Due to technical difficulties the sermon was not recorded. In place of the sermon audio we have made the sermon transcript available.
When a person becomes a Christian they are often told or assume that their life will get easier. In a sense this is true. We have been forgiven, reconciled to God, and brought into relationship with Him by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Our very identity has changed from being rebellious and wayward sinners who are enslaved to sin to justified and adopted children who can glorify God.
However, scripture and our own experience teach us that in many ways becoming a Christian makes life harder. We will spend the rest of our days living in a fallen world that opposes God’s rule, denies his word and rejects his people. God’s word and Spirit will continue to reveal to us areas of our lives that need to be sanctified, where we need to become more like Christ and battle against sin. Our very purpose for living has changed, we are no longer going with the “flow” and “following” the world, pursuing the high or the easy life and building our own kingdom, at times it can be difficult to remember that, to stay focused on Jesus Christ and building His Kingdom pursuing growth as disciples and working to make more disciples. In Matthew 10 Jesus says that those who follow him will often experience division in their own families. In Matthew 10, while describing the difficulty of following him, Jesus says:
38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
These next few months we will be studying 1 Peter, a book that very much addresses the struggle of the Christian life. That’s why I have titled this series “A Map For Pilgrims.” By pilgrims I don’t mean tall black hats and the Mayflower, I simply mean a person who is traveling on a long journey. This title and the word “pilgrims” comes from the opening verse of 1 Peter in which Peter uses a greek word that is translated in the ESV as “exiles”, in the NASB as “aliens” and in the NKJV as “pilgrims.” Now I could have called this series “a map for exiles” which describes someone who is a temporary resident in a foreign place or a “map for aliens” but the word pilgrims captures well the idea of the traveling nature of the Christian life. If I had used the word aliens, conspiracy theories, spaceships, ET and those green squishy things in the Toy Story movies would likely distract many minds. Whatever word you prefer, the idea is this: Christians are on a journey, traveling through a country that’s not their home to another country that is their true, perfect and final home, and so in this way the book of 1 Peter can be viewed as a map for pilgrims.
I want to encourage you to do something as we study through 1 Peter. Pick one verse out of each week’s text and commit it to memory. Memorizing scripture is a wonderful habit. So for example from this week’s text I’ve chosen 1 Peter 1:3 but you can choose whichever verse you wish. If you are one of those people like me that is helped by a challenge well then I challenge you to join me in this very do able memorizing work. Now, before we continue let us pray for God’s help.
If you have not already please turn to 1 Peter 1, you can find it on page 656 in the pew Bible.
We are very much in the middle of the Wisconsin traveling season. During these months many of us come out of our once snow-covered caves to take trips, go on vacations and make visits to family. Soon college students will gather up their clothes, school supplies and boxes of ramen noodles and head back to school.
If you were told that you needed to pack for an important trip, what would you bring with you on your journey? Depending on the circumstances surrounding this trip you’d answer this question differently. If it was just me I might only need one bag, a hat and my Bible.
However, we just came back from a family trip, we have three little boys, when we left New Berlin for up north we had much more than a bag, a hat and a bible in our van. We had a bag just for diapers, one for car activities and one full of truck books. Before packing for this important trip you’d probably want to ask some important questions… how long will this trip be? Where are we going, should I pack a parka, a poncho, shorts or pants? Will there be electricity? And for some of you the most pressing question might be.. will I have access to the internet?
Well those questions in the case of this important trip can be set aside. The journey that every Christian is to take and the one Peter speaks of in 1 Peter is not about physical travel, though at times physical travel might be involved, it’s about the trip through this life to the next, to our final destination, where we will be with God and see Jesus face to face. And fortunately for us God is a great Father and he has packed our bags for us but we will need to know and remember what he has put into our bags.
For the next few months Peter, the author of 1 Peter will serve as our guide. As an apostle of Jesus Christ, he is one of God’s messengers who spoke words from God and was used to write some of what became the New Testament. He will serve as a good guide because along with being an Apostle, Peter, like all Christians was himself a pilgrim. At the time he writes 1 Peter he is a very experienced pilgrim who had traveled a very difficult path and is physically in exile far from home in Rome where history tells us he will (only a few years after writing 1 Peter) be crucified upside down. I think he’s also a good guide because we can relate to a pilgrim like Peter. Peter had many high highs and many low lows as he followed Christ. He walked on water then sunk into water, he professed Jesus to be the Christ then was rebuked by Christ. He was willing to die in the garden but then denied knowing Jesus three times. He was guilty of legalism in Galatia and was rebuked by Paul for confusing the Gospel and then went on to plant churches and die as a martyr.
When Peter writes this letter it’s been about three decades since Christ’s death and resurrection and he’s writing to those Christians who are spread across what we now know as modern day Turkey. They were a mixed group, made up of Jews who had trusted in Christ as their Messiah and Gentiles who had been saved out of paganism and now worship and follow Jesus Christ. Peter calls them exiles not because they were far from their homes (many were likely living in their hometown), Peter calls them exiles or pilgrims because of the spiritual trials, sufferings and the persecution that they were experiencing.
The Cause of Suffering
Many of these trials could be traced back to one source, they believed that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” He was not a lord, or one of many lords but the one and only Lord. This was one of the first “creeds” of the Christian faith and just like today holding to the belief that Jesus alone is Lord stirs up hostility, it causes people to be offended. In a pluralistic society we Christians are often called intolerant and narrow minded (some of the worst things you can be called culturally speaking), people will say that believing Jesus is the only God and the only way to be saved is too exclusive, it’s rude and unkind. But scripture is clear on this truth, the early church was clear on this truth and for the sake of our souls and the Gospel we church must also be unashamed of this truth. We need to be prepared for the hostility and conflict that holding to this essential Christian truth might bring us. The events unfolding in Iraq remind us that though we are quite safe in America believing in Jesus Christ as Lord, believing that Jesus is Lord can and does for many bring about brutal persecution.
So how does Peter prepare the Christian for the trials and sufferings that they will face? In this morning’s text I believe there are two important truths that he makes known which are as important for us today as they were for Christians then. In keeping with the pilgrim illustration they are what God has packed in our bags for our journey and remembering these truths will be vital as we make our way from this temporary country to what is described in Hebrews 11:16 “as a better country, a heavenly one.”
The Pilgrim’s Name
The first truth has to do with the Christian’s identity. If God handed out ID cards, birth certificates, passports or driver’s licenses, this word would be written on them, it is a word that explains how we came to be pilgrims and Peter uses this word to describe the Christian… he writes in verse one that we are “elect.” A Christian is not merely a pilgrim or exile they are God’s “elect exile,” his “chosen pilgrim”. As we live the Christian life we will need to remember that we are not stowaways, when we doubt our salvation, as we wrestle with our emotions that can so often lead us astray, when our bodies break down, when we experience great loss we are to remember that we did not make ourselves God’s people, God chose us as his people. The cause of our salvation is not us but in the God who chooses!
In Charles Spurgeon’s book “Lectures To My Students” he writes:
“I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite sure that if God had not chosen me I should never have chosen him; and I am sure he chose me before I was born, or else he never would have chosen me afterwards; and he must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why he should have looked upon me with special love.”
If you are a Christian you were not chosen by God for this trip because of your climbing, hiking, running, hunting or survival skills and God did not choose you because you chose yourself. You were chosen because God chose to choose you! It is all by God’s grace. We do not deserve and cannot earn God’s grace, his love, his mercy, or our forgiveness, yet he gives us all this and more through his Son not out of duty but because God can do whatever he desires. He did not choose us as a nameless abstract “thing” but in eternity past before we existed he knew our names, he foreknew us and chose us. For the Christian understanding this truth can and should cause our hearts to stir and our lips to praise God.
Peter goes on to write that the entire Godhead, each member of the Trinity is involved in salvation. We see this in verse 2.
according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
In eternity past The Father foreknew us, The Spirit is presently sanctifying us and the blood of Jesus Christ continues to cleanse us.
The Pilgrim’s Heart
Before we look at the next truth that God has packed into the pilgrim’s bag it’s important to see what flows out of Peter’s heart as he writes about these things. In verse three he writes: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before he goes on to write in the rest of the letter about how the Christian is to travel towards their heavenly home in the midst of persecution and before Peter writes about how the Christian can glorify God on their journey as a pilgrim, Peter shows what is to be in a pilgrim’s heart praise for God. Out from the heart of this long time pilgrim who has had his share of hardship, exiling, failure and weariness flows praise. Friends if you are a Christian; worship, praise, adoration, and the blessing of God’s name is to flow from your heart throughout your life and how can it not? See as we travel through life, through ups and downs, over rough terrain, and through storms we experience the love and faithfulness of our God and we remember the Gospel, that Jesus died in our place, conquered our sin and defeated death.
Because of who God is he is worthy of all glory and praise and we are to follow in Peter’s praising ways, to be a traveling band of worshipers, praisers and proclaimers of our God who saves.
Though God has not promised us an easy life, God has chosen us and has promised to lead us and bring us from this temporary home to our heavenly home. From beginning to the end he is worthy of praise. Peter’s praise of God leads us into the next truth that we will look at this morning.
The Pilgrim’s Hope
This is a truth that brings nourishment to the pilgrim’s soul and what will keep us going as we live the Christian life, it is what we always need but will especially turn to when we are battling our sin and feel like we’re losing, when we are facing great storms, when cancer strikes, when a loved one dies, when we’re tired, depressed, overwhelmed, spiritually or physically weak, and it is what we will cling to when we travel through the valley of the shadow of death.
What is this that God has packed in our bag that will feed our soul in the hardest of times… Peter says it in verse three… “Hope”. This hope as we will see is the greatest hope one could ever have and it is the hope of every Christian because of their new birth.
Peter describes the Christian’s hope as “a living hope” and goes on to tell us where the Christian’s hope comes from. Christian do not forget this, your hope is totally, completely and solely because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We have a living hope… because we have a living Savior! God raised Jesus from the dead, he is not only the lamb that was slain but Jesus is the Risen King who reigns over death and has given to God’s people a living hope. This living hope is our inheritance and one that is not of this world. Look at how Peter describes this living hope, this inheritance that is being kept in heaven for God’s people.
It is imperishable… it cannot be destroyed and will not expire. Food will go bad, things will get rusty and break but hope in Christ will not expire, go bad, get rusty or fail us!
It is undefiled… for all who are saved sinners this is wonderful to hear and be reminded of. This side of heaven as we continue to battle our sin, as we repent when we sin and run to Jesus to experience forgiveness our hope and inheritance from Christ’s resurrection cannot be stained by sin. Our inheritance in Jesus is and will remain 100% pure. Struggling Christian, because of Christ’s righteousness and finished work what you and I are battling against in this life, whichever sins seem to be winning will not truly win because Jesus Christ has won!
It is unfading… in a modern world with gadgets, phones, TV’s and cars that are quickly out dated thrown away and replaced, our hope and what awaits us is so glorious that it will never lose it’s appeal, it’s greatness or it’s beauty!
Why is it imperishable, undefiled and unfading? Because God is keeping it in heaven for us, verse 5 tells us that it is God’s power that guards us through faith and that this full salvation this resurrection hope that we have because of Christ’s finished work is not yet here, it’s in heaven, but one day one sweet and beautiful day after our pilgrim days are done it will be revealed and we shall experience and enjoy it fully!
We Christians are pilgrims traveling through life not with the mission to pursue comfort but with the mission of pursuing, serving and worshiping Jesus Christ and spending our lives glorifying him! Thinking about this passage reminds us that though the pilgrim life will not be easy, God has promised to give the Christian what they need. If you have repented of your sins and trusted in Christ God has chosen you (your conversion is the fruit not the cause of your election), God has saved you from your sin by faith in Jesus Christ’s finished work. In the coming weeks as we study through 1 Peter I hope that God would use our time together to cause us to live lives that more and more bless his name and that we would remember and remind each other that our hope is a living hope because our Savior is alive, he is the Lord Jesus Christ.