An Imperishable Inheritance

1 Peter 1:3-5

September 20, 2014 | Brian Bill

In order to reinforce the truth that we are strangers living in a strange land,  I decided to scatter the staff during our staff meeting.  We gathered in the parking lot and then fanned out on all points of the compass to do some prayer walking through the neighborhoods.  When we got back to the office I asked the team to email me their impressions, thoughts, insights and feelings.  Here’s some of what they wrote.

  • I noticed many religious statues in the neighborhoods and prayed that they would turn to Yahweh the one true living God.
  • I saw many older people looking out their windows and prayed that they would be invited to our senior ministry.
  • I prayed that our church would get a passion for our community; may we turn it upside down for Christ!
  • Invisible fences work.
  • I asked God to be with people of the neighborhood to see our church as a shining light and that if there was one lost or in need they may call to God for help.  Made me think of all the other neighbors we probably don’t know about who need God and a home church.
  • Many homes had evidence that there are children living there.  Prayed specifically that we would reach them for Christ.
  • I was able to talk to a neighbor who was out watering her plants.  She made the comment that we have a lot of people attending here and a lot of things going on.  She mentioned that she is worried about all the things going on in the world today. 
  • The thing that kept running through my mind was what do we need to do to reach the people in this neighborhood?
  • Praying for young families moving into our neighborhood and the changing dynamics.
  • Note to self: Don’t drink a large cup of coffee before going on a prayer walk…almost had to do some door-to-door canvassing just to ask to use the bathroom!

As I walked up and down our neighborhood, I was struck by how many people drive right by our facility and see our church sign every day.  I prayed that people would repent of their sins and seek out the Savior for salvation.  I prayed for the hopeless to find living hope through Christ.  

We are picking up in 1 Peter,  “Living Hope: Seeking Holiness in a Hostile World.”   We’re going to discover today that God guards what He gives.  Let’s stand and read 1 Peter 1:3-5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

After his brief introductory comments in the opening verses, Peter busts out into praise in verse 3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…”  God is inherently worthy of being praised.  We get our word eulogy from the word “blessed.”  We’re called to speak well of God as we praise our Sovereign God and His Son.  Peter uses a three-fold title here – our “Lord” refers to the Old Testament name Adonai.  The name “Jesus” means Savior and “Christ” is the word Messiah, or anointed One.

He chooses to praise.

Once Peter starts off praising, he can’t stop – in the Greek the section in verses 3-9 make up one sentence. John Piper’s insight into this passage is helpful.  He points out that Peter begins with wonder and worship instead of with worry.  He chooses to praise instead of focusing on problems and persecution.  In short, he starts with God.  As he writes to scattered believers he wants them to know who God is and what He’s done for them.  Friends, when we see God as big, our problems are put in their proper perspective.  When we allow our problems to control everything, we can barely see God.

Let me make another point.  In weekend services, we are living out the command to gather as God’s people.  It’s easy to think that the singing time is the worship time and that the preaching time is the teaching time.  Actually, all of it is worship.  We praise through song and we worship through the sermon.  We see His majesty through the music and the message.  We don’t end our worship when we come to the Word; we continue our worship as we honor His Word.  Piper refers to preaching as worshipful exposition.  The same can be said about the offering.  We give as part of worship, as an expression of our exaltation of the Almighty and as a reminder that we’ve been given everything we have. 

Gathering, growing, giving and going is all worship.  Friends, all sound theology must begin and end with doxology.  Preaching must begin and end with praising.  It’s interesting that 1 Peter 1:3 is identical to 2 Corinthians 1:3 and Ephesians 1:3.  Both Peter and Paul can’t help but praise when they contemplate what is ours in Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

When you’re going through problems or persecution the best thing to do is to praise God.  Let’s remember that it’s all about God and not about us.  We could say it like this, because God guards what He gives, we can praise him for at least six things.

Because God guards what He gives, let’s praise Him…

1. For His abundant mercy. 

Look at the next phrase in verse 3: “Who according to His abundant mercy…”  Here’s a news flash – it’s all about God’s mercy, not your merit.  The word “abundant” means “large, much, many, a superlative amount.”  God’s mercy, great in magnitude, is extended to miserable people, like you, and like me.  There is no sin too great that His infinite and super abundant mercy cannot cover.  Ephesians 2:4 says, “God is rich in mercy.”

Because God guards what He gives, let’s praise Him…

2. For new birth. 

According to God’s abundant mercy He “has begotten us again.” This literally reads, “Has caused us to be born again.”  Peter loves to bring up the new birth.  He refers to rebirth again in 1:23: “Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.”

Peter is simply reiterating what Jesus said.  Just as each of us have had a physical birth when we were born, so too we need a spiritual birth if we want to go to heaven.  In his conversation with Nicodemus one night, he made this abundantly clear in John 3:3.  BTW, this is the first Nick at Night episode: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Whenever we get the privilege of being with people when God causes them to be born again, it can be helpful to ask when their birthday is.  He or she will then tell you the month and day and year of their birth.  Then, ask them to tell you that day’s date.  When they do, tell them that today is their spiritual birthday and to never forget it because from that time forward they will have two birthdays every year.

Being born again is critical.  Jesus said that it’s the only way to enter the kingdom of God.  One pastor tells of an interaction he had on a run. He went out for his run and saw a car stalled on a busy street.  He could tell the driver was from Africa so he immediately went over to help her.  After pushing her car to the side of the road, a local police officer stopped to help.  BTW, I want to give a shout out to all those in law enforcement, EMTs and fire fighters.  Thanks for serving our community!  

Are you born again?

He wasn’t a  Mr. Goodwrench but he quickly diagnosed that she was out of gas.  He called his wife  and asked her to bring some gas and she arrived within minutes.  He didn’t have much time to talk with this woman but he did learn that she’s from Liberia and that two of her family members have died of Ebola.  They gave her a Soul Satisfaction booklet and because he didn’t have much time he decided to ask her what I believe is the main question of life: Are you born again?  She mumbled something about going to church so he invited her to his church and she drove away. Let me lay that question out to you.  Are you born again?  It’s a straightforward question that demands a straight answer.  Someone put it like this: If you’re born once, you die twice; if you’re born twice, you die once.

Because God guards what He gives, let’s praise Him…

3. For living hope. 

It’s hard to hold on to hope when our world seem so hopeless, isn’t it?  With anti-Christian antagonism growing, it’s hard to be filled with hope.  Did you remember hearing the news when the Air Force dropped the “So Help Me God” requirement in their enlistment oath?  

It’s striking to me how the NFL has been so slow to respond to domestic violence and potential child abuse situations among its superstars.  Several years ago, an Arizona Cardinals player was arrested for head butting his wife.  With all of this brewing, the NFL was quick to lower the boom on Robert Griffin III, the Christian quarterback of the Washington Commanders, when he was forced to turn his t-shirt inside out because this phrase was displayed prominently, “Know Jesus, Know Peace.” 

I also heard about two other football incidents years ago where expressions of faith were excised.

The first was at Arkansas State University where its football team has been forced to remove crosses from their helmets.  The second is a public school football coach who claims he was terminated from his position for allowing players in Tucson, Arizona, to pray before and after games.  Apparently, school officials gave him an ultimatum – tell players to stop praying or he would lose his position.  He refused and was dismissed and is reportedly no longer permitted on school property.

When we’re discouraged by stories like this, we can hold on to hope.  The people in Peter’s day were being persistently persecuted.  I like how Peter doesn’t mention hope as something lifeless but instead as alive: “To a living hope…”   It can actually be translated “into a lively hope.” 

Hope is not only hard to find; it’s difficult to define.  Some equate hope with an optimistic feeling that all will turn out well.  We hear this every spring from Cubs fans – it kind of fades every fall though, doesn’t it?  

 Here are a couple Bible-based definitions of hope that are very helpful: Hope is a future certainty grounded in a present reality.  Here’s another one: Hope is wishing for what God has already promised us. 

In the Old Testament hope means, “to bind together, often by twisting.”  It refers to the process of making a rope by taking at least two strands of material and twisting them together.  Understood in this way, hope means that I bring my pain to the Lord on the one hand and on the other hand I hold specific promises of God.  To hope means to wrap my problems together with God’s promises.

We could say it this way: Hold on to the rope of hope when it’s hard to cope.  Ecclesiastes 4:12 adds God’s provision to His promises and our problems: “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  The third strand is the Lord Jesus Christ, born on Christmas, crucified on Good Friday and raised on Easter.  With Him wrapped around our lives, we are safe and secure.

The word “hope” is used some 52 times in the New Testament and is always connected in some way to God; that’s enough hope for every week of the year!  Is your hope alive today?

Because God guards what He gives, let’s praise Him…

4. For the certainty of the resurrection. 

We see this in the last part of verse 3: “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  Everything is tied to the resurrection.  1 Corinthians 15:17: “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!”

Tim Keller is spot on when he writes, “If Jesus rose from the dead you have to accept all He said; if He didn’t rise from the dead then why worry about anything He said…if Jesus rose from the dead, it changes everything.”  Listen, if you have a past you can’t shake or a present you can’t stomach, or a future you can’t face, you can have hope through the resurrection.  We can be certain of the resurrection.  And since Jesus is alive, our hope is alive!

Because God guards what He gives, let’s praise Him…

5. For our guaranteed inheritance. 

Look at verse 4: “To an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”  In 1949, a man named Jack Wurm was broke and out of job.  One day he was walking along a San Francisco beach when he came across a bottle with a piece of paper in it and discovered that it was the last will and testament of Daisy Singer, heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune.  Here’s what the note said: “To avoid confusion, I leave my entire estate to the lucky person who finds this bottle…”  Twelve years earlier she had thrown the bottle into a river in London where it had drifted across the oceans to the feet of penniless Jack Wurm.  His chance discovery netted him over 6 million dollars in cash and Singer stock.

Would you like for that to happen to you?  Actually if you know Christ, your inheritance is infinitely more than that.  If you are born again, you have become an heir with Christ!  An inheritance is something left behind by someone who has died.  It’s a gift to those living from one who isn’t.  If you’re saved you have an inheritance from one who died but now lives.  The Apostle Paul prayed that believers would grasp the glory of their inheritance in Ephesians 1:18: “That you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”

Jesus put it like this in Matthew 25:34: “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’”  I love what Psalm 16:5 says: “O Lord, you are my inheritance!”  Is He yours?

Peter describes this inheritance in four ways:

  • Cannot be destroyed – “incorruptible.”  Our inheritance will never decay or be destroyed.  Nothing can ruin what is reserved for you because it is incapable of corrosion or corruption.
  • Cannot be defiled – “and undefiled.”  This refers to being stained with color.  No stains will appear on our inheritance because the blood of Jesus has blotted out all our sins.
  • Cannot be decayed – “and that does not fade away.”  It will never decrease in value or wear away or grow dim.  The Wall Street Journal did a study that found 90% of inheritances are depleted by the third generation.  This word is often used for flowers fading and falling.  We see this in James 1:11: “For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes…”
  • It is definite – “reserved in heaven for you.” The word “reserved” refers to keeping an eye on something with constant surveillance.  It’s the idea of being under lock and key.  Would you notice the phrase “for you?”  Peter switches from “us” to “you” to show that this is a personal promise.

Have you seen or heard the common phrase that is attached to almost any investment you may consider?  It goes something like this: “Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.”  Friends, God’s past performance is indicative of future results!  You can count on His promises in the future because of His performance in the past.

Because God guards what He gives, let’s praise Him…

6. For keeping us. 

Aren’t you glad that God keeps you?  He won’t throw you away, forget about you, or disqualify you.  He keeps your inheritance for you and He keeps you for your inheritance in verse 5: “Who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” The story is told of a Scotsman, who was very concise with his words.  He left instructions before he died that he wanted only one word engraved on his tombstone, which was taken right from this verse: KEPT.

God is guarding you.

This is also translated as “protected” and is a military term that refers to a military guard or garrison.  This was no doubt very comforting for those who were getting clobbered for being Christ-followers.  Listen.  No matter how much garbage you’re going through right now, God is guarding you and He will keep you and bring you to the inheritance that He is keeping for you.

In Washington D.C. is the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”  It is very impressive to see how soldiers guard this tomb 24/7/365, rain or shine, sleet or snow, heat or hurricanes.  Nothing takes them off duty.

Upon doing more research, this is what I learned. This information comes from the website of Arlington National Cemetery.

An impeccably uniformed relief commander appears on the plaza to announce the Changing of the Guard. Soon the new sentinel leaves the Quarters and unlocks the bolt of his or her M-14 rifle to signal to the relief commander to start the ceremony. The relief commander walks out to the Tomb and salutes, then faces the spectators and asks them to stand and stay silent during the ceremony.

The relief commander conducts a detailed white-glove inspection of the weapon, checking each part of the rifle once. Then, the relief commander and the relieving sentinel meet the retiring sentinel at the center of the matted path in front of the Tomb. All three salute the Unknown who have been symbolically given the Medal of Honor…When the relief commander passes by, the new sentinel begins walking at a cadence of 90 steps per minute.

The Tomb Guard marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns, faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeats the process. After the turn, the sentinel executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place the weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors to signify that the sentinel stands between the Tomb and any possible threat. 

The Guards of Honor at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are highly motivated and are proud to honor all American service members who are “Known But to God.”

Recently I saw a video of one of these guards who put a laughing tourist in his place.  With his rifle out front, he shouted out: “It is requested that everyone maintains a level of silence and respect.”

If you are born again, you have an inheritance that is protected by God.  On top of that, God guards you 24/7/365.  That should silence us.  You are not unknown but instead if you know Him though the new birth you are “known but to God.”  And that should give us incredible respect and reverence.

Because God guards what He gives, let’s praise Him…

  • For His abundant mercy
  • For new birth
  • For living hope
  • For the certainty of the resurrection
  • For our guaranteed inheritance
  • For keeping us

It was a fog-shrouded morning, July 4, 1952, when a young woman named Florence Chadwick waded into the water off Catalina Island. She intended to be the first woman to swim the 21 miles from the island to the California coast.  Long-distance swimming was not new to her; she had been the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions.

The water was numbing cold that day.  The fog was so thick she could hardly see the boats in her party.  Several times sharks had to be driven away with rifle fire.  She swam more than 15 hours before she asked to be taken out of the water.  Her trainer tried to encourage her to swim on since they were so close to land, but when Florence looked, all she saw was fog.  So she quit…less than one-mile from her goal.

Later she said, “I’m not excusing myself, but if I could have seen the land I might have made it.” It wasn’t the cold or fear or exhaustion that caused Florence Chadwick to fail.  It was the fog.  Are you in the fog today?  Keep your eyes on the shores of heaven.  If you’re born again you have an inheritance reserved for you and God is keeping you for it.  Don’t give up.  Don’t bail.

Two months after her failure, Florence Chadwick walked off the same beach into the same channel and swam the distance, setting a new speed record, because this time she could see the land.

So whether you are walking in the neighborhood or swimming with sharks you can live with living hope…but only if you’re born again.  Are you ready to have a spiritual birth right now?

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?