Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Our Living Hope and the Trials We Face

"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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
~1 Peter 1:3-9

Although we learned about so many things in the studies during our time in the Dominican Republic, I think our entire team can agree that this passage was iconic of our trip. In it are contained the catchphrases about which we still joke and which will ever remain seriously dear to our hearts. So, to give you a taste of what we were really doing on that Caribbean island, and hopefully to encourage you with the concepts which left us feeling so much richer in our faith, I decided to share with you my edited notes from studies on this text. Ready? Here goes!

First, we discussed the characteristics of this living hope that Peter seems to regard as so very important. Peter hinges the rest of his epistle, intended to establish and inspire his brothers in a time of distress, on the actuality and beauty of the living hope that is ours in the faith. Obviously, it is important for us today to become acquainted with this, our inheritance!

Peter describes our inheritance, our living hope with three characteristics, which should each bring us immeasurable joy and comfort:

  • Imperishable ~ Our inheritance cannot go bad like last week's roast does. It cannot rot; it is something neither moth nor rust can destroy.
  • Undefiled ~ Our inheritance cannot be contaminated; it is pure, of one essence. Purity means purely one thing. There is nothing that mixes with this inheritance to devalue its worth, like what happened when we left the gold standard.
  • Unfading ~ Our inheritance is strong, bright, and stands out. It is a beauty that never will pass away.

        Why did God inspire Peter to use these three words in his portrait of our inheritance? Because this is the only inheritance that can boast of these characteristics, making our inheritance unique among all other possible goods in the world. Think about it! All other hopes and dreams we can cherish here on earth are perishable, contaminated, and fading away. Our living hope, on the other hand, is beautifully wondrous and it is the only one of its kind.
Now, Satan will use all sorts of counterfeits to distract us from it. Here our group camped for a while to talk specifically about relationships. Any relationship that distracts us from our inheritance needs to be reevaluated, changed, perhaps eliminated. All relationships should make you more like Christ. Don’t waste your relationships. See, every aspect of our life must be seen though the lens of this living hope, including and most especially our friendships and loves.

Our Study Group Buddies...minus Patricks :(
(All photos courtesy of Emily Knepper)

But back to the living hope itself. The text goes on to say that our inheritance is reserved in Heaven for us, for it is Christ, our portion, the glorious one. He is our inheritance! When we think of everything we are and everything He is, everything we cannot do and everything He has already done, this highest of all condescensions and deepest of all wisdoms and greatest of salvations grows incredibly precious and undeserved in our eyes. Why oh why would the Son of God give Himself to me as my inheritance? Read on.
“It is reserved in Heaven for you.” Who is "you"? Those whom God has saved, whom He guards for all eternity. That includes me and it might include you. He has the care of our well-being.
        How does He guard? Through His power and mercy. There is no sin that Christ’s sacrifice was not enough to cover. That is power and mercy indeed! To live perfectly, to go to the cross and die, and then resurrect to give us life to live and the means to live it. Not only is He our pattern for practice and author of this great salvation, but He also lives today to give us life and be our sustenance. This is the power and mercy of God.
"By the power of God through faith.” Hebrews 11:1. We see the power, but what is the faith? Faith is the faculty God gives us to believe, so the exercise of faith is belief. Yes, God gives us the faith and grants us the belief, which is how He guards us and our inheritance. See, God does not waste time on people who will get lost, so He does all the work. Saving grace suddenly and beautifully becomes sustaining grace.
        If God gives faith and guards us so we might enjoy this living hope, many people ask, "Why not sin always, then?" One answer is that there is a future aspect of salvation ~ it is after all a living hope. Although we whom God has saved do indeed grasp our living hope right at this very moment, nobody has yet attained it all. Nobody knows yet the fullness of it. Abraham is not fully enjoying his salvation. Hebrews 11:39-40; Revelation 6:10-11. We must all await our resurrected bodies! Because Christ is the perfect human as well as God, Christ cannot relate to someone unless that person has a perfect soul and body. In short, He can only commune with those who are like Him. Since we are not perfect, we cannot commune with Him fully. But one day we will, and we are becoming more like Him now, delving deeper and deeper into communion with Him as the years pass. Thus it is a living hope.
        So, what is our present salvation then? Ephesians 1:12-14. The Holy Spirit is the seal and guarantee of our inheritance. He is the signet ring of the King, the stamp impressed on the legal Will containing our inheritance, and He impresses it on our hearts so that we, like the wax of a seal, start taking on His mould, start looking more like Him. Yes, this Holy Spirit warrants our beautiful inheritance of living hope. There is not a better safe than the one kept by God in Heaven.

        We have established the Who and the How of this living hope, but the Why of it remains unanswered. Why should I be in Heaven? Look at Ephesians 1:5 ~ Because God wanted it out of the pure pleasure of His will. He did not have to save me and does not have to explain why He saved me. That makes Him God. This is not to say that He is a capricious Zeus, for examine the words again: “the counsel of His will." His will accords to His good and beautiful and righteous attributes. For some spectacular reason that only God can understand, but sure does make Him look indescribably awesome, He chose to choose us. And that is Why His children can spend eternity with Him, worshipful of that incomprehensible majesty.
        What choice do we have left but to rejoice in this living hope!? In fact, rejoicing is a command for a Christian. But would it not be natural to rejoice in this living hope that is an imperishable, undefiled, unfading inheritance kept in Heaven by God for me? In this I must rejoice! And, goodness, in this I want to rejoice.
The Study Buddies in action. Oh, yeah.
        In all this rejoicing, though, Peter does not forget to whom he writes. He writes to believers who will suffer here on earth. Yes, we are commanded to rejoice even though we must face trials of various kinds.
          At this point, our study group paused to talk about trials. Trials are not problems. They are realities of life with which our souls must interact in a thinking manner. Our problems arise in our reactions to those trials. We are going to face hard circumstances ~ Jesus promised and warned us of this ~ but the circumstances do not create what we moderns call "problems" or "issues" (basically something bad that we are left with to deal and struggle with for the rest of our lives). No, all our trials are gifts of God for our growth. Do you not love how Christianity does not deny or ignore suffering, but neither does it leave us in despair? Take a glance at these scriptures to prove it.
        Read 1 Peter 1 in the first-person singular.
        James 1:2-4 ~ “Calculate” those trials as joy!
        What is the purpose of my life? Of Him giving me salvation? Romans 8:29-30. To be conformed to the image of His Son. He predestined us to become like Christ! Remember the whole point of this conversation about trials? The point is our living hope, which is Christ, and the sanctification that enables us to one day enjoy Him fully forever. Our life is to become like Christ, because of and for this living hope! Trials make us stop disparaging Christ to instead start reflecting Him by carving away at us in a certain given area. When our sinfulness in one area is resolved, another area appears, and thus we go, looking more and more like our kind Sculptor each time.
          Hence we can count it as joy when we face trials of various kinds: because we want to commune with Christ. Trials are instruments in God’s hands to make us like His Son. What looks like Mt. Everest now, rest assured, will not look like Mt. Everest next year because He strengthens us with each passing difficulty. Again, problems do not exist, except for one: how you interact/react to the trial. Are you reacting to a hardship with sinful bitterness and anger? Or are you interacting with the hardship as though it were a gift from God through which He will sustain you to make you more like His Son?
        That is how we rejoice in trials. Counting them as tools to make me more like Christ. Here are two questions to ask in trials: How do I act Biblically in this situation to glorify God? And how is God using this situation to make me more like Christ? The answers to these questions will give you the right perspective, give you hope, and give you joy.
         After all, look at the analogy Peter sets up in verse 7. God sends us trials like a metalworker fans fire to purify gold, burning away all the impurities that would devalue gold's enticing loveliness. Well, trials purify us so that we have one belief: God, the most enticing of all lovelinesses. What are beliefs in my life that need to be burned away so I can be pure, single-minded? Here are some common false beliefs that our group came up with which would be better burned to make us pure gold: 1) I love this person so much that I cannot live without him or her, 2) I need to make sure people like me, whether by looks or smarts or any other "successes," 3) The notion that Christians need "self-actualisation," that we must complete a list of actions to be fulfilled. These are actually lies from Hell, lures that Satan uses to distract us from our living hope.
        Taking it all together, then, trials make my faith pure so I believe only God, and can be complete in Him. John 15:1-17; Col 2:8-10. After all, in Him dwells the full godhead and He has grafted me (and you?) into His very own vine, and thus in Him I am now fully complete. I am His and He is mine. I lack nothing. Can you see how very wondrous is our inheritance, and how wondrously real our living hope in Christ is? Even pure gold perishes, but our treasure does not pass away, and so our faith is more precious still.

"Lord, you are more precious than silver. 
Lord, you are more costly than gold." 
"What wondrous love is this, O my soul? 
What wondrous love is this, that God who dwells in bliss, 
Should bear the dreadful curse for my soul?" 
"No condemnation now I dread; Jesus and all in Him is mine.
Alive in Him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne, and claim the crown through Christ my own."
"Behold our King! Nothing can Compare. Come, let us adore Him!"

        The only way to overcome sin is to find the beauty of Christ over the ugliness of sin. To be totally drawn by attraction to Him. No struggle, just surpassing joy. That is our living hope.

1 comment:

  1. Amen sister! Thank you so much for being bold for Christ and reminding us that we need to re-evalutate all our relationships with other people daily. Are our relationships with those people pointing others to Christ on our end? And are those people pointing us to Christ? Do we need to severe a relationship? I have had to do that in the past and present and seriously painful sometimes, but needed.

    Praise God Christ is a relationship that will always be constant.


The lady who here journals strives to keep this domain one pleasing to her Father. She appreciates her readers to remember this as they post. Otherwise, I LOVE COMMENTS!