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Invincible Saints - 1 Peter 1:3-9

This is a sermon by Peter Birnie from the Riverside Church service on 25th April 2021.

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1 Peter 1 v 3-9 “Invincible Saints”

Intro

My son Isaac’s favourite game right now is to have a superhero fight with me. Now, I am far bigger than him so he shouldn’t stand a chance, but the problem is he has a whole armoury full of specially designed shields that repulse my every attack. Lightning attack – he has a super-lightening shield. Thunder attack – a mega thunder shield. Rock attack – an ultra rock shield. Whatever I throw at him he is covered. He is absolutely invincible to all my big attacks and he knows it and he loves it. He is always the last man standing when I am defeated.

Imagine there exists a powerful being who wants to destroy Christianity and whose greatest desire is that God be robbed of the praise and worship that He is due. When that being looks at the type of people God has chosen to be his elect children, he would think that they won’t stand a chance under his attack. But as this being gets ready to go to battle and stroll to victory, he gets hold of 2 pieces of the Christians’ communication with each other. One is a portion of the book of Acts and the other is a letter from the apostle Peter to the believers in Turkey.

In the portion from Acts 4, Peter and John have just been released from prison following their arrest for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and this is what they immediately pray for; “Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” That is quite an unsettling verse for any enemy of Christians. They’ve just suffered and yet they are praying for boldness to carry on.   

And then it gets far worse. Because the portion from 1 Peter 1 v 3-9 explains that response of the believers in Acts 4 to suffering. And the explanation shows that God has every base covered for his people as they live as strangers for a while in this world looking forward to their eternal home to come. 1 Peter 1 v 3-9 is ghastly, dreadful news for Satan and anyone who would stand against normal everyday Christians. And it is wonderful, joyful, courage-producing news for every single Christian here today. If you belong to Jesus, you have been given a living hope than means there is a shield for every attack against you – in Christ we are invincible saints and we have been made that way so that God can be given the praise and glory that he deserves.

 

          1) Can the inheritance be destroyed? (v3+4)  

 

That is what Peter begins with in this really long sentence that stretches all the way from verse 3 to verse 12 (a sentence that we will finish looking at next week). “Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” This is the summary of what our whole salvation is actually about – last week we saw that God’s love and glory are one and the same and so God chooses us because he loves us and because he wants to demonstrate his glory in us and through us. The cross and the empty tomb of Jesus Christ demonstrate that love and glory in the highest and clearest possible way – in other words, in order for God to be given what he deserves we are given something that we don’t deserve, something utterly matchless in all the universe;

“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.” The God who breathed life into Adam and Eve has breathed new eternal life into his chosen people; through the death of Jesus our old cursed life has died and through the resurrection of Jesus brand new life has been given. As sinners who had turned away from God we had a particular and unavoidable inheritance – death. Sin leads to death so even when our heart was beating and our brain functioning, we were utterly spiritually dead.

But God’s chosen people are reborn – we have been given a living hope and a glorious inheritance. Though we live in a world that is perishing, spoiling and fading (you don’t need Covid, rising oceans, failing governments etc to convince you of that) we live as strangers with the promise of an inheritance that isn’t. Christ’s resurrection guarantees it. When the people of Israel were rescued from Egypt and wandered in the desert, the promise of the inheritance God had for them kept them going. But even when they got into the promised land, they quickly found that this was an inheritance that perished, spoiled and faded. God was always pointing to an inheritance for his people that was infinitely greater. And we (those who are united with Jesus) are the beneficiaries who have eternity in God’s presence as our certain hope, an inheritance that should stop us settling for the world (ludicrous to scramble for scrap when there is priceless treasure with our name on it) and an inheritance that will keep us going through trials (nearly there).

Now this is terrible news for our enemies – so strategy number 1 for Satan might be to try to destroy the inheritance itself. But he can’t, because v4, “This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.”  The word ‘kept’ here is talking about God keeping his eye on it. I love the old Tom and Jerry cartoons and quite often in them the cat Tom would sneak up near a huge dog and try to snatch Jerry the mouse from under his paw. It never worked. Satan cannot snatch God’s peoples’ inheritance from under God’s watchful eye. It is kept in heaven for us. It is utterly secure. God has given us this treasure we don’t deserve so that he will be given the glory he does deserve.

 

          2) Can the heirs be destroyed? (v5)

 

Perhaps though, even if God’s enemies can’t destroy the inheritance itself, maybe the inheritors could be crushed. After all, God has chosen for himself a miserable bunch of needy sinners to grant this incredible inheritance to. But verse 5 says no, not a chance; “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.” There is a double guarantee, a double lock going on here. The inheritance is safe under God’s eye, and the inheritors, God’s chosen people, are shielded by God’s power. The word shielded here has similarities to the word ‘kept’ in the last verse but there is more of a military feel to this one. God’s people have God’s military guard on them.

When I first moved to Scotland to study and then to England to work, and I saw your police stations, I thought to myself “pathetic.” If you live in the UK you haven’t seen a proper police station until you have visited Northern Ireland. Gates, wires, walls, anti-mortar protections, you name it, those were the police stations I grew up with. You couldn’t get close to the people protected by those defences. And this is the position of God’s chosen people who “through faith are shielded by God’s power.” Now we know from other parts of the bible, and from Paul’s letters in particular, that faith in Jesus Christ, believing who he is (God in flesh) and what he has achieved for us (incarnation, obedience, passion, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, reign, interceding), faith is a gift from God.  

There is no mention at all here of the size or strength of this faith – it doesn’t say that the greater your faith the more strongly God guards you, no it says simply that through faith we are shielded by God’s power until the return of Jesus, until faith is not needed anymore because we will have sight of God instead. Is your hope in Jesus Christ? Do you go to him when you sin and when you feel broken? Do you depend upon him for the strength to lovingly obey him and the strength to serve his people sacrificially? Are you looking forward to the day he returns to bring his people home? This is faith in Jesus and through this simple, needy faith you and we are shielded by God’s power, he is armed and ready to defend us. Scott preached on the Beatitudes last Sunday evening at the Network service and said that ‘our helplessness is the doorway to heaven’. Faith in Jesus means that our inheritance is kept by God and we, the inheritors are guarded by God.     

          3) Will persecution work? (v6&7)

Why spend so much time in a sermon on theology? Because, good theology leads to doxology, leads us to worship. As we think and reflect and praise our loving and glorious God for the double security he has given us in Jesus Christ we are filled with joy and seek to live properly for him as strangers in this foreign land; God’s victory gets proclaimed among the nations. And this victory is seen so clearly when God’s people suffer well. If God’s enemies can’t scratch our inheritance or crush the inheritors, perhaps they can try to choke our faith through persecution? Perhaps if Christians suffer lots they will stop giving praise and glory to God?  

 

But once more, like my Isaac producing another shield exactly designed to deflect the attack, verses 6 and 7 declare that the exact opposite is the case. “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 honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” We have spent quite a lot of time this last year looking at the reasons for suffering and some of the things God accomplishes through it. These 2 verses though, are 2 of the best verses in the bible to learn and repeat to yourself and to each other during trials because they show us the right response.   

 

When Christians are going through all kinds of trials it is right to feel grief, but it is also right to realise that it is just for a little while (might not feel it but it is momentary). But mostly what these verses allow us to say out loud to one another is that God is accomplishing something through our trials that makes them worth it. Our faith is being refined and proved genuine, and though when living in this foreign land that doesn’t look very impressive, when Jesus returns and we stand before him on the day of judgement, that suffering well will be seen for what it really is – God is brought great praise and honour and glory by it and what a reward this will be for his faithful children.

If you are deep in suffering at the moment, firstly, examine yourself and make sure that you are suffering with this sort of attitude and suffering for the right things (if you realise you aren’t then go to Jesus again and he will give you what you need). But then be content that whilst suffering is causing you grief, it is only temporary and it is achieving something for both you and God that nothing else can achieve. But do share that with the church family so we can help you carry the burden, so we can pray and care and look out for you, but also share it so that we can be encouraged by your suffering so that we suffer well too.

Well if you watched a football match that was this one-sided you would almost feel pity for the opposition. The inheritance is safe, the inheritors are safe, and rather than persecution causing long-term damage it instead produces eternal benefits.     

Conclusion v 8&9 the Now and the Not yet blurred

As we finish today by looking at verses 8 and 9, I love the way that suddenly Peter starts to blur the now and the not yet. One of the things I love about visiting Northern Ireland is that my kids get to spend time with their uncles and aunts. Amongst other things, they always love eating with their uncles and aunts and no wonder because the normal rules seem to go out the window when the cousins get together. Normally, at dinner time, our kids have to eat their food in the right order – main course finished before any sweet stuff can be consumed; “finish your dinner and then you can have your pudding”. This rule does not apply with fun uncles and aunties. Eat your potato, yes you can have that Vienetta first. Finish that sausage, ok, after the chocolate ice-cream. I am all for this – I think that fun is one of the key duties of uncles and aunts.

I reckon the apostle Peter would have been that sort of uncle. He has been talking about an inheritance and that naturally involves waiting for certain things to happen. Pudding is going to be amazing isn’t it? Heaven is filled with wonder and when we are there all tears and sadness and mourning and death will be wiped away. There will be no sin and we will be with God and one another in a way that we can’t fully understand yet. But in verses 8 and 9 Peter basically says ‘don’t keep waiting, have some bites of pudding now.’ “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.”

When you trust Jesus for the first time, perhaps for you that will be this very morning, you are reborn into a living hope and so of course God is not going to keep heaven’s delights all for later. The continued, determined, faithful, Spirit-filled proclamation of Jesus Christ is absolutely key now so that Christians live not just as strangers and exiles in a hostile world but so that they also live as Jesus-loving, Jesus-trusting, Jesus-rejoicing saved saints in a world that needs to see exactly that.

We are the most privileged people in the world, we are children of the King, we are God’s elect, sprinkled with Jesus’ blood and set apart to be a special people, living with Jesus as our Lord. And the more we think and pray about that and the more we meet together as a local church in His presence in worship of God filled with his Spirit, the more full of love for Jesus and trust in Jesus we will be. And no matter what our circumstances and our grief, the more full of inexpressible and glorious joy we will be. Our God wins and may praise and glory and honour be to him.      

 

 

 

 

 

1 Peter 1 v 3-9 “Invincible Saints” Handout

Intro: A shield for every attack

 

 

        1) Can our inheritance be destroyed? (v3+4)  

Summary of what our whole salvation is actually about; “Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

 

 

In order for God to be given what he deserves we are given something that we don’t deserve; new birth into a living hope.

 

 

A new glorious certain inheritance;

  • Silly to scramble for scrap.

 

  • Keep going, nearly there!

 

God has given us this treasure we don’t deserve so that he will be given the glory he does deserve.

 

        2) Can the heirs be destroyed? (v5)

 

 

No chance because of the double guarantee;

“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.”

Through faith we are shielded;

  • Faith is a gift

 

 

  • Faith in who Jesus is and what he has done

 

 

  • Not the size of our faith but the person it is in

 

 

Praise God for the double lock; our inheritance is kept and we are shielded

 

        3) Will persecution choke our faith? (v6&7)

“may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

 

God’s victory seen most clearly as his people suffer;

  • Grief in trials is right

 

  • Christian suffering is temporary

 

 

  • Christian suffering achieves eternal benefits

 

Conclusion: The now and the not yet blurred (v8&9)

 

Continued, determined, faithful, Spirit-filled proclamation of Jesus Christ leads to;

  • Love for Jesus
  • Trust in Jesus
  • Joy in Jesus

 

1 Peter 1 v 3-9 “Invincible Saints” Home Group Questions

 

1) What have you found that grows you in your love for Jesus, your trust in Jesus, your joy in Jesus?

 

2) Read verses 3+4.  In what ways do you see our world perishing, spoiling and fading? How is our inheritance different? Why is this so certain?  

 

3) What makes you feel most vulnerable and anxious in this life? Read verse 5. How should God’s ‘guarding’ of us help us?

 

4) In verses 6&7 what 3 simple truths about trials and persecution are declared? How would learning and believing these verses change us in trials?   

 

5) Read verses 8&9. Why is the proclamation of the gospel so key to us enjoying our inheritance now as we wait for heaven? What implications do these verses have for our commitment to God’s people?  

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