Big Idea: The Purpose of New Life in Christ is God’s Glory (And our Joy!)
Intro: Well morning friends and visitors. My name is Matt Johnson and we are now studying 1 Peter – which is a bit like the famous story – Pilgrims Progress. As Christians we are now people who are leaving this decaying world behind as we head for A BETTER HOME, OUR FOREVER HOME in heaven.
Prayer: Well last week I spoke about existential crisis. If you don’t know why you exist or your purpose in life (at some point) you are likely to face existential crisis. 11 days ago; (SLIDE 2) the magazine – “MENS HEALTH” – the largest men’s magazine published worldwide – released this article. 11 Signs you’re having an Existential Crisis – (and as you can see the date is 25 April 2023).
MEN’S HEALTH are publishing this because men, women and especially teenagers are having mental health issues – that largely come from existential crisis. And if you can’t find an answer for life (or you conclude) that life is meaningless it becomes very depressing and leads to all sorts of POOR LIFE CHOICES. Sadly, Men’s Health don’t have many answers for overcoming existential crisis. They say – you could try 1) joining a book club, 2) practicing mindfulness OR 3) keep a gratitude journal. Gee, thanks Men’s Health…
I believe the reason our western world is NOW suffering existential crisis is that in the C19th & 20th the God of the Bible was put to death by western, secular humanism. As German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said – God is dead. He remains dead. We have have killed him. During the Enlightenment secular academics made arguments to deny God’s existence and/or trivialise God’s existence. So most people now live like there is no God (or He is dead). But Nietzche was smart enough to realise that the death of the Christian God was tantamount to the death of hope. What gave human beings hope in the western world to face of all the problems of life, problems of evil and even death itself is that God is real and God is good.
Nietzsche could see this gave western man hope and optimism. So the death of God almost equals the death of hope. And without hope man cannot live. And welcome to Sydney 2023. Eat, drink and snort as much cocaine as possible – for tomorrow we die. Ephesians 2:12 says that without God, people are without hope in this world. That’s a truism. The problems in this world are so big – that without a positive concept of God, we inevitably begin to despair.
But last week, chapter 1, verse 3, Peter spoke about God giving us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. A living hope. The idea is a hope that cannot die. Jesus’ resurrection 1) proves God is real and Jesus’ resurrection 2) proves God has beaten Satan, sin and death for us. So the resurrection gives us a hope that refuses to die, in even the most adverse conditions. So given that Christians are people of hope; people who believe in life beyond the grave – how should we live? What is the purpose of life?
Well back in the 1600’s the Anglican Church wrote a Christian document called the WESTMINISTER CONFESSION. Eventually this became the Doctrinal Statement of the Presbyterian Church. And in it – there is a catechism for teaching the Christian faith. THE VERY FIRST QUESTION in the catechism is (Slide 3) “What is the chief end of man?” Or in modern language; “Why do you exist?” What is your purpose in life? This is the existential question. THE ANSWER given by the PURITAN CHRISTIANS who wrote this document (and whom I think are right) is (ENTER) Man exists to glorify God and enjoy him forever. That is why you exist. But as modern Baptist pastor – John Piper points out – there is also (ENTER) a direct relationship between glorifying God and enjoying Him. THE MORE you glorify God with your life, THE MORE joy and satisfaction you will find in life with God. So today Peter begins to tell us our purpose as pilgrims in this world is – to glorify God (with a view to reaping joy as we do so).
Point 1: As Pilgrims our Christian Hope expresses itself in Holiness
Show: 1Pet.1:13-16 (READ)
Explain: Well the word THEREFORE tells us Peter is building on what he has just said in previous verses. But verse 13 is particularly linked to verse 3 – by the word “HOPE”. Hope is the connecting word. Peter began this book in verse 3 saying; Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for he has given us new birth into A LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. So Peter started this book urging us to be singing Pilgrims because God has liberated us from the existential crisis of this world – through a living hope…
So picking up on this idea of a living hope – verse 13 now tells us to be alert and fully sober as we set our hope on the grace to be given to us when Jesus Christ returns. Now our NIV church bibles make a silly translation mistake and put the word FULLY with the word sober. This is wrong. If you have a KJV, A ESV or Holman Bible you will see the word fully should go with the word hope. PUT YOUR HOPE FULLY (all your hope) in Jesus’ return.
Our living hope is that ALL JESUS DID FOR US when he died on the cross and rose again – will be perfectly realised when Jesus returns. (GOSPEL) At the cross Jesus defeated Satan, sin and death. Jesus loved us so much that he died on the cross to take the punishment for our wrongdoing. Jesus did the TIME for all your crimes. He was punished so you may be spared. So you should thank Jesus for doing this for you. APPLY The Bible says that if you believe Jesus died for you and you endeavour to repent of your sin – God will forgive you. He will give you the Holy Spirit and He will write your name in heaven. Satan, sin and death have been defeated. But our full experience of Jesus’ victory over Satan, sin and death will only be fully realised when Jesus returns. When Jesus returns then 1) Christians will be ushered into Gods presence, 2) every tear will be wiped away – and 3) Satan, evildoers, and death itself will be thrown into the lake of fire. So Peter says – set your HOPE FULLY – on Jesus’ return.
Illustrate: The fact is the Voice referendum will not suddenly fix all the problems for indigenous Australians. Given the nature of sin it will be lucky if it fixes much at all. Similarly, going environmentally green will not save our planet OR fix all the mental health issues. Even, if we totally redistribute wealth in some grand World Economic Forum socialist plan our world will not be utopia. These are false hopes. They are hopes that divide our true hope. Right now, our world is selling all sorts of GRAND NARRATIVES to fix GRAND PROBLEMS – because people are in existential crisis. People need something to believe in, to peg their hope in and their purpose to – when God is dead. So be sober minded when it comes to the grand narratives of our world. OUR CHRISTIAN HOPE is in Jesus’ return.
Apply: At that point – all those who are Christians – will see God face to face. SO THE APPLICATION becomes – be holy, because the God you are about to meet is holy.” Now holiness means to be SET-APART or DIFFERENT. The Bible is called a holy book because it is different to every other book. It is God’s book. And as Christians we are meant to be set apart (from all other people in the world) in terms of morality and values and priorities. We are meant to be God’s holy people. So Peter says be holy in ALL your do – because Jesus will return…
The quote “be holy as I am holy” comes from Leviticus 19;2. God goes on to talk about the 1) Sabbath, 2) generosity to the poor, 3) not stealing, 4) not lying, 5) respecting God’s purposes for sex, 6) avoiding witchcraft, and 7) bodily tattoos, and 8) prostitution etc etc. Holiness is about conforming our life to what pleases God. It means becoming like Jesus – who is the living example of holiness. THIS IS THE PURPOSE OF YOUR LIFE. Become like Jesus. Be holy. If our hope is fully set on Jesus return the most important thing is not social justice, or environmental justice, economic justice or black, rainbow, gender-bender justice – it is still holiness. And I’d say a little bit more holiness in the church would actually achieve a lot more good – than all the empty virtue signalling going on in the world.
Point 2: As Pilgrims our Christian Hope expresses itself in Reverence
Show: 1Pet.1:17-19 (READ)
Explain: Well, here we find the second application – REVERENT FEAR. This idea of reverent fear is not about cowering before God. God is called Father (in verse 17). And our heavenly Father is GOOD. That’s why Peter ties REVERENT FEAR of God in verse 17 – to the PRECIOUS BLOOD of Jesus in verse 18. This is not cowering fear, but real reverence. (GOSPEL) Jesus was the sacrifice for our sins. He was a lamb without blemish or defect. But Jesus shed his precious blood to save wretches like us. Again, (at Gods direction) he paid for your sin. So if God is willing to shed the precious blood of Jesus to save us (something more precious than silver and gold) – HOW PRECIOUS must we be to our heavenly Father. Very precious and always precious…
And in your pilgrimmage to heaven you need to hold on to that TRUTH (whatever your circumstances). If you have been washed in the precious blood of Jesus – God is not angry at you. You are forgiven and you are loved. So you need to get all that cowering fear out of your head and heart. Instead of cowering fear – there should be admiration, awe and wonder. As you grasp how big, strong and good your heavenly Father really is you begin to realise the most important thing in life – is not gaining the approval of your biological father, but your heavenly Father.
In verse 18 – Peter talks about being redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors. The word for ANCESTOR is actually fore-fathers. We all have biological fathers who have shaped our lives for good and bad. (Most scholars automatically think this is talking about our fathers handing down Jewish religion, or Greek wisdom on how to do life well. So Peter is saying our fathers wisdom is useless.
Apply: But I think there is something far more basic going on in the comparison of biological fathers and heavenly Father. You see, every child ever born in this fallen world (whether Jewish, Greek, British or indigenous) – wants the approval and blessing of their biological father.
It’s the nature of fatherhood. Fathers are big and they are strong – and they are the first people we really hold in reverent fear. (Wait till your father gets home). So we live out our time (in the home) in reverent fear of Dad – in the hope that we will please Him and He will give us His approval and blessing. The absence of this approval – is often called the father-heart wound. 1) Boys then drive themselves to do all sorts of power things hoping they’ll eventually get their fathers approval. 2) Meanwhile girls who fail to get from Dad – often go looking for it – in other men – that aren’t good. (If you are a father – hear what I am saying). Yet, fathers often fail to give this approval because they never got it themselves – and so we end up perpetuating this empty way of life – trying to win our fathers approval, from people who do not know how to give it. So Peter is like stop.
Your purpose in life as a Christian is not to gain your biological father’s approval (or any man’s approval), but your heavenly Fathers approval. It’s God’s approval that matters. Make him proud. Do things (OVER AND ABOVE) what luke-warm Christians are doing – and I believe God will give you His approval – both in this world and at Jesus’ return.
This is not about salvation. This is assuming you have already BEEN BORN AGAIN into a living hope. Peter says; now honour your Heavenly Father in reverent fear – and discover that he doesn’t leave you feeling empty (like many biological fathers), but satisfied. There is no father-heart wound for those who live in reverent fear of their heavenly father. Instead of feeling empty. We start to feel – full, approved of and content.
Remember- what is THE CHIEF END OF MAN (according to the Westminster Confession) – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Point 3: As Pilgrims our Christian Hope expresses itself in Love
Show: 1Pet.1:22-23 (READ)
Explain: Well Peter now focuses on love of neighbour. FOR THOSE WHO HAVE EYES TO SEE – your existential purpose in life is to A) love God with all your heart (Verses 13-21) and B) love your neighbour as yourself (verses 22-2:3). Now the way we glorify God and express our love for God is by 1) becoming holy AND 2) doing things in reverent fear – that we know God would like and approve of; Well done good and faithful son or daughter.
But glorifying God is NOT just about loving God. Glorifying God and loving God is about loving what God loves. Now as Christians we have been born again into love. Not the lust of the world (that masquerades as love). Nor the narcissistic, materialistic self-love of the world – that puts SELF and STUFF before others. No as Christians – we have been born again into altruistic, put others before self-love because God is love The Father is bringing glory to the Son and the Spirit. The Son and the Holy Spirt are bringing glory to the Father. GOD HIMSELF is altruistic, other-person-centered love. And we as Christians have been born again into this altruistic other-person-centered love.
Jesus put our needs before His own AND willingly died on the cross – to pay for our sins. This is true love. This is what life is all about – learning to put other people first before self. But this is hard. Darwinian evolutionary theory (and I’d say sinful instinct) is calling us to 1) save self, 2) protect self, 3) accumulate stuff for self and in the process it is destroying marriages, families and communities. But what we are meant to love is people. Jesus died to save PEOPLE. People are the only thing that matters in a world that is perishing.
Apply: Now (at first glance) this may seem wrong because Peter goes on to talk about all people being like flowers and grasses of the field that also perishes. So maybe everything is meaningless, meaningless – even people. They too will perish like the grasses of the field…
This is hopelessness. But Isaiah 40 (written in 700BC) goes on to proclaim good news. Isaiah explains that those who take hold of God’s Word which is imperishable, will also become imperishable. But there is ONLY ONE THING in this world that can take hold of God’s imperishable word by faith – and that is people. So do you love people enough to prioritize sharing the gospel which can clothe the perishable with imperishability? (Slide 9; Isa.40:30-31). Isaiah 40 may begin in the despair of Babylon, but it concludes in the hope of heaven. There is a word (a gospel word) that doesn’t just pick us up youths when they fall down, but saves people from the grave when they die. This Word is Jesus. His death for our sins and his resurrection to new life. But do we love people enough to share this saving word with them.
You know God is not in the business of saving the planet or saving every animal (here and now) from extinction. He’s not. And just because you have the money to save your pet from cancer, doesn’t mean you should – when millions of children for whom Christ died are starving in Africa. Nor is God in the business of bringing social justice and equity (here and now) to every person who identifies as a victim. That justice and equity will only come at Jesus’ return – for those who believe in him. So setting our hope fully on Jesus’ return (to fix all these other problems) – we are called to love people enough – to share Gods enduring Word of Life with them. We are called to prioritize our love, time, money and energy to share Jesus with them – and realise that it is A FAR GREATER PRIVILEGE to be used by God to save a fellow human being, than to save a polar bear or dolphin or bring someone half-baked justice. Be alert and sober minded in where you put your putting your hope.
This week, I had the incredible privilege of seeing a vocal hater and rejecter of Jesus (finally, after many years of witness) – get down on his knees AND plead with Jesus for forgiveness. And as tears of sorrow flowed down his cheeks, tears of joy flowed down mine. Glorifying God (and prioritizing the things of God) is the path of true JOY.
Point 4: As Pilgrims our Christian Hope seeks out more of God
Show: 1Pet.2:1-3 (READ)
Explain: Now I really want us to focus on those final words “now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” That is an EXPERIENTIAL expression. And it’s a here and now experience – that God is good. Have you tasted that the God of the Bible is actually good to those who trust Him. And if you have tasted that God is good – then you keep going back and going back and going back for more of that goodness.
Most people picture the Christian God as THE FUN POLICE – who stops you enjoying little bits of naughtiness. They think God is all about rules that make life MISERABLE – until you supposedly get pie in the sky when you die. But that is not true. God is good and those who glorify Him, begin to enjoy Him – now. Those who truly draw near to God (and take up His purposes in the world) actually begin to experience God’s goodness in their life here and now. There is a joy, a meaning and peace that comes to life…
Now this is not the crass, PROSPERITY GOSPEL of TV evangelists. I’m not saying God will make you rich, powerful and give you every desire of your sinful flesh. That is a lie of the evil one. But there is a truth in the Westminster confession –that those who truly glorify God with their lives, will begin to enjoy God in their lives.
Our joy, our meaning and our contentment is tied up with God’s glory in altruistic other-person-centered-love. As we truly put God and His glory before ours, God makes our joy and contentment and meaning in life one of His priorities. When we truly put God first, we begin to experience His goodness. This is what Baptist Pastor – John Piper has labelled Christian hedonism. I hate the term “CHRISTIAN HEDONISM”. But I love and believe in the truth it is communicating. The truth is God is most glorified in us (at the very same moment) we are most satisfied in Him AND enjoying Him.
In other words – there is A DIRECT RELATIONSHIP – between A) Gods’ glory in our life and B) our satisfaction and joy in life. This is an existential thing because we were made for Gods glory. So the place we find the most meaning, satisfaction and joy is in doing the very thing we were created to do. Now of course, this side of Jesus’ return (when our hope is fully realised) our joy, pleasure and contentment in God’s glory will always remain less than perfect. But I assure you it is still a MILLION MILES BETTER – than anything this world offers in terms of joy, meaning and contentment. So if you have tasted that God is good – (and more satisfying than the things of this world) I encourage you to seek out A) more of God in His Word and B) more of Gods glory in your life – as we head for the celestial city – where we will one day glorify God in all that we do and find perfect, lasting, inexpressible joy in doing so. ONWARD CHRISTIAN PILGRIMS…