Sunday, May 1, 2011

1 Peter 1:1-12

How Secure Is Your Inheritance?
MasterPiece Church

Play with some old money from fallen regimes -- Zaire and Japanese occupied Philippines.

This is worthless paper money.

While this money is interesting to us -- it is a sad story for others. There were people counting on this money. They were counting on it to maintain it’s value so that they could use it to provide for their families.

But everything unraveled.

On April 13, 1945 the last of the Japanese fighters (except for the few who held out in the jungles until well into the 70’s) were routed from the Philippians by the Allies and the Japanese issued money became worthless.

In May of 1997 a coup in Zaire resulted in regime change and Zaire was once again called the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Zaire notes of the old regime -- which had pretty much been made worthless through inflation -- could be exchanged for the Congo francs issued by the new regime. This one, worthless as it was, however, didn’t get turned in and so it lost all of its value -- nothing more than a collector’s item.

We’re all pretty security conscious -- whether it be in our homes where we have alarms and dogs, or our retirement funds, which we manage with eagle eyes. We do our best to keep it all protected -- to maintain -- even protect the value.

In our text this morning, 1 Peter 1:1-12, we have quite a discussion on the issue of securing the future. And in a minute were going to unpack and apply some of what he is saying but I want to first say a little bit about this letter that we call 1 Peter.

Now, we have spent some time with 1 Peter recently, especially in our Wednesday evening Lenten Bible studies where we looked at 1 Peter 3. But I want to back us up just a little bit and look at the context of this letter.

It was written by the apostle Peter, with the help of Silas (5:12) possibly from Rome, probably close to the end of Peter’s life. And according to vs. 1 it was written -- “to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia (not the continent of Asia but the province called that), and Bithynia.”

These were Roman provinces in the area that we now call Turkey.

And apparently, the churches in those areas were starting to face some extreme opposition -- we might say persecution. So Peter is writing this letter to encourage the followers of Jesus living in the midst of the opposition. And he wants them to see that if they remain faithful -- they have nothing to lose -- even if they’re persecuted or killed.

Many of his readers were non-Jewish -- Gentiles -- there are hints of that throughout the letter -- but interestingly here in vs. 1, Peter calls them God’s "chosen people." He says, “who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.”

This is Old Testament language which was originally applied to the Hebrew people -- that is the “chosen people” of God who spent so much of their existence living as expats in foreign places -- Egypt, Babylonia, Canaan -- and in land based societies that meant they did not have the same kinds of rights or the ability to pass along a full land inheritance to their children.

What they had was always subject to seizure. In a sense it was not a very secure existence for their families or clans. And this is why a promised land of their own is such a big deal. In the OT, they were often living on the edge as aliens. But God tells them that they are "chosen."

And Peter pulls this idea right out of the OT and applies it to these Gentile believers -- a very radical idea -- a reframing of what constitutes the true Israel -- and who were the chosen --  the elect -- the holy people of God.

Who would be the beneficiaries of God’s inheritance and security?

Here in chapter 1 Peter is encouraging Christians with the idea that they have a secure inheritance lined up -- something they can count on.

As vs. 6 says, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.”

So, what then is the basis of this joy -- this confidence that empowers us to put up with a lot of garbage in life?

Five observations about our inheritance that should float your boat -- and give you a lift -- even if things aren’t going so well.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation (literally, living hope), 4 and we have a priceless inheritance...
In the OT, as I mentioned, the concept of inheritance was land based. That is, having land of their own gave the Hebrews legitimacy. And having land where they and God would live together was the point of everything.

So inheritance was all about the Land. Land was actually seen as the primary symbol of the covenant between God and his people.

However, in the NT, Jesus himself -- the new life that he brings -- bumps the land inheritance from the prominent spot. He becomes the symbol or embodiment of a new covenant.

When Jesus was raised from the dead he opened an eternal portal into eternal life. And as we turn from the old way of doing things -- from our sin and self-centeredness and embrace the resurrected Jesus we are born again -- or born anew -- which is a fancy dancy way of saying that we start a new life rooted in Christ -- and when we do that we become heirs of this eternal life.

In the OT inheritance and salvation was about temporal real estate -- but in the NT that focus shifts to eternal real estate with Jesus. It’s not that having the land is unimportant or bad -- it’s just that it pales in value to the inheritance of eternal life -- resurrection life.

So in a good portion of the Old Testament it’s all about the promised land and living into the promises of that inheritance. But in the New Testament that land inheritance is not even mentioned.

I think the only time that land becomes the focus is in the book of Acts -- at the end of the second chapter when people were selling off their land in order to provide for those in need.

Then in Acts 5, Annanias and Sapphira sell off land and pretend that they are using the proceeds to care for the needy but are really keeping it for themselves -- and that leads to drama.

Otherwise, real estate -- either personal or national -- is pretty much a none issue in the NT.

You see, land by definition is always a temporal entitlement because the planet as we know it is temporary -- relatively speaking -- but eternity by definition is outside the bounds of decay.

Therefore, it is a priceless inheritance.

You may have land in your family that is passed as an inheritance down from generation to generation. Or perhaps you have investments that you’re going to hand off to your children and your grandchildren.

And all that is great -- assuming a natural disaster or family conflict or economic downturn doesn’t wipe it all out at some point. It’s always at risk.

But our eternal inheritance is risk-free and safe because it is under heavenly guard.


vs. 4 again -- “...and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.”

A little bunny trail here -- This is actually quite a fun verse in the original Greek. Peter plays with the words when he describes three characteristics of our inheritance. Each Greek word begins with the same letter and ends with the same syllable:
  • imperishable (aphtharton),
  • undefiled (amianton), and
  • unfading (amaranton)
I know most people could care less about what this looks like in Greek -- and that’s fine. But I just mention it because it shows that 1 Peter is a very sophisticated piece of literature.

And some people reading this letter are wondering how Peter the uneducated Jewish fisherman pulls off such a sophisticated play on words in Greek.

I am guessing that he had help from Silas -- who co-wrote this letter (as I mentioned earlier). Silas seemed to be the well-educated partner -- a Roman citizen, that the Jewish church leaders loved having as their sidekick. But that’s another story for another day.

Sorry for wandering off here -- but my scholar/teacher side sometimes gets revved up and it’s probably good to at least occasionally remind ourselves that the Bible isn't just casually thrown together. What they are saying is well-thought out and well presented.

But back to the point -- that our resurrection inheritance is safe and secure under heavenly guard. It is pure, undefiled, and out of reach of change and decay.

It is safe because it is in a safe place. The things which naturally affect an inheritance do not apply -- no inflation -- no decay.

Two weeks ago police in the small town of Barabanki, Northern India, announced that they were investigating an incident in which termites ate 10 million rupees ($222,000) in currency notes that had been stored inside a steel chest at a bank.

You think you money is safe in a bank -- in a steel box -- in a vault. I know that on Guam the termites would occasionally eat their way up through concrete floors -- but not through steel.

If you want to keep your assets safe from those nasty critters you’d think that a steel box would be the ultimate protection.

You might think that you are going to be able to live off the assets of the family farm in Kentucky -- until Wednesday when the tornadoes dropped down and ripped the whole thing to shreds.

Now there is certainly nothing left to pass on to the children and grandchildren. No inheritance.

Vs. 5 -- “And through faith, God is protecting you by his power...”

This doesn’t mean that you won’t get hurt or lose everything to the bad guys or the bad storm -- but that “by faith you are protected” in the matters that ultimately count.

Another quick bunny trail here. There are a couple of ways that the beginning of vs 5 can be translated and some versions of the Bible do it one way and some the other.

Is it through the faithfulness of Jesus that our inheritance is guarded OR through our own faith that God guards us? It can be read either way in the Greek. And both are true.

I am, however, inclined to go with the translations which emphasize the faithfulness of God or Jesus -- at least that’s my take on it this week. And that is because the emphasis here in vs. 5 isn’t on us -- what we do -- but on God as faithful and powerful guard.

Jesus is both the inheritance and the guard of the inheritance.

vs. 5 -- “Through his faithfulness, you are guarded by God’s power so that you can receive the salvation he is ready to reveal in the last time.”
The Jews divided time into two eras -- the present age -- “which is wholly under the domination of evil.” (Barclay)

And then there is the age to come -- the golden age of God. Then between those two eras sits the transition era -- the “last time” -- which includes the great day of judgment and the remaking of creation -- the new heaven and the new earth.

Christians have from the time of Jesus believed that we are living in the edge of the last time -- in a holding pattern circling and ready to land when the time is right -- some have believed that we are not just in a holding pattern, circling with the airport in view, but that we have actually begun the descent into the last time.

And while the “last time” is a scary time for the world it is a time of deliverance from evil for believers. The day when we receive our inheritance.

And Peter’s point here in vs. 5 is that you may be going through difficult times now, while circling in the holding pattern, but deliverance is close. So you shouldn’t buckle under the pressure.

As a matter of fact, you can thrive through the trials.

Vs. 7 --
"These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 
8 You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.”
Thus the fourth observation:  WE’RE LIVING OFF THE FUTURE.

Now when to comes to running a household or even a country living off the future may not be such a good thing but this is different because of the resources of the inheritance are without limit. And God wants his people to live off the future when it comes to eternal life.

In Matthew 6 Jesus puts it this way:
19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
There is a saying: “He is so heavenly minded that he is of no earthly good.”

I want to suggest that if a person is truly heavenly minded he will always be of great earthly good -- and that’s because if you are banking on God -- you will be practicing resurrection living here and now. You will ooze with the hope that the world needs.

Yes, even in these less than ideal circumstances you will become an agent of hope -- living hope.

Are you lacking in hope now -- draw on some hope from the future. Stay strong. Trust Christ Jesus.
These difficulties that you are going through
now won’t break you -- they’ll just firm you up.

The pain is for your gain. They’ll make you stronger and as you pass the test add to your joy.

5th, and finally, Peter identifies the nature of the inheritance. That is THE INHERITANCE IS ULTIMATE SALVATION

Vs. 10 -- .
“This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. 11 They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward. 
12 They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.”.
The unfolding of ultimate salvation is so engaging that even the angels -- you know, the heavenly messengers who are used to this kind of business -- even the angels are watching every move with eagerness -- they’re glued to their TVs.

This is what the prophets had been pointing to -- and what they wanted to better understand because they only got to talk about bits and pieces of the message -- and even those were incomplete -- it’s now out in the open and it’s close.
“But now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.”
We’re all witnesses -- Christ crucified, Christ risen, Christ will come again.

In churches which use a more established and liturgical form of communion there is a line in the liturgy that is called the “memorial acclamation.”

And it comes right after the part where the pastor says “For as often as you eat this bread and drink from this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

He then says: "Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith." And together everyone says -- and ideally with lots of gusto -- "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again."

It’s a powerful dramatic moment -- especially if you’re going through a rough spot in life -- to be reminded of the reality of our inheritance.

Here is the key point this morning: In spite of the fact that we face opposition and suffering -- in spite of the fact that we can get pretty beat up -- we can still live joyfully and confidently because of our resurrection-rooted heavenly guarded inheritance.

And I would invite you to embrace your inheritance. Turn to Christ -- not just during some moment of spiritual drama -- but daily -- every moment. Turn from everything that is anti-God to all that is pro-God -- pro-Christ. Trust him. Entrust your life to him -- in spite of the push back that you’ll experience at times.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. 
6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.
And that is the good news.

Let’s pray: Gracious God, heavenly Father, we are so rich because you are so generous. You have saved us so often in the past and we are trusting you to save us on into eternity. Take our lives. We belong to you. Turn us into practitioners of resurrection. Amen.

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