Born Anew to Hope Through the Resurrection

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on April 4, 2010

1 Peter 1:3-5

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The Lord’s Day Morning

April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday

1 Peter 1:3-5

“Born Anew to Hope, Through the Resurrection”

Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III

The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Let us worship God.

Lord our God we quiet our hearts just now as we come into Your
marvelous presence. Lord
Jesus, You have been raised from the dead.
You know what it is to be alive and dead and alive again forevermore.
We thank You as we think of that extraordinary scene of the women on that
first Easter day as they came to the tomb to anoint Your body but You were not
there. The stone had been rolled
away and the tomb was empty. We
thank You O Lord this morning that Christ is risen from the dead and we thank
You O Lord as we contemplate the resurrection that the Lord Jesus Christ is now
the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.
We thank You that it signals to us victory, victory over death, over the
grave. We thank You that in union
and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ the curse of Eden, the curse of Adam’s first transgression
is undone by the last Adam. We
thank You that He bore the sting of death in our room and in our stead, that
since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.

We thank You that the resurrection signals to us the guarantee of our
justification, that all our sins, though they be red like crimson, have been
dealt with, have been punished to the full in Christ so that in union with the
risen Christ sin can never condemn us again.
We thank You that in Christ we have a right relationship with You, our
Father in heaven. He is our
substitute. He is our sin bearer
and His resurrection signals to us that You have fully accepted all that He did
on our behalf, raising Him from the dead as a signal that all that He did was
perfect. We thank You O Lord that
in the resurrection of Christ we have the prospect of a new life which is to
come, for Christ is the resurrection and the life and for he that believes in
Him, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and he that lives and believes in
Him shall never die. We thank You O
Lord that we have this absolute assurance because if Christ is not raised, our
faith is vain and we are yet in our sins.
And they that have fallen asleep in Christ are perished if in this life
we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable.

But we thank You O Lord that His resurrection signals to us that we too shall
rise. We shall rise from our
graves, we shall rise with new resurrection bodies to live in the new heavens
and new earth. We shall not all
sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at
the last trump, for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised
incorruptible and we shall be changed for this corruptibleness put on
incorruption and this mortalness put on immortality.
And when this corruptible shall put on incorruption and this mortal shall
have put on immortality then shall be brought to pass the saying that is
written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.
Oh death, where is your sting?
Oh grave, where is your victory?
The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law, but thanks
be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Our Father we bless You this morning for this astonishing, marvelous assurance
that is our in union with Christ that we are You children and we are heirs and
joint heirs with Jesus Christ. May
the joy and assurance and privileges of union with the resurrected Christ fill
our lives today. We ask it for
Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Amen. If you have your Bibles I’d
invite you to turn with me to 1 Peter chapter 1.
We’re going to look at verses 3 to 5 and especially we’re going to look
at the final phrase, the full, the second complete sentence in verse 3.
People cannot live without hope, but what we hope in will determine
whether we have real life or a shame substitute.
What you hope in is determinative of the quality of your life.

Now Peter has something to say to us in this passage today about hope.
One of the commentators that I was reading this morning said that,
“Whereas Paul could be characterized as the apostle of faith, and John could be
characterized as the apostle of love, Peter can be characterized as the apostle
of hope.” And that’s true.
Peter was a man who knew both about false hope and true hope.
He’s a man who knew what it feels like to be hopeless and then to be
given a new and true hope. And so
he has something to say to us today about hope.
Let’s pray before we hear his words.

Lord, You had Peter write these things down over nineteen centuries ago, but
Peter himself tells us that these are not ultimately his words.
They are the Holy Spirit’s words written through him.
They are God’s words for us.
We need Your words O Lord and Your words have never ever failed us.
They are both true and good, so open our eyes to behold them and to
understand them and to believe them and to walk in them.
We ask this in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

This is God’s Word. Hear it:

“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.”

Amen and thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant Word.
May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.

Three years ago this week in April of 2007 my friend John Piper was invited to
be one of the speakers at Rez Week at Texas A&M, where over 5,000 Christian
students gather year after year to hear some of the most famous preachers of the
world come in and preach the Gospel.
It’s a time of encouragement for believers and outreach for unbelievers.
But John Piper is perhaps, under God, the pastor that has been used as
much or more than anyone in the resurgence of Reformation Theology amongst young
people, not only in the English speaking world but even in the global south.
And he had been invited to speak at the culminating service on Friday and
he was going to be speaking on the power of the resurrection from 1 Corinthians
15. He had the students turn to 1
Corinthians 15, he read the passage, and then before he began the sermon, he
said,

“I need to tell you something. My
wife and I met for lunch yesterday which is our habit on every Thursday.
I had been praying for some time about a very important subject that I
wanted to talk with my wife about, a weighty subject.
We had that conversation and it went very badly.
My wife and I have hardly spoken a word since yesterday at lunch.
We tried to speak yesterday afternoon but all I wanted to do was cry.
We always pray on our knees.
I read from a devotional at night and then we pray, Noel first and then me, and
I was able to read and we were able to pray, but we really couldn’t even speak
to one another last night. And when
I left this morning we didn’t have the opportunity to speak.
I had to go get to the airport and get to the plane and fly here.
I kissed her on the cheek and I said, ‘Noel, this is my problem and we’ll
talk about it when I get back.’ And
I got on the plane and I haven’t spoken to her since.”

“Now the reason I’m telling you this is
because first of all, I don’t want you to think too highly of any man.
You have all these famous preachers flying in on planes to preach to you
this week and they’re sinners and they need the Gospel too.
Secondly, I want you to know that I need the power of the resurrection
every bit as much as you do. And
thirdly, I want you to know because I know some of you are coming here today
guilty and struggling with sexual sin and all kinds of discouragements.
I want you to know that you need the power of the resurrection as well.”

And if you’ll Google “John Piper Rez Week Texas A&M” you’ll get to the audio and
video of this

Well, for the rest of the talk all you could hear was the pages of 5,000 Bibles
turning. They were absolutely
locked in on what the pastor had to say.

Why do I tell you that? Because
some of you are here today and you think that if only you could be a better
Christian you wouldn’t be having the problems that you’re having in your
marriage, with your children, with your parents, with your job, or wherever it
is you’re having problems in life.
Your hope is if you could just be a better Christian things will get better.
And I’m here to tell you some bad news.
If that’s where you are, your hope’s in the wrong place.

Peter, in this passage, says there’s one
place only for the Christian hope.
And it’s not that things that are hard now will get easier, things that are bad
now will get better, the problems that are weighing us down now will go away,
and that’s where we get our hope from.
That’s not where he says we get our hope from.

Our hope comes from someplace else.

So I wonder how many of you have come here tired and frustrated and disappointed
or fearful or confused or angry or bitter or defeated or without hope and you’re
looking for some hope somewhere but you’re looking for it in the wrong place.

Well, I have some good news for you.
It may not be the good news that you’re expecting but I do have good news
for you.

John Piper, in that introduction, said these words — “I love the death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ not because they turn my life into a string of
successes, but because they keep me from collapsing under a string of failures.”
So if you’re tired and frustrated and disappointed and fearful and
confused and angry and bitter and defeated and without hope I’ve got some good
words for you this morning and those words are anchored in the resurrection of
Jesus Christ.

I want us to look at this passage and really I want you to especially zero in on
the second part of verse 3 —

“According to His great mercy, He (that is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ) has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection
of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

That’s the phrase especially that I want us to concentrate on and I just want us
to do two things. I want us to ask
and answer “What does Peter mean?” and then secondly I want us to ask and answer
“What does what Peter says mean for you?”
What does it mean and what does it mean for you?

I. What does Peter mean?

Well let’s look closely at what Peter says here.
Peter says, “According to His great mercy, God the Father” — God your
Father, if you’re trusting in Jesus Christ; God who is the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ who is His only begotten Son — “God the Father has caused us
to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from
the dead.” Look at three things
that Peter says very clearly there.

First of all he tells us that God our Father and the Father of the Lord Jesus
Christ has graciously done something for us. Look at the first phrase –
“According to His great mercy He has caused us to be born again.”
In other words, Peter cannot get away from the realization of the
graciousness, the mercifulness, the kindness, the loving kindness of God the
Father. He is awash with the sense
of how kind and how loving and how gracious and how merciful God the Father is.

And I want to ask you — Is that how you think of God or when you run into those
places in your marriage or in your work or with your children or with your
parents or in your life in general when once again you seem to just be rounding
the corner, things seem to be getting better, and then your knees were taken out
from under you and you fell flat on your back and there you went again — is the
first thought, “Lord you always do this.
I’m that far from things getting better and You do this to me.
Why do You do this to me?”
I’m not saying that you say it out loud, but do you think that?
Peter’s saying if that’s how you think of God the Father you don’t know
God the Father. He’s more gracious
than you could possibly comprehend.
He’s merciful, He’s kind, and all of the good things that I’m about to tell you
flow from Him and from His grace and mercy and kindness.

Second, look at what Peter says.
What’s He done? He has given us a
new hope. Listen to the words: “He
has caused us to be born again to a living hope.”
He’s caused us to be born again to this new hope.
We were hopeless, now we have hope.
We don’t just have our own hope, we have a new hope.
The hope is not sort of a general, generic, wishful, wistful hope that
things turn out well in the end.
It’s a living hope. It’s a life
changing, life restoring, life reforming, life transforming hope and Peter knew
something about that. Peter had
lost hope in two things in his life.
He had lost hope in this world and he had lost hope in himself.
Peter was a God-fearing Jew who came under the ministry and discipleship
of the Lord Jesus Christ and who followed Him around all over Palestine.
And like many God-fearing Jews of his time he longed for the day when
God’s Messiah would appear and would put everything right.
He would kick the filthy Gentile Romans out of
Israel,
he would set up a godly rule under David, righteousness would flow throughout
the land, the Word of God would be obeyed, and the Messiah would be worshipped.
But Jesus had been crucified by the Romans and Peter had seen it.
He had lost all hope. He
went back to being a fisherman. And
Peter had lost hope in himself because while Jesus was being tried on the night
before His crucifixion, Peter denied Him not once, not twice, but three times,
and the last time he denied Jesus, Jesus was looking him in the eye.
Peter knew the truth about himself and it was not a pretty thing.
He’d lost hope.

And then on the Sunday morning after the crucifixion, some women came back into Jerusalem and said to the
disciples, “You know, the weirdest thing just happened.
We went to the tomb to finish preparing Jesus’ body because we didn’t
have time before the sun went down on the Sabbath Day, and He wasn’t there, and
an angel told us that He was alive.
Could this be?” And you know the
story — John and Peter go flying to that tomb.
John gets there first. He’s
very quick to tell us — just like a man.
But when Peter, the older disciple, finally gets there he goes into the
tomb first. That does not surprise
me at all because that man was without hope and he was looking for hope wherever
he could find it, and for the first time in his life he was looking for it in
the right place.

Now we know it took Peter some time, but eventually Peter’s life was changed
because of the new hope he’d been given.
So when he talks about this to you he’s not talking about something that
he doesn’t understand himself.

And where does he say that that hope comes from?
Look again at verse 3. He’s
caused us to be born again to a living hope “through the resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead.” It’s through
Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus’
resurrection has changed everything.
That’s where our hope is.
The Christian hope is not that if we’re just good enough Christians then our
marriages are going to be better, and our children are going to treat us right,
and parents aren’t going to be so grouchy to deal with, and our business is
going to be busting at the seams, and we’re going to be making all kinds of
money, and we’re going to have all the friends we want, and we’re going to be
where we want, when we want, and how we want all the time.
We’re going to have great health.

That’s not the Christian hope.

The Christian hope is in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and in our
resurrection because of His resurrection.

Listen to what he says in verse 4 — “To
an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, 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
other words, Peter is saying your hope is not here.
It is in the resurrection of Jesus Christ that guarantees your future
resurrection and all of the blessings that you are looking for are inextricably
connected to that resurrection and will not be experienced apart from them.

II. What does this hope mean for you?

So what does that mean for you?
That’s what Peter means. What does
that mean for you? It means this —
you have a life changing, life giving
hope
. If you are a believer in
the Lord Jesus Christ, if you trust Him, and listen to those words — “these
things are being kept for you by God’s power through faith.”
If you have faith in Jesus Christ, if your trust is in Jesus Christ, you
have a hope that nobody can touch and no one can take away because it’s unfading
and it’s imperishable and it’s undefiled and it’s kept in heaven for you and God
is guarding it for you and no one can mess with that hope.
No one can take it away. No
circumstance in the life can increase or diminish it.
It is absolutely impervious to anything that happens in this life.
That’s your hope. And your
joy and your usefulness in this life is tied to your apprehension of that hope.

If your hope is not set on that, then your joy will be diminished now and your
usefulness will be diminished now.

Listen to what John Piper says, “Your final healing is as far away as your
resurrection from the dead.”

Now, that can sound like some depressing news because some of us are looking for
some healing now. We’re saying,
“Lord it’s been hard. I’d like
things to get a little easier.” Or
we might say, “Lord it’s been bad and I’d like things to get a little better.”
But Peter’s saying that’s not where your hope is. For some of you things
have been hard and in God’s kindness they will get better.
They’ll get a little easier.
And for some of you things have been bad and they’ll improve.
But for others of us, they may get worse.

But not matter where we are in those three categories that’s not where our hope
is. Our hope is not found in, “If
things are hard they’re going to get easier.
If things are bad, they’re going to get better.”
And our hope is not diminished if things are good and they get worse.
That’s not where our hope is.

Our final healing doesn’t come until the resurrection of the dead.

That’s not all that John says.
Listen to the rest of the sentence.
“Your final healing is as far away as your resurrection from the dead,
however, your invincible joy of hope is
as close as the risen Lord Jesus Christ.”

That hope bears the fruit of joy now.

That resurrection then is life-giving
now, which means you can throw
yourself into life and you know that the defeats you experience in this life,
however intensely personal and painful they may be, they are not the final word,
and there is a final victory that awaits.
And you know that the successes of this life, however wonderful they may
be, are not your final hope and blessing.
And so you can throw yourself into this life serving and loving and
giving and know that this is not my final hope.

My hope is at the resurrection and that allows me to pursue this life with love
and joy now, knowing that no matter what happens, nothing can take away my hope
because nothing can take away the resurrection because Jesus has been raised
from the dead.

I wonder if that’s where your hope is,
Christian.
I wonder if it’s there enough.
I wonder if you’re like me, always looking for an interim hope, always
looking for something now, in my own time, in my own condition, in my own
circumstances, that I can cling to that’s going to be the thing that gets me
through. Just listen to the pastor
saying, “Your final healing is as far away as the resurrection from the dead.”

Have you had your hope in the wrong place?
Christian, it will rob you of joy.
It will rob you of usefulness if your hope is in the wrong place.
But if your hope is in the resurrection, it will give you the joy and the
energy to live life now no matter what the successes and defeats are, no matter
what the blessings and the trials are, because you know that in the end neither
the good things nor the bad things have the final word because your hope is
waiting. It’s stored up, it’s kept,
it’s in heaven — you won’t even see it until the last day.

How about those of you
who aren’t trusting in Jesus Christ
today? Maybe you’re here because of
family. You had to come.
It’s the Easter Sunday dinner that you’re really interested in, but you
had to come. You’re stuck.
Do I have any good news for you?
Not if your hope is where it is because if you’re not trusting in Jesus
Christ, do you know how the apostle Paul describes you in Ephesians 2, chapter 2
verse 12? He says you are “without
hope” and without God in this world.
That’s where you are. You’re
without hope. There is no hope.
I mean, think about it — if this life is where your hope is and good goes
to bad, or better goes to worse, or easy goes to hard, circumstances have
changed, where’s your hope? And
even if life is good, and there are so many of you in this room that other
people look at and they say, “If my life could only be like so-and-so and
so-and-so, if my marriage could only be like so-and-so and so-and-so, if my work
could only be like so-and-so and so-and-so I’d be happy.”
And it’s one of my joys to know so many of you, really know so many of
you, and you open up and you tell me what your cares are and you tell me what’s
broken your heart and I laugh to myself sometimes when people point to you and
say, “If only I could be like those folks over there I’d be happy.
Life would be easy.” They
have no idea of the secret burdens that you bear, absolutely no idea of the
heartbreaks because even when life is good, it’s never the way that God will
finally make it here.

So, if your hope is in this life,
sorry, not only do you have no real hope, you don’t even have meaning.
Because when the bad things happen, what do they mean?
They mean nothing, whereas for the believer,
God wastes nothing of the hard things.
They are all designed to increase
our ultimate joy and victory,
and nothing that we experience now is
meaningless and nothing will be wasted.

And I know there are some of you today that need to know that because you’re
looking at things in your life and you’re shaking your head and you’re saying,
“I just don’t know.” And Peter’s
saying, “Believer, you can live in invincible joy now not because things are
good or things are going to get better, but because your hope is in the
resurrection.” Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, by Your grace keep us from putting our hope in the wrong place.
By Your grace make us to trust in Jesus for His resurrection and ours to
be the place where alone we look for the final healing.
Until then You call some of us to a life that will be a permanent
struggle — difficulties at work, hardships in our relationships with parents and
children, husband and wife, loneliness, sacrifice, struggles of health — but
none of these, none of these will You allow to have the last word because
they’re not where our hope is. And
where our hope is no one can touch it.
Lord help us believe that and help us to realize how joy-giving and
life-transforming that hope is, in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

Let’s take our hymnals and sing, “Jesus Lives, and So Shall I” — 706.

Receive now this blessing from the One who has been raised from the dead — Peace
be to all who are in Christ Jesus.
Amen.

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