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.