Bible Passage: 1 Peter 1:3-9
Pastor: Pastor Berg
Sermon Date: April 23, 2017
On June 23, 1910, John Mott delivered the closing address of the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh. The Conference marked the beginning of what is known as the ecumenical movement—where churches of different beliefs work together to spread the gospel. Mott’s words were a powerful appeal to missionary action, inspired by the hope that the final goal of all Christian missions would soo be reached. He began with these words, God grant that all of us may in these next moments solemnly resolve henceforth so to plan and so to act, so to live and so to sacrifice, that our spirit of reality may become contagious among those to whom we go: and mit it be that the words of the Archbishop (here he refers to some saying of Archbishop Davidson of Canterbury) shall prove to be a splendid prophecy, and that before many of us taste death we shall see the Kingdom of God come with power.”
Mott believed much of Jesus’ apostles still believed before he ascended into heaven, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Both were looking for an earthly kingdom, a Christian nation or even a Christian world. They longed for glory on earth for the Church! However, their hopes were shattered as four years later the First World War broke out. Seven years after that conference, Bolshevism started the greatest persecution which has ever threatened the existence of the church. Forty years later, China was conquered by Bolshevism, and the Christian missionaries were forced to leave the greatest mission field of the contemporary world. But despite those setbacks, there are still those who believe that the Church is guaranteed physical and material blessings—success today! I’m going to read you a quote from a devotion given by arguably the largest and most “successful” church in the United States. “Abraham was the first Hebrew person, and God birthed the nation of Israel through him. If you study all the Scriptures, you will find that God said to Abraham, ‘I will multiply you, increase you, and make you powerful!’ That’s what God wants to do in your life. This is your legacy and your inheritance. God wants to increase you in every area. He wants to increase your finances.” This idea that the world is going to become a better place; that it will eventually be a Christian world; that GOd has promised nothing but blessings for those who truly believe in him is called the “Theology of Glory.”
According to the “Theology of Glory,” our inheritance, our legacy in this life is an increase in every area—including our finances. How’s that working out for you right now? Has your retirement portfolio recovered from the collapse of the economy? Are you padding your pocketbook as we pay nearly higher prices for everything? And even if you are, how long do you really think it’s going to last? There’s a bumper sticker I’ve seen on the back of some rather expensive vehicles that says, “we’re spending our children’s inheritance.” There’s some pretty famous people who have done that and more. Mark Twain, the author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn lost the vast majority of the $4 million he earned in his lifetime. Buffalo Bill Cody, who earned $30 million, died so poor there wasn’t even enough money to pay his funeral expenses. There are so many modern athletes who have done the same. Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight champion of the world was lost more than $400 million.
Tragically, there have been many people who have put their trust in earthly things—in money, in possessions, in jobs and careers that are bound to spoil, perish, or fade. And when that happens, there’s nothing left for them. There’s no hope. The hope they had turned out to be empty. You know, Martin Luther once said, “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope. No farmer would sow one grain of corn if he did not hope it would grow and become seed; …no merchant or tradesman would see himself work if he did not hope to reap the benefit.” How tragic to end up penniless and without hope because you put your trust in the wrong thing!
With all that’s going on in our world today, isn’t that a common fear? We’re afraid of poverty. But it’s not only financial poverty we’re talking about—it’s spiritual poverty too! And contrary to what some churches will tell you today, God never promises that we’ll be financially rich. He never once says that if we “expand our faith that we should expect to be increased in every area of our lives.” He promises that he’ll be with us and take care of us. And he also promises that we have no reason to fear spiritual poverty! Why? Because of Easter. Listen to what Peter says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, into an inheritance that is undying, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. Through faith you are being protected by God’s power for the salvation that is ready to be revealed at the end of time.” All of us by nature are born into spiritual poverty. King David wrote, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” The wages of sin is death—even if we were born that way. Paul writes, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” Even from the time of conception, we were so consumed by sin that it left us spiritually lifeless, poverty stricken, and hopelessly headed for hell. But God changed our natural condition. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” God caused you and me to be born again. And just as a baby isn’t born because the baby chooses to be conceived, so you too couldn’t choose to ask Jesus to come into your life or decided to give your life over to him. Our spiritual rebirth and resurrection is entirely the work of God. Literally Peter says, “He caused us to be born again.” How? “Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Through Easter! God created the faith in our hearts that trusts in everything Christ has done for us. We had nothing to do with it. His death on the cross paid for every one of our sins!
But Christ’s resurrection from the dead does more for you and me than just take away our sins. It gives us wealth—spiritual wealth. By his great mercy he gave us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, into an inheritance that is undying, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. Through faith you are being protected by God’s power for the salvation that is ready to be revealed at the end of time.” You have been written into God’s will. And so, you are rich. Never mind how much money you have or how much debt you have. In the big picture, these things are completely insignificant. You can’t take any of it with you. But the inheritance Jesus died to earn for you and now lives to give you is “undying, undefiled and unfading.” No taxation can eat it up. No stock market plunge will devalue this inheritance. No earthquake, fire, or flood can ever destroy it. The passage of time will never make it obsolete. Because Jesus lives, you and I will live. Our hope is living because Jesus is living! Our inheritance is certain because it’s not based on our achievements, but on Christ’s! Our inheritance is heaven. Peter uses the Greek equivalent of the word used for the Promised Land of Israel. Just as that physical place was the inheritance of physical Israel, so the inheritance for spiritual Israel is another Promised Land, the Promised Land of heaven! Our inheritance is something we can always count on because the Lord keeps our inheritance ready and waiting for us in a place untouched by sin and time. How rich we are!
“But we not only have a future inheritance that takes away our fear of poverty—we have a present joy! Because of this you rejoice very much, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various kinds of trials so that the proven character of your faith—which is more valuable than gold, which passes away even though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not see him now, yet by believing in him, you are filled with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
The “Theology of Glory” says that the believer will alway be successful and visibly blessed. So why is it that Erma Bombeck is writing books like: “If life is a bowl of cherries, why am I in the pits?” Peter doesn’t preach a “Theology of Glory.” He seems to say something different, doesn’t he? He says, “you have been grieved by various kinds of trials…” That doesn’t sound to glorious, does it? It’s not in the eyes of the world, but it is to the eyes of faith. Peter’s theology, the Bible’s theology is the “Theology of the Cross.” This says that a believer is going to suffer grief because of their allegiance to Christ. The world is going to oppose them because it opposes Christ. But, these trials come not just to make us suffer. No, God allows them for a good purpose! “You have been grieved by various kinds of trials so that the proven character of your faith—which is more valuable than gold, which passes away even though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
When you suffer, God isn’t leaving you. He’s proving your faith. He’s proving to you that your living hope isn’t in your finances or your family or your own life. Your living hope is in your living Savior. God lets trials come to you so that you are forced to trust in him, so that your faith in Jesus will be alive and well when Jesus returns. View your trials as God does—he’s insuring that glorious things will come to you on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed. And even these make us rich!
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not see him now, yet by believing in him, you are filled with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” We heard in the Gospel that doubting Thomas wouldn’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead unless he had proof. It was just too much to believe that three days later he was alive and healthy and walking and talking. He was skeptical: Show me the proof. I’ll believe it when it see it. A week later, when he stood face to face with the proof and saw the nail marks and put his hand into Jesus’ side, then he did believe. Jesus said to doubting Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Like us. We have not seen him, yet we love him because he loved us. We don’t see him now, but we are filled with joy. We can’t express it, but we feel it. We are filled with joy because we’re rich. Because of Easter, there’s no fear of poverty! Because of Easter, we’re rich! Amen