the grave with this deep sense of failure, despair and hopelessness. But what turned it around? It was the resurrection! Look at Mark 16:1-7. Notice the insertion of “and PETER” there. And it is no wonder that when Jesus shows up on the shore there in John 21 and after that huge catch (again!) and John says, “It’s the Lord!” that the first person to leave the fish behind and swim faster than any fish that day was none other than Peter.
Jesus restored him and recommissioned him. In the end, Jesus is our living hope. Christ in us is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27) as Paul says. One commentator writes that “the fact that He indwells us makes heaven as sure as if we were already there.” Pastor Sam Storms writes, “The glory for which we long, the glory for which we have been predestined, the glory that makes all suffering and pain and disappointment in this life unworthy of comparison is the person and presence of Jesus Christ himself. He is our glory. Being with him, to know him, to see him, to relish and rejoice in his beauty, is the glory for which we hope.“
This living hope infused in Peter affected him so much so that according to tradition, he refused to never deny Jesus ever again, even being willing to be crucified upside down!
I was thinking about this sculpture that was near Moody Bible Institute, outside a church. I would always walk by it on my way to Jewel. And hundreds of people would walk by it every day. One day for some reason I was drawn to it. I stopped at it and looked at it. It was Christ on the cross. At the bottom was this inscription, “All this I have done for thee, what have you do for me?” I was convicted by the Spirit because I do walk by the cross all the time. I forget His great mercy that brought me into a relationship that is real.
I think God is asking us as a church, “Have you lost the wonder of the cross? Your great salvation that came with a great cost?” When was the last time you said with the Psalmist, “What am I Lord that you are so mindful of me?” (Ps. 8:4) that you would save me with such love? God has been so merciful to us! His mercy has been great! His grace has been free! His love has been extravagant! Let’s not wait until joint service communion time to think about this. All that He has done for us, what have we done for Him? We cannot even remember to thank Him for His great mercy!
Second thing I want you to think about is how living is your hope? Has hopelessness and despair filled your soul? Maybe you are like Peter pre-resurrection. Living Hope who is Jesus Christ would call you to run to Him again as quickly as you can!
Ritchie, Ron. “How can we maintain a living hope in the midst of suffering,” http://www.pbc.org/files/messages/8105/3935.html accessed 28 January 2010.
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deitrich_Bonhoeffer#cite_note-Eberhard_Bethge_p._927-28 accessed 28 January 2010.
MacArthur, J. (30)
Hurt, Bruce. “1 Peter 1:3-4 Commentary” http://www.preceptaustin.org/1_peter_13-5.htm#1:3 accessed 28 January 2010.
MacArthur, J. (31-32).
Pritchard, Ray. “God guarantees our salvation.” http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/2004-08-08-God-Guarantees-Our-Salvation/ accessed 28 January 2010.
Davids, P. H. (52)
Water, M. (2000). The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations (495). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible Exposition Commentary (1 Pe 1:2). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
Luce, Claire Booth as quoted in Water (495).
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Col 1:27). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
From the sermon,”The Hope of Glory,” EnjoyingGodMinistries.org.