Fifty Days of Resurrection Hope: “Already / Not Yet”

Already not yet

A sermon on 1 Peter 1:3-9 given by the Rev. Justin Clemente at New Creation Church (Anglican), Hagerstown, MD on April 19, First Sunday after Resurrection of the Lord.

Vs. 3-5 – Hope & Inheritance Like No Other

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.” (v.3)

The beginning of our passage today is a compact summary of the entire Christian life in this world. Listen again to verse 3: Because of the mercy and grace of God, we have been born again (by faith in Jesus) to living hope through (and because of) the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Now, that is a living hope unlike anything other kind of hope in the world.

What is the hope of the world around us? The hope of our world is largely centered around people and society. Western civilization is currently driven by the secular idea of progress. Right now, we’re seeing our society and people struggle with the fact that that’s not happening. In fact, that hope is being shown up to be what it is – a sham. All around us – all around you – are people who have, in way or another, placed their trust in this hope.

Now, let’s contrast that with Christian hope. Christian hope is forever living and full as opposed to dead and empty. Why? Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, we have solid hope for the future. We have hope for the world, hope for ourselves, and hope for others. God, who mended the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, will also mend our world, our bodies, and all those trust in Christ as their Savior. This is sure and certain hope unlike anything else in the world. I. Howard Marshall writes:

“If I hope – in the sense of having the conviction – that the sun will rise tomorrow morning, that conviction does not come from knowledge of the future but rather from the fact that every morning the sun has risen and from the reasonable inference that it will continue to do so. … So too the hope of future life rests on the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead and on the reasonable inference that, if God raised Jesus, he will also raise those who trust in Jesus.” (1 Peter: IVP NT Commentary Series by I. Howard Marshall, pg .37)

Verses 4 and 5 go on to tell us that Christian hope is one of inheritance. An inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven. Why is it imperishable? Because of the finished work of Jesus Christ, who now stands before God our Father.

Have you received an inheritance or a gift that changed your life substantially? I have. How much did you look forward to receiving it – to making it your own? How much more should we look forward to the full inheritance of glory that awaits us in Jesus Christ? In fact, our inheritance as Christians is different because we already begin to enjoy it now, as Peter will tell us.

Now, this brings out a tension in the Christian life that is so important to understand this Easter season. Here it is: the basic shape and contour of every Christian’s life is going to have an “already and not yet” dynamic to it. And we’re going to see that fleshed out in the rest of the passage.

Vs. 6-7 – Which Is Now Being Tested, Resulting in Praise and Glory and Honor at Jesus’ Return

In this [hope] you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested 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. (vs.6-7)

Are you being tested in your faith? The answer is yes. In fact, I think one of the implications here is that if you have no sense at all of being tested in your faith, then it may in fact not be real! Which is real wake up call for some. Right now, the metal of Christian faith, more precious than gold (because even gold is going to perish), is being tested the world over.

Now, how does that change how you respond to the trials of our time? Do you believe that God is able to work all things together for your good and the endurance of your faith?

Think of it like this: you’re very sick and you have to go in for major surgery. You’re not sure what awaits you on the other side. On your way in, you ask the surgeon, will I be alright? The surgeon answers: well it won’t be easy, but I can 100% assure you that not only will you be alright, you will be fully and completely cured and restored to total health.

See, that’s our relationship to God in this time of testing – this time of “already and not yet.” If we receive trials and hardship in this light, then our faith is being refined and purified as it’s tested by the “assorted trials” of life. Think of it in terms of a line graph – we need to understand that the shape of the Christian life is not the constant upward curve, but instead the downward and then upward shape of the check mark.

St. Paul, in his second epistle to the Corinthians, puts it this way: “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Did you catch that? This light momentary affliction is preparing for us… In line with Peter, Paul here tells us that in some way, the affliction we under go in this present world not only does us good, but actually adds to the sweetness of the glory we will enjoy with Christ when he is revealed. Easy to say, harder to believe – especially when you’re the man in the fire. But that is the Holy Spirit’s word to us. And it is true.

The hymn This is Not My Place of Resting expresses the hope we have in the midst of testing:

This is not my place of resting
Mine’s a city yet to come
Onward to it I am hasting
On to my eternal home

There the Lamb and Shepherd leads us
By the streams of life along
On the freshest pastures feeds us
Turns our sighing into song

Soon we pass this desert dreary
Soon we bid farewell to pain
Never more be sad nor weary
Never, never sin again

(Indelible Grace Hymns)

Vs. 8-9 – And Filled with the Joy of God Even Now

But even as our faith is tested, it is filled with the joy of God even now.

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. (vs.8-9)

Here in these last verses, we see perhaps the clearest expression of that already and not yet reality we’ve been speaking of. We do not see Christ, yet we know his blessing to be upon us (John 20:29). We do not commune with him face to face, yet he is the unseen guest and host at every worship service and in the life of every family and individual in the church. Even now, there is joy inexpressible, rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but it’s my prayer that in my life, in our lives as a church, and the lives of Christians the world over, that one of things that defines us in this time is Joy. Not a glib sort of happiness, but a deep abiding Joy because we know where history is going and in whose hands it rests.

Hebrews 2 expresses this already/not yet tension in this way:

“At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:8b-9)

So in another sense, we do actually SEE him in that we see his finished work. It has been attested to us in a way that is reliable, trustworthy, and reasonable, resulting in hope that is solid and unshakable. In that sense, we see Jesus, and we rejoice in the here and now. May our shared resurrection hope make this Joy in Christ the mark of our lives in the week to come.

We give all glory and praise, honor and thanksgiving to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, now and forevermore. Amen.

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