Your Take On Time
Passage: 1 Peter 1:3–1:12
New Life in the Same Old Place
Your Take on Time
I Peter 1:3-12
January 18th, 2009
Way of Grace Church
I. Your Perspective on Your Time
The German-born American physicist Albert Einstein once said this:
"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."
Pretty profound, don't you think? But do we have a better explanation? Do we have a better take on time? We may not be able to say with absolute certainty why time is, but all of us have a perspective on time, specifically a perspective on our time.
Think about this; think, for a minute, about how your perspective on your time shapes who you are. For example, how does your personal perspective on your past shape who you are today? Or we might ask, how does your personal perspective on your present circumstances affect how you navigate those present circumstances? Or how does your perspective on your future influence who are right now?
Last week we embarked on a journey together, a journey through this ancient letter we call I Peter. We learned last week, in 1:1 and 2, that if we belong to Jesus Christ through faith, because of the saving power of the Trinity, as we see in verse 2, then our identity is defined by two equally true spiritual realities: we are "elect exiles", that is, we have been chosen by God so that we might belong to Him through Jesus, but because of our ‘election', we no longer belong to the world; thus we are spiritual strangers, aliens, refugees, exiles.
This is the spiritual vision that Peter uses as he opens the door, as it were, as he launches into the encouragements and instructions and warnings of this letter.
This morning, keeping the opening two verses in mind, let's look together at where Peter goes from there. Turn with me to I Peter 1:3-12.
II. The Passage: "In This You Rejoice" (1:3-12)
No remember, Peter is writing to a number of churches that were established in the northern part of Asia Minor, which is the country we today call Turkey. In harmony with what we tend to see in the book of Acts with new churches in Asia Minor and Greece, most of the people in this church are Gentiles, that is, they are not Jewish, even though many of these churches probably had Jewish members as well.
A. Hope in Light of the Future (1:3-5)
But look with me, as we begin, at verses 3-5.
3 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, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Peter begins here with a praise, doesn't he? How could he not, in light of what he goes on to say. He begins by reminding his readers of how God's mercy was demonstrated in their lives. God's choice of them was made real when they experienced a new birth.
Using the idea of a son in a wealthy household, what Peter reveals here is incredibly important in regard to our perspective on our future.
What is your perspective on your future? Sure, in so many areas, there is simply a question mark when we look ahead. But that doesn't stop us from speculating, does it?
Sometimes we look ahead and we get scared; we begin to worry. What if...what if...my job comes to an end? What if my wife stops loving me? What if the dream in which I've invested so much comes to nothing? What if that friend, that neighbor thinks I'm lame? What if I get a life-threatening illness? What if my kids choose the wrong path? What if sin gets the best of me? What if there is no one for me out there? What if my death is only days away? So many things could happen? An accident. An anurism. A terrorist attack.
We think more about our future than we often care to admit. But what does Peter tell us here about our future, if we are sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ?
Well, if we have born again, born into God's family because of the cross of Jesus, than our perspective on our future should be radically shaped by "a living hope". And that hope, as we see in verse 3, is founded on a historical fact: Jesus beat death. He didn't cheat death; He beat it. He did die, but death could not hold Him. Jesus is alive.
What does that mean for us? It means that as sons and daughters of the king, we have an inheritance through God's risen and living and reigning Son. And what is this inheritance? Well, we're not told specifically, but I think from what we are told we're safe in saying that our inheritance is salvation (v.5) from death in order to enjoy the heavenly riches (v.4) of resurrection life with Christ (v. 3).
I think we worry about the future so often because we live in such an uncertain world that is changing all the time. The economy goes sour. Things fall apart. Feelings go cold. Accidents happen. Mistakes are made.
But don't you love what Peter tells us here about our future. The inheritance that awaits us is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you... That's better than any treasure the world can offer kept in the most secure vault known to man. Earthly treausure perishes, it can be defiled, it does fade. And in can be stolen. And in the end, every earthly treasure will be burned up in the transforming fire that makes our world God's world once again.
Now, if you're told that you have inheritance money coming to you, it's usually smart not to spend it before you actually have the check in your hand. You should be very careful about letting your hope in those riches change things before the proper time. But the living hope of our future inheritance with Christ should absolutely change things right now. Don't be afraid. Don't worry. Don't despair.
Live lavishly with faith right now in the spiritual riches that will be yours fully one day, in Jesus Christ. Don't live in the poverty of worry, or fear, or doubt, or despair. Live in the richness of hope.
B. Joy in Light of the Present (1:6-9)
But look at how Peter connects and then redirects his reader's perspective in verses 6-9:
6 In this you rejoice [in what? In the living hope of your future inheritance of a forever life with God...in this you rejoice], though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 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 honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 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, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Did you see the time-shift in that passage? Two times Peter employs the word "now" (v. 6 and v.8). Peter has talked to them about the future, but now, now, he wants to address their present circumstances.
He first acknowledges and encourages them in the fact that their future reward is in fact bring them joy in the present. But a spiritually lavish life in the Father's house seems out of step with their current situation.
Things are not great in the "now". These Christians, as Peter writes in verse 6, have been grieved by various trials. They are suffering. Their future might be all about their identity as a chosen child of the King, but their present is presently consumed by the difficulty of being a foreigner in a hostile land.
Is that how you feel...presently? Do you feel grieved? Do you feel like your "now" is being overwhelmed by various trials...or maybe just one gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, anger-inducing, sorrow-inspiring, hope-killing trial?
If all of us are not there, all of us have been there, and will probably be there again. And usually when you're grieved by trials, when you are experiencing the pain of suffering through difficult times and difficult feelings and difficult relationships, usually that colors everything; it affects how you treat others, how you handle your daily concerns, and how you think about yourself.
Sometimes our take on our present circumstances leads us to throw a pity party for ourselves. Or maybe we begin to see ourselves as the unluckiest loser to ever walk the planet. Or maybe we just angry, and then angrier, until that anger explodes.
But look at the perspective Peter gives us here. Yes, his readers were being grieved by various trials, but look at the time phrase Peter uses to qualify this suffering in verse 6: though now for a little while...A little while! Now matter how long you suffer as an exile, in light of your eternal inheritance, it's just a little while.
But there's more. Peter reminds them that their problems are purposeful, that their suffering is serving God's sovereign plans. Like the fire is purposeful in refining gold, God was using these "various trials" to refine something far more valuable: the faith of every believer to whom Peter wrote.
Brothers and sisters, when we struggle, as we struggle, we must always encourage one another to see our present circumstances as more than just painful. If we are chosen children of the Father, we need to see them as purposeful. And though God always has reasons we can't even begin to understand in this life, as he weaves the different fabrics of our experiences according to his artistry, we can say, at the very least, that God's purpose it refine our faith.
Do we believe in that God is our Father through Jesus? Do we believe that there is an inheritance that will be ours? Do we believe we are truly new because of Christ? Our trials test those very beliefs, don't they?
And what does genuine faith look like in the midst of the gunk and junk? Verse 8: 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, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
When our perspective on our present is shaped by genuine faith, it is marked by an unquenchable, unabashed love for Jesus. In the midst of your most difficult times, is your love for Jesus Christ unmistakable? Even though you have not seen him, even though I have not seen him with these eyes, do we see Him in the midst of our hurt? Do we love Him, knowing that He first loved us and that His love is irrevocable?
If we do love him, then it makes sense that Peter goes on to say, we also rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. This is not any average, everyday, run-of-the-mill kind of joy. This is inexpressible joy. This is glory-filled joy. This is joy that can only come from love for Jesus Christ.
When we feel unloved, we rejoice in the fact that we are loved perfectly by Him. When we feel weak, we rejoice in the fact that we are strong in Him. When we feel attacked, we rejoice in the fact that we are firm in Him. When we feel despairing, we rejoice in the fact that our hope is in Christ. No words can express joy like that.
Right now, in this very moment, in your present circumstances, is your perspective shaped by the love and joy that can only come from new life?
C. Humility in Light of the Past (1:10-12)
But there's more here. Look at what else Peter tells us about salvation, rescue through Jesus:
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
All of us have a history, don't we? While all of us are shaped by what we've done and where we've been and what we've seen, for some of us, there are things in our past that cast a long shadow over our present.
Peter will go on the next few verses to remind his readers about "the passions of [their] former ignorance" (v. 14) and the "futile ways [they] inherited from [their] forefathers" (v. 18). But before that, in the passage we just read, we see that He wants them to consider far more important truths about the past.
If we work backwards, beginning in verse 12, we see that for Peter the critical moments of their past have nothing to do with how they failed in this or that way, or how they were victimized in this or that way, or how even how they succeeded in this or that way. No he wants to talk about when they heard the "good news", the gospel. It had been "announced", past tense. It had been "preached to them", past tense.
Just as their inheritance is kept in heaven for that future time (v. 4), their past is characterized by the Holy Spirit being sent from heaven (v. 12). God's Spirit empowered God's word in the mouths of those who announced and preached.
If you are truly a Christian, not because you were born that way, but because you were born again, as the very first past tense verb in verse 3 tells us, God the Father has caused us to be born again; if true is the moment you heard and believed the gospel the most defining moment of your life. It should be. It must be, because that's when you truly began to live.
But there's more about the past here, isn't there?
This good news that was preached, and continues to be preached, was foretold hundreds and hundreds of years before Peter and his listeners were on the scene. We're told here that prophets of the Old Testament "prophesied about the grace that was to be" ours one day.
But their understanding was sketchy enough and shadowy enough that it caused them to "search and inquire carefully about, probably not what "person" or time, but a better rendering would be, "what and what kind of time" the Spirit of Christ himself was pointing to as they predicted what was to come in regard to the Messiah in terms of his horrible suffering and glorious reign.
As Hebrews suffering in various ways socially and politically, these guys wanted to know when the rescue of the Messiah would come, when the Messianic Age would begin.
What Peter tells us is that God revealed to them they were serving not themselves, not simply their people in their time, but they were serving us through their words, Jews and Gentiles chosen by the grace of God to be followers of Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters, for us, the past should fill us with a sense of humility in light of the privilege we have as heirs of such a salvation. If you are a follower of Jesus, then the new life you have is so wonderful, that (v. 12) even angels long to look, or more literally, to "bend over". Their bending and stretching in order to see and understand exactly how God has decreed and designed and carried out this incredible plan of deliverance.
Prophets spoke for our sake. Angels desire to figure out the very news preached to us...to us. That has to change the way you look at you and the past. Don't let what your parents said, but instead what the prophets said, characterize your take on the past. Don't let what this or that person shouted, but instead, let the good news that was preached be the thing you always remember.
Don't let your birth into this or that family, into this or that series of circumstances, into this or that kind of station in life, define you. Rather, let that new birth into God's family shape your perspective on the past.
III. Time and Trust
Time. If you're trying to live out new life in this same old place, what's your take on time? One fact about what should shape our take on time is abundantly clear from this passage. Four times in these 10 verses, Peter uses some form of the Greek word pistis, the word for "faith", "trust", "belief" or "believe".
Did you see what this passage teaches us about faith? We are "guarded through faith" (v. 4). Our faith, if genuine, is "more precious than gold" (v. 7) Our faith will one day result in "praise and glory and honor" when Jesus returns (v. 7). Our faith enables us to rejoice in a Lord we cannot see (v. 8). Our faith makes "salvation" possible (v. 9), a salvation that began through faith, and will one day be completed in faith, as we fully and perfectly realize the righteousness that was always our by God's declaration.
Listen, I'm no fan of "revisionist history", but through faith, through those lenses that enable us to see who God is, what God has done, what God is doing, and what God will do, we need to revise our personal history.
I've heard it said that history is really "his story". In the same way, we need to see our story as his story. If you were to tell someone else the story of your life, would it be absolutely clear that the hero of the story was Jesus Christ?
Faith allows us to see that my life, your life, is not merely A.D. and B.C.; Christian and before Christ. Faith allows us to see our past as God's perfect process of preparation for the hour we first believed.
Faith allows me to see that my life is not merely all the stuff I have to put up with and get through right now. Faith allows us to see our present as God's perfect process of preparation for a tried and true trust.
Faith allows you to see that your life is not merely a collection of decision ultimately made pointless by chance and death. Faith allows you to see that your future is most clearly defined by the certainty of new life, forever, in the presence of God.
Brothers and sisters, Peter wrote in order to feed the faith of his first readers. He wanted to fill the fuel tank of their faith with truth about what God had done, was doing, and would most definitely do in the days to come.
Has your faith-tank been filled this morning? Your take on time must be a matter of trust in God and His truth.
The overwhelming reality of your past should not be about your sin or someone else's sin against you. The overwhelming reality of your present should not be your suffering. The overwhelming reality of your future should not be speculations of what might be.
The overwhelming reality in all of YOUR time should be the other word repeated in every one of our sections this morning: salvation. Not sin, not suffering, not speculations, but salvation, deliverance, rescue.
If you are in Christ by faith, God has saved you, is saving you, and will save you. Saved from the penalty of sin, being saved from the power of sin, and one day, saved from the very presence of sin.
But in all of it, saved by God and for God through Jesus.
One of my favorite Christian musicians growing up was a singer/songwriter/producer by the name of Charlie Peacock. In a song that came out about 20 years ago, a song called "The Secret of Time", he said this:
"Time is gift of love and grace. Without time, there'd be no time to change; time to be tried, humbled, and broken. Time to hear the words of love spoken." At the end of the song he made this faith-shaped observation, "I can see what a great and grand act of affection it's all been; time, that is...talking about time."
A physicist might humorously talk about time in a way that a physicist would. But a child of God, through faith, knows that all time, including our time, belongs to God: your past, your present, and your future.