Hope and Forever (Part 4 of 8)

I Peter 1:3-9:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Great joy belongs to the Christian.  Joy forever is to be ours.  This is to surpass in that future eternity even the happiness that Adam and Eve knew in the Garden of Eden  It is so sad that we have lost that, however, and that man has been driven out from the Lord’s presence.  Someone has described it in these picturesque words:

“Bitten by insects, harassed by plagues and moods, cornered by temptations, his gnawed conscience bringing memories hovering about — a constant record of his folly.  How he must have cried.  The first tears…theirs must have been the most regretful ever upon the earth, to shed the first tears of mankind….what a burden.”

Yet today good cheer is possible to us.  And, you know, joy has a powerful effect on people who are around.  A happy heart is a heart that spreads contentment and peace to other people as well.  It has a real influence upon them.  This is possible through the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit brings joy to the core of a man even though he may be troubled outwardly, deep within he can know the presence and peace of God that keeps the heart in the state of contentment and joy in the Lord.  This, I say, has effect on other people.  The only way a person on the outside knows about a living Christ that satisfies the heart and about the hope of the home beyond is as they see it in the joy of a person.  Your joy level is the greatest testimony there is, perhaps.  The sheerest and purest of all joy is that mentioned in the Bible in our text.  Seeing Jesus Christ again and sharing with him is not like that joy of people down in Granite, Arkansas had been trying to conjure up. A couple dozen of those people were holed up, the marshals came in and took away first 7 children, placed them elsewhere so they could have their schooling.  And gradually these people lost their cars, their homes, and had already apparently lost their sanity.  They certainly did not understand what the Bible teaches about the hope of our Lord’s return again.  It is not a calamitous thing like that.  A Christian’s eternal glory with Christ brings great joy — brings great joy now as a joy in hope; brings great joy to him in the future (forever) as a joy in fulfillment.

The present — we have a joy in hope — verse 3 — “we are begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from  the dead.”  We have a living special hope because our Savior is alive, we’re moving toward Jesus.  We have a goal, a hope beyond.

Verse 4 — We have an inheritance.  This is an inheritance that cannot be corrupted or defiled or it won’t fade away.  It is there reserved (stored up) for us.  When a king is born as a prince, a tiny baby, he doesn’t know whether he is rich or poor, he doesn’t realize anything about his future destiny yet.  The little baby might be a prince and not recognize it.  But, somewhere along the line, he will have the hope of the kingdom.  He will know he is going to rule and have a palace and have riches in that kingdom as time goes along.  He has an inheritance.

Now a Christian certainly is going to be affected by that when they come of age and realize what’s ahead for them.  It will affect their lives.

Verse 5 — “They are kept” because there is something ready to be revealed to them in the last day.  This creates within them a great joy — a great rejoicing — though for a season they may have heaviness and a troubled heart through manifold temptations.

Now, in this verse I would like to contrast the word “season” and the word “manifold”.  It might be that there are many kinds of temptations that bombard them and put them through the flame and fire of trial as the next verse indicates.  But, it is limited.  It is only for a season and they have a forever.  So this hope sustains them through their trials, because they are looking for an appearance, a coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory as the next verse says.

Verse 8 — Even without seeing Jesus, there can be joy — his joy can be ours, even without seeing him.  “Though we have not seen him (as modern Christians) yet we do believe in him and rejoice in this hope with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”  Joy unspeakable means inexpressible joy, indescribable joy and filled with glory.  That’s what Christians have.

Verse 13 — Tighten your belt, get ready for what is ahead.  Be serious about it and hope to the end.  The end has a philosophical ring to it.  It means “and hope to the fulfillment, to the conclusion.”  Ours is a purposeful hope and he is actually saying, “perfectly hope.”  Let your hope grow and be strong because of the upcoming grace that is yours at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Now modern man is often pictured by artists and by composers, authors, as being joyless.  Joylessness and modern man seem often put together in the arts.  Francis Schaefer in bringing this out pictures man thus:  he describes a picture he once saw hanging on a wall of an ancient city which he recognized.  There it was with all its buildings and everything just as it was when he had last seen it.  Except, there were no people on the streets.  He said this vacancy brought a weird feeling of death and it was to impress you with the fact that the modern world, even though teeming with people, it is even as though there are no real people there because they have lost their person hood before God.  Their realness is gone.  Another writer pictures the world like a vast, spreading city with  generators still running, the lights on, but everybody has been wiped out by nuclear holocaust.  No people!  But just moments ago they were there and now they are gone and the big city still has charge of electricity and the mills are running and everything is just there as it is waiting to wind down.  This is the way man sees himself as he is without God.

The Scriptures tell us that the chief end of man — the real purpose for your being in this world is to glorify the God who made the world and you and to enjoy him forever.  Not one without the other.  But the both together.  Some people want God’s enjoyment but they are unwilling to lay down their lives for his glory — to give themselves to him.  On the other hand, there are those who are willing to give themselves to him and they try desperately to do it, but they know nothing of joy in their lives.  Both of these extremes are wrong.  Picture in your heart a young girl who grows up and as a little one she is playing house because she plans to have someday a home of her own.  She likes to be the mother, the wife in the little home of her dreams.  Later on, she hopes that a certain young man will notice her and she sees to it that he does.  Then he gives her the ring that she was counting on.  And, this man becomes her hope now for sure.  She has the engagement ring.  And finally, she appears at the head of the aisle and he’s right there.  As she makes her way down that aisle, she is moving in hope that is to be fulfilled.  This is what she dreamed of, what she wanted from the start — the conclusion and fulfillment — are right ahead.  She had lived in hope.  A Christian is to know this happy hope of an engagement period.  He has every reason for happiness.  When Jesus Christ stood on the mountain and Satan appeared there in temptation, set before Jesus the glories of the kingdoms of the world and he said, “I have charge of these, you know, and I’ll give them all to you if you will just yield to me a bit.”  Farther, distant on the horizon, Jesus saw the cross of Calvary.  That was the other option.  Jesus could have all this glory or he could have that  shameful death.  But the Bible tells us why he did it.  That it wasn’t a foolish choice, nor was it just a sacrifice either.  It says, “but for the joy that was beyond him,” he looked for the joy that was set there before, beyond Calvary, so that he could discredit and despise and discount the shame and agony of that death and it completely overshadowed the glory of what the devil had to offer him.  There are a lot of people who yet have a hand in the world and can’t seem to let go because they have no hope, they have no joyous hope set before them.  They have no joy in their heart just as they have no hope.  The writer of the Hebrews says to the people who had suffered so much in persecution in early days of Christianity “you take joy through the spoiling of your goods because you have a more enduring substance over there.”  It was the same with Moses, who laid aside all of his riches and prominence in Egypt and went out in the wilderness with God’s children because “he endured as seeing him who was invisible.”  He could see something beyond with joy still in his heart.  He was willing to make that price.

Acts 9:1 — Note the power of these words:  “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest…,” etc.  Here is the hated enemy of Christ and his people.  And, he is like a fiery furnace of bitter, vitriolic anger against the Christians — just breathing it out against them, seeking their imprisonment and death.  That’s the man who becomes the Apostle Paul.

Now what could transform a man from this to God’s own right-hand man of mercy?  In earlier Scripture we learned of that tremendous scene where Stephen, the first martyr, stood there on trial for his life, just before they killed him.  He pointed the finger of accusation at the evil enemy and it says that when they heard these things they literally ground their teeth at him, they were in such rage.  But, he being full of the Holy Spirit looked steadfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.  And, he said, “Behold, I see heaven open and Jesus the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  And those people just rushed at him, plugged their ears with their hands, and they scorned him and dragged him out and threw stones at him and killed him.  The Bible says they stoned Steven as he was calling upon God.  As they stoned him, as his eyes were smashed out of his head, and as his skull was battered to a pulp, he died calling on Jesus.  Some of us can’t pray when we are a little sleepy or a little upset about something.  He died praying.  And he kneeled down and with a loud voice said, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”  And he fell asleep.  You wonder why the Apostle Paul was converted.  I’ll show it to you.

Acts 7 — Just before Jesus is called on by Stephen, that one spot at the very end of Acts 7 — the last word of verse 58, as they are stoning him, there was this young man named Saul and they stoned Stephen calling on God.  And he cried, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”  And when he had said this, he fell asleep.  And, what’s the next word?  “And Saul….”  So, there this future Apostle’s name is on both sides of the stoning, put right there, injected into the story — so that you will know this, that the thing that turned that hate filled man over to the Lord — the thing that hooked his heart, really after all was the joy of a man who could see beyond the stoning — see Jesus and cry for joy and commit himself to him.  What does the world see when they see your joy level?  Do you see beyond?

The story is told of a man taking a load of sheep from Scotland to Australia.  They got very near to their destination but fog set in so thick they didn’t even dare to move the ship.  In the old days they just dropped anchor and held on there in the thick fog.  The owner was very upset because the sheep began to refuse the hay offered them.  They went for two days while they were at anchor just off Australia without eating.  He thought he was going to begin losing precious cargo.   Then the fog lifted and they saw why the sheep refused dry hay.  Over there just a little way were verdant pastures which the sheep could smell.  That’s what they wanted and why they refused the other.  There are Christians who, without having any hope, see they are getting hooked and strung out in the things of this world because they don’t see what is beyond them.  So they lose their joy in what God has for them.  See I Peter 1.

Let’s move on to the end.  Now, we have joy in hope, but in the future forever we will have joy in fulfillment, our life purpose will be realized.  You see, one day the prince will not just realize that he is a prince and the future king.  There will come a coronation day.  He will then take his place in his glory and riches.  We have treasures in heaven, the Bible tells us.  We are like the man who found the hidden treasure Jesus talks about in a field.  He went and sacrificed and bought that field.  Then I can see him going back there in the middle of the night, digging around and getting up his hidden treasure and just looking it over.  Now, it is his!  One day it will be ours.  Friend, if the anticipation, the hope of that joy — of that glory beyond — brings joy to us now, what will the realization — the actual fulfillment of it — bring to us but indeed a real fullness of joy.  Look in verse 4 again.  “We have an inheritance” something that is certain, that will not tarnish.  It just grows and grows.

Verse 5 — It is right and ready — something special to be revealed in the last days, the Scriptures tell us.  Now if you went to that newly wed couple, that I mentioned earlier, and the young girl and her husband are just coming back up the aisle and you had a reporter’s assignment to interview them — you went up to them and said, “Pardon me, may I ask please, do you think this is the end of your joy now that you’ve got what you asked and that is all there is to it?”  Why, they would push you right aside.  “It’s just beginning.  This is what it was all about!”  Christians, we’ve only begun with the Lord.  We’ve only tasted a little, but how wonderful it is.  The Bible says, why it’s so great we even greatly rejoice (verse 6) even through trial.  There is coming, though, a glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ.  (End of verse 7)  The fact is that you go on into verse 13 and you will find there that there is grace even more to be revealed yet.  You are to receive the very goal of you faith as it says back in verse 9 — even the salvation of your souls.  It is right ready to burst upon you in its fullness.

I Peter 4:13  — Sure, for awhile you have to share in the sufferings as a Christian, but it says that is when his glory shall be revealed.  You may be glad with exceeding joy.  So, now, there is suffering but back in verse 13 you rejoice in the hope of what is set ahead of you.  And then in that day you will rejoice again at what is actually yours in fulfillment and how great will be that particular joy.  Jude pictures it in verse 14 when he said, “We’ll stand in the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.  Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.”  “In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore.  As for me, I will behold your face in righteousness;  I shall be satisfied when I awake in your likeness.”  “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is.”  Right now “we see through a glass darkly but then face to face and we shall know even as now we are known.”  “When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we appear with him” (we will be unveiled with him, in glory to share with him where he is forever.

And in that day, the Christian will know a literal flood of happiness.  Gone will be his burden.  Restored will be his health.  Forever, away will be the opposition and troubles and the trials.  And there will be peace and rest for him.  In contrast to that, the man who tried to kid himself and make believe he’s a Christian and get in the church and join and be a part, etc., and try to imagine that he is really a believer, he is deceived, he really is.  Now, “the fool has said in his heart there is no God.”  But the double fool has said in his heart, “there is a God,” but then limits himself as to how much he is going to serve that God.  I’d like to prove to some right now that you might not be a Christian.  I believe I can show you that, if you will open your heart in these next moments.  I hope you are a believer in Jesus Christ.  But, if you are not, the quicker you learn that the better it will be for you.  One of the ways you can tell that you are not truly born of God’s Spirit, is that you determine to limit how far you are going to go as a Christian.  Numbers of times over the years right here and other places, I have given a challenge to an audience.  I ask all of those who are willing now for God to take hold of your life and to have you completely to come to the front of the church and stand.   Repeatedly I see people who hesitate to do that.  If you were to hesitate at that point, you have no way of proving that you are a Christian, you have no way of being sure, except your own self-confidence.  That is another mark of a person who is deceived.  He will then be sure because he makes himself sure — not because God says so.  It won’t be the fruit of the Spirit in his life that shows it.  It will only be self-confidence.  But that will never work in eternity.  That will just be another mark against you.  So, if today, you do not with all your heart want to grow in grace, if with all your heart you do not want to perfect holiness in the fear of God and go on with God, and if you are not determined to lay down more and more and love him more and more and to be like Jesus Christ and to be perfect and complete in your life as he is and calls you to be — if on the other hand you know you are trying to hold back, you want to be a Christian.  Yes.  And, you claim that and get angry if somebody suggests you might not be.  But, you have reservations as to how far you shall go with it.  Then  you have no way of proving that you have a heart for God.  You, of course, want to go to heaven.  You do not wish to be punished eternally in hell.  But, that is not to say that you are a Christian.  A Christian is one with God’s nature and he is willing to suffer.

I want to say a word to you who have suffered for Christ.  You’ve taken your blows in life and you’ve tried to endure them as a believer in Christ.  The Bible tells you that you are heirs of God — joint heirs with Christ.  “If so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him.  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in that last great day in us.”  How wonderful that hope is for us.  And, it is a satanic lie that encourages a person to debase himself, there are people who are led even to destroy themselves, they go on in a way of sin and Satan says as he coos at them, “now isn’t this fun?  Here’s your crowd here.  Look how foolish it is to be a Christian.  That narrow way doesn’t have any joy.  This is really fun!”  The Bible tells us that folly is joy to him who is destitute of wisdom.  And, I remember the writings of the wise Solomon which is really sarcasm:  “Rejoice, o young man, in your youth and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth and walk in the ways of your heart and in the light of your eyes.  But, know that for all these things, God will bring you into judgment.”  Now a Christian life is vastly different from that.  The Christian life is one of fullness of joy in the presence of the Lord.  And the Bible speaks of that great way of walking with Christ as it is a great beautiful highway as it opens up more and more in the presence of the Lord.  But only the redeemed walk there and the ransomed of the Lord will return — they will enter Zion with singing.  Everlasting joy will crown their heads.  Gladness and joy will overtake them.  Sorrow and sighing will flee away.  And the Lord shall say to them at his right hand, “Enter you into the joy of your Lord.”  And, we shall forever be with the Lord.  It will be worth it.