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Born again

Week 151: 1 Peter 1:1-9

Monday: Peter's Letter

Read 1 Peter 1:1-9

 

God didn’t only use Paul and James as His pens to write scripture.  God dipped Peter, too, into the ink of inspiration by the Holy Spirit. For this reason, we have this God-breathed scripture for our benefit.    Peter originally wrote to the Christians of Asia Minor.  Many of them were converted Jews who had been persecuted and driven from apostate Israel into the geographies that he mentions in verse one. Therefore, he calls them pilgrims in the dispersion. 


Years later, Christians were persecuted by Rome. After 64 A.D., Nero unleashed his full fury upon the Christian Church. Many were imprisoned, properties were confiscated, and multitudes were killed. 


For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” (Hebrews 10:34) 


It was during this time of persecution when Peter wrote the churches of Asia Minor. He challenges them to remain faithful to the Lord characterized by a true born-again experience.  A changed life has the great affect upon others to bring them into new birth also.  In the meantime, he calls them to persevere in their difficulties so that the Lord might be glorified. 


Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12, ESV) 


Persecution and suffering in this life are temporary and insignificant when compared to the joy of eternal life with God through the power of Jesus Christ.   Peter celebrates the experience of “being born-again” and the living hope it gives. 

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,” (1 Peter 1:3, ESV)

 

Peter himself, along with the Apostle Paul, would die at the hands of Nero the Roman beast.  Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28, ESV)  


When Peter and Paul died, they were immediately translated home. 


Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.

(Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress is Our God)

Tuesday:  The Miracle of new birth

Read 1 Peter 1:3-5

 

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.” (1 Peter 1:3–5) 


The miracle of rebirth is the greatest miracle in history.   The parting of the Red Sea was powerful, to be sure, but the raising of dead men outshines it.   For the Jew, the miracle of deliverance from Pharoah’s armies was central to their history. So much so, that the Song at the Sea was said every single day as part of morning worship. 


Peter anchors the Christian in a new song: Deliverance from death through Jesus Christ. 


One of the greatest things you could do for yourself is to walk slowly though a cemetary and think about those who are buried beneath your feet. 


Ask yourself, "What lesson can I learn from their lives?"

We learn that life is short, and death is sure. 


Peter declares a living hope for mankind’s greatest dilemma—deliverance from the  King of Terrors, Death.  That deliverance begins with new birth and is completed in resurrection.   


It is not unlike the passing through the Red Sea. There is a beginning and an end. And there is a middle too.  But first, we begin with the new birth. 


Jesus said, “You must be born again.”  John 3:7


Being born again is the miracle of change that only God can give.  Some are hungry for change. Maybe it is a new place to live, or a new career, or a new romance, or change of scenery. 


But any and every external change, without heart change, is one more collapse in the making. 


I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)


And that is what we need. We need to have our hard and stubborn hearts pulled out and a new heart put in. This is the change we need; this is the only change that really matters. 

Let us be amazed. Many of us are not who we were.  We are new creations. 


"The old is gone, the new has come."  


2 Corinthians 5:17  

Wednesday:  The Miracle of His keeping us

Read 1 Peter 1:3-5


“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.” (1 Peter 1:3–5)


New birth is our beginning. Salvation is completed, in the end, with our resurrection. Until then, we see that we are being guarded, or kept in our salvation, until we get through this life, which is filled with many trials. 


Think of the ancient Jews stepping into the parted Red Sea. They must have needed to keep their eyes directed upon the light at the end of the dark valley and not the watery walls on each side.  A younger Peter sank when he considered the large waves beside him.  It was re-fixing his eye upon Jesus that lifted him and gave him progress.  

  

There are three words in the whole of the Bible that will keep us persevering from rebirth to resurrection: 


“Looking unto Jesus.” 


“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2, ESV) 


The Elder Peter is calling the Christians to trust in Christ’s keeping power.   What He has begun, He will complete.  He isn’t only the Lord of the beginning of our faith, that is Author of our faith.  He is the Finisher of our faith, as well.  

More than that, He is the Lord of the middle of our faith journey too.

  

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4, ESV) 


When Bunyan’s Pilgrim came to the Valley of the Shadow of the Death. He commented: 


“The Christian must needs go through it, because the way to the Celestial City lay through the middle of it.” 


We must go through this valley. There are no short cuts.  


The trials of this life not only prove our faith. But they prove His faithfulness to keep us.

 

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV) 

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:29, ESV)

Thursday: the mystery of the Apostate

Read 1 Peter 1:6-9

 

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the 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. 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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6–9, ESV) 


What of those who don’t make it to the end?  The text is clear: Faith wasn’t genuine from the beginning.  


The journey proves our faith.  As fire test gold, trials test faith for authenticity. We are called to finish our life with the faith we began with. 


But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” ” (Hebrews 3:13–15, ESV) 


Friend, do you have a present testimony?  Do you have a present trust?  This runs in contrast to the detailed testimonies a conversion experience that may have happened some years ago. 


If your faith is authentic, you will have a present testimony today of how God is working in your life.  


The most popular verse in the Bible uses a present tense verb: 


“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes (continues believing) in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ” (John 3:16, NIV) 


God doesn’t want true believers to go on through life worrying about their eternal destiny. 


Do you have a present trust?  


Have you been born again? 


Is there evidence of the regeneration work of the Holy Spirit in your life?  


When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” (Galatians 5:19–22, NLT) 


An unregenerate person cannot convincingly fake these fruits especially with those who know them closely.  Jesus cursed the fig tree because he “saw its leaves” which was an expectation that there should be fruit. But he found no fruit, so it shriveled and died within a day.  Matthew 21:18


The genuine Christian isn’t perfect, but he has a long-term pattern of growth in his life.  2 Peter 1:5-11  


I’m glad I am not the Christian I was twenty years ago.  Babies are cute, but there is something wrong if you are perpetually a baby. Don’t you love to see a Christian who is more self-controlled than he used to be when he was a baby Christian?  Tempers are softened. He is quicker to respond to the Holy Spirit.  His knowledge and experience with God is deeper.  Maybe these used to bring too much attention of themselves, but now they are quieter, and humbler.    


“I’m not who I was. I am not who I want to be or ought to be. I am not what I am going to be in another world. But I am not what I was. And I am what I am, by the grace of God.”  John Newton

Friday: the Miracle of resurrection

Read 1 Peter 1:8-9


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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8–9, ESV) 


The Journey of deliverance begins with the miracle of rebirth.  The middle of deliverance is the journey through the valley of life.  


It is a truly miracle of grace that we come make it to the end.  


Coming home is the miracle of resurrection. Jesus is the first fruit of the resurrection that is promised to us. 


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,” (1 Peter 1:3) 


The end of this life is the beginning eternal life.  Completed salvation is the outcome for Christian.  For every frustration that we have with ourselves where we are not like Christ, on the day that we see him, those frustrations will dissolve.  We will be like Him. 


I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen Jesus with my ocular eyes. I have seen Him described in Scripture.  That has helped me to see Him mentally and spiritually.  That is looking unto Jesus.  That is longing for Him, believing upon Him, and hoping in Him.  


That is what worship looks like.


But to see him physically? That is an experience that is reserved for that last day.  

  

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) 


There is something to be said for the person who grows old in the Lord.  He does end where he began, holding to the faith he began with. 


“We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” Hebrews 3:14


The child holds on to his father’s finger. As the journey goes on, he holds his father’s hand. In the final leg, the father carries him.    


We begin this walk with the Lord with too much of our own strength. We only need to hold his finger.  As life goes on, we rely more and more on his strength. We hold His hand.  The older we get in faith and the longer the journey, the more we realize we need Him to carry us to the end.  When we close our eyes here, we will open our eyes there. 


“Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. Tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.”