03 Mar More precious than gold
3 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, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 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 honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 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, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Do you know that the Bible not only speak of the reality that God bless us but also for us to bless God? Some of you are thinking, “O my gosh, my pastor has gone nuts. I told you he is getting weirder since he started using those glasses that all the young celebrity pastors are using.” Relax. My glasses might change but my conviction is still the same. The Bible does commands us to bless God. In fact, we sing the song quiet a lot. “Bless the Lord, oh my soul.” But what do we mean when we say bless the Lord? Does it mean we praise the Lord? Many English translation translates verse 3 as “Praise be to the God…” and they are not wrong. The idea of blessing God does involve praise but its more than just praise. So, what do we mean when we say bless the Lord? Because one thing we know, that to bless someone usually assumes that you are in a superior position over the person you are blessing. The greater blesses the lesser. Which leads to the question, are we greater than God? Why would God need our blessing? I don’t know if you ever heard it before, but there is a popular teaching that says, “There is one thing that God cannot do. He cannot worship himself. Therefore, we are created to worship him.” My ears tickled whenever I heard people say this. There is one big problem with this teaching. It assumes that there is a lack in God. That God is somehow not perfect. That God has a need to be worshipped and we are the one that can meet that need and that is how we can bless God. Let me very clear to you. That is heresy. The God of the Bible is the perfect God. He has absolutely no need. He is happy in himself. He is not lacking in any way. He was happy in the eternal past; he is happy today; and he will be happy in the eternal future. There is nothing we can give to God that will make him more complete. He is God.
So why do we bless God? Listen to this carefully. We do not bless God in order to give him something that he does not have but we bless God because he has given us everything that we have. God does not need us to bless him in order for him to feel good about himself. God is not in the heaven saying to the angel, “Gabriel, did you hear what RSI say about me? I did not realize I was that amazing. Dang, I feel good about myself.” God always feel good about himself whether we acknowledge him or not. The reason we bless God is we because are declaring to ourselves and everyone around us all the goods that he has done for us. To bless God is more than just saying nice things about God. To bless God is to be filled with awe and wonder of who God is and declare it verbally. And this is what Peter does in the opening passage of his letter. He is blessing the Lord and he invites us to bless God together with him.
Let me give you few crucial contexts to understand these verses. This letter is written by Peter to group of churches scattered throughout Roman Empire. As we know, churches in early days experienced persecution after persecution and in the midst of it all, Peter is writing a letter to encourage them to not forsake Christ. More than any other letter in the New Testament, 1 Peter speaks to the reality of suffering that the early Christians experienced. Many scholars believe that 1 Peter was written during the time of Christian’s intense persecution under emperor Nero. Christians were tortured and killed for pubic entertainment in the Colosseum. All throughout Roman Empire, Christians were treated as fugitives and their lives had no value. And to this group of people, Peter began his letter by saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” I don’t think Peter was being insensitive to the condition of his audience. What Peter is saying is that despite the intense persecutions and trials, Christians always have reasons to bless God. Christians are a group of people who are in constant awe and wonder of what God has done for them. And nothing can take away this truth from them. No trials, no sufferings, no death. In any circumstance, Christians always have reasons to bless God. Tonight, my goal is to help us see that it does not matter what we are going through in life right now, we always have reason to cry out, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”
In this passage, Peter gives us three reasons to bless God. Bless God for his gifts; Bless God for trials; Bless God for the gospel.
Bless God for his gifts
1 Peter 1:3-5 – 3 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, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
The first reason we bless God is for his gifts. Peter lists out three gifts that God has given us. First, the gifts of new birth. Let me explain new birth to you. When you became a Christian, you are not only believing a new set of beliefs, but you become a brand-new person. The old you have died and you are a new creation. Jesus calls them ‘born again.’ So, the heart of Christianity is not about being a better person but a brand-new person. One moment you are enemies of God, the next moment you are sons and daughters of God. You experience a new birth. Let me tell you that the new birth is a great mystery. It’s hard to explain. But one thing we do know for sure. We were dead but now we are alive. We were blind but now we see. We hated God but now we love God. There is a radical transformation that happen inside of us that can only be described as a new birth.
Here is what’s amazing though. You do not contribute anything to your new birth. Peter clearly writes that it is God who has caused us to be born again. We do not get to choose whether we want to be born again or not. It is God’s work alone. It is similar to our natural birth. I was born on 4th January in the year of not too long ago. I was born in Denpasar Bali, Indonesia. My father is Semuel Jusuf and my mom is Lydia Benyamin. I can tell you the basic facts about my birth. But I have nothing to do with them. I did not decide to be born on 4th January on Denpasar. Nor I choose to be the son of my father and mother. I did not choose to be Asian with tiny eyes. I was born this way because of the works of my parents. They got together and did what husband and wife would do when they have nothing to do at night, and voila, I showed up 9 months later. I contributed nothing to my physical birth. And in the same way I contributed nothing to my new birth. It is the works of God alone. God is the one who has caused us to be born again. We need to get this right because many Christians get this wrong. We are not born again because we became Christians. We became Christians because God has caused us to be born again. Its like having a birth certificate. Which one comes first? Your birth or your birth certificate? Your birth certificate does not cause you to be born but it shows you that you were born. We became Christians because God has caused us to be born again. It is the work of God alone.
But not only that. Peter not only write that it is God who has caused us to be born again, but he also tells us why God did it. The reason God caused us to be born again is because of his great mercy alone. This is very important. One the main reason why we do not wonder and bless God for our new birth is because we fail to understand that it is the work of God alone that is motivated by the great mercy of God alone. It’s hard for us to comprehend this truth because you and I live in a culture of earning and deserving. We believe that in order to deserve something, we must earn it. Mercy is unnatural to us. Let me give you two examples from my life. You may or may not agree with me but I consider myself a bit of a gentleman. So, if I walk in front of you and there is a door in front of us, I would most of the time hold the door open for you. And because I am your pastor, most of you would acknowledge me for doing so. I said most, not all. And I remember who don’t. But I am fine with it because I am your pastor. But when I hold a door open for a stranger and they do not acknowledge me, that’s a different story. I would say, “You’re welcome.” In my heart, though. Why? Because I feel like I deserve to be acknowledged for holding the door open. “I do not know you and I am certainly not obligated to hold the door open for you but I did. And you do not have the courtesy to say thank you? Huh?” Okay, what about this one. When I let another car into my lane. If you’ve been driving for over a year, you know where I am going with this. If you are in the wrong lane and I am kind enough to let you get into my lane, you better give me what I deserve. I mean, I do not need much. You don’t have to roll down the window, stick out your head and say thank you. All I need is for you to show me your fingers through the windows for a split second or wave at me through your rear-view mirrors. That’s all. But if you don’t give me that, I would hit the rewind button in my memory, go back to the time before you enter my lane, and I don’t let you in. How many of you know what I’m saying? We are by default creatures of earning and deserving.
But Peter cannot be clearer. We did nothing to earn or deserve our new birth. In fact, we were the enemies of God. We did deserve something. We deserved hell for rebelling against the almighty God. We deserved eternal punishment and condemnation for sinning against the holy God. But God has different agenda. Rather than giving us what we deserved, he gave us mercy. And not only mercy but great mercy. In his great mercy, God has caused us to be born again. He turned the enemies of God into sons and daughters of God. He forgave us our sin and made us new. Therefore, now Peter says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again!” I do not know about you but when I know what I deserved but I did not get, and I know what I did not deserved but I get, my soul wants to cry out to God, “Blessed be the name of the LORD!” One of the main reason we do not wonder at our new birth is because we fail to understand that it is the work of God alone motivated by the great mercy of God alone. We did not deserve it at all but God did it anyway in his great mercy.
The second gifts we received from God is the gift of living hope. All of us put our hope in something. We are creatures of hope. We cannot live without hope. We are driven by hope. And whatever you put your hope in, shapes the way you live. Let’s say that I hire 2 different people to do the exact same job. Their job is to call every member of this church every week and find out how each of them are doing. So, they have to call between 150 to 200 people weekly and talk to each one of them about what’s happening in their lives. “You had a fight with your husband? Oh no, what happen? Oh really? He did that? That must be bad. That’s why Paul said you should remain single. Let me pray for you and your husband.” “Your kids is giving you headache? I think you need to spank them. It’s against the law? Its okay no one need to know. Let me pray for you.” Imagine having those conversations with 200 people. It is very tiring and tedious job. The job is 50 hours per week, no bonus, no vacation, no benefits. But I pay one person $40,000 a year, and the other $4 million a year. One of them is going to say, “I can’t take this anymore. This job is killing me. I didn’t realize Christians have so much junk in their life. I want to quit.” Welcome to Pastor’s life. But the other says, “It is a tough job but I am okay with it. I have no problem with my job.” Why? Because one thinks that they will get $40,000 and the other person thinks that they will get $4 million. They both have the same experiences but because their hopes are different, one can hardly take it and the other just breeze through it. What you put your hope in radically transformed your perspectives in life.
All of us put our hope in something or someone. Some of us put our hope in our spouse, some on children, some on business, some on beauty. And they are not bad things. They are good things. But one thing for sure, if you live long enough, you will lose all of these things. None of them lasts. They are all dying. If you don’t believe me, later when you are over 40, do a 20 years challenge and compare the picture. You will realize very quickly that you are dying. You might be able to extend your external beauty for few extra years by going to Korea, but eventually graffiti will get you. It does not matter how often you pull that face, its going to drop sooner or later. Every natural hope in this world will die and it will disappoint you. But here is the good news. Christians, we have been given a living hope. Our hope is not dying but our hope is alive. There was a day that our hope died. They call it the good Friday. Peter thought all hope was lost. His master was crucified and that was the end of story. There was no future for him. But then three days later, something supernatural happened. The body disappeared from the grave. People began to make up story of how the disciples stole the body at night. But Peter knew better. Peter saw his master died. Peter saw the empty tomb. But not only that, Peter saw the resurrected Christ. His hope was dead but death could not hold him. On Sunday morning, Jesus was resurrected and through his resurrection, Peter says that we now have a living hope. We have a hope that is alive and will not die. Our hope is right now sitting and reigning at the right hand of God the Father. We have a living hope because we have a risen Saviour who defeated death. Everything else can be taken away from us but our hope in Christ is forever alive. That is why no matter what circumstance we face in life, we will always have hope. Because our hope is not in a circumstance but our hope is in our Lord Jesus Christ. “And because he lives, I can face tomorrow. Because he lives, all fear is gone. Because I know he holds the future. And life is worth the living just because he lives.”
The third gift we received from God is the gift of guaranteed inheritance. Peter says that we are given an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. I love these words. Imperishable means that it is not subject to decay, undefiled means it is not tainted by sin, and unfading means that it will never lose its value. Everything you own and can own in this world is subject to decay, tainted by sin and will lose its value. What is worth a million dollar today might worth nothing in few hundred years. But the inheritance God prepared for us is very different. It is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. It is something that is eternal and forever precious. And it is ready right now. We do not have it yet, that is why it is called an inheritance, but it is ready. Our inheritance is ready, waiting for us in heaven. Peter says that our inheritance is kept in heaven for us.
Now, pay attention to what Peter says because it is very beautiful. Who kept our inheritance? This is not a tricky question. It is clear that God is the one who keeps our inheritance for us in heaven. My question, if God is the one who keeps our inheritance, who can snatch it from him? Again, this is not a tricky question. No one can snatch our inheritance from God. God keeps our inheritance secure for us. But Peter does not stop there. Because our inheritance might be secure in heaven, but what about us? Is there any guarantee that we will receive our inheritance? Oh yes, there is. Pay attention to what Peter says. Peter says that right now we are being guarded by God’s power. This is beautiful. The word guarded literally means carefully watched. So right now, God in his power is carefully watching over you and me. It is like having Bruce Lee as your personal body guard but even better. Bruce Lee needs rest, but God does not. God in his omnipotent power is carefully watching over you 24 hours day, 7 days a week. Therefore, you will not fail to receive your inheritance. Pay attention to this. The God who keeps our inheritance for us is the same God who keeps us for our inheritance. Just as our inheritance is secure in heaven, we are guaranteed to receive that inheritance. And God is the one who guaranteed it by his power. God does not simply tell us that we have inheritances and leave it all to us to make sure we get it. God makes sure that we will receive our inheritances. Don’t you just want to bless God even more? God is beyond amazing.
But watch how God keeps us for our inheritance. Peter says that we are being guarded by God’s power through faith. This is crucial. Yes God guarantees that we will receive our inheritances but he does it by sustaining our faith. The Bible never teach that once you receive Christ, it does not matter how you live, you will receive your inheritance. That’s not the Bible. But the Bible does teach that if you truly receive Christ, then God will sustain your faith to the very end. God will strengthen your faith. Your faith will not fail. You will be faithful to Jesus. It does not mean that that you will never fail but it does mean that when you fail, your faith in Christ won’t fail. Peter understand this first hand. On the night before crucifixion, Jesus told Peter that he will deny him three times. And at that time, Peter would feel like all hope is lost. But listen to what Jesus said. Luke 22:31-32 – 31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” God will not fail to keep us for our inheritances but he does so by sustaining our faith. We will not fail to receive the completion of our salvation, our glorification, because God’s power is working in sustaining our faith.
Bless God for trials
1 Peter 1:6-7 – 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 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.
We not only bless God for his gifts, but we also bless God for trials. Peter says we rejoice in the gifts of God, but we also rejoice in trials. But Peter also says that we have been grieved by various trials. So Peter does not say, “I want you to be happy and not sad at all when you face trials.” That is not what he is saying. Peter acknowledges the fact that when we face various trials, we will be grieved. It is normal. There is room for sorrow. Yet at the same time we rejoice. So this is not sorrow first and then rejoice later. No. This is simultaneous sorrow and joy at the same time. We do not rejoice in looking past our trials but we rejoice in trials. This is what Christian’s life looks like. Walking with Jesus often involves simultaneous great joy and deep pain. We grief because the trials are painful but we rejoice because we know that God is using the trials to sustain our faith. Because what I know about us is this. Even though we are Christians, we are easily tempted to put our hope in things beside God. We put our hope in things that will disappoint us rather than the living hope. And God in his love must reveal that to us. Trials reveals where we put our hope. There is a purpose to the trials God sends our way. It is not random. That’s why Peter says, “if necessary.” God only send trials when necessary. That is why we bless God for trials because the trials are designed for our good.
Let me tell you a story. A husband and wife came to see a Christian counsellor. Both of them are Christians, both of them love Jesus, and both of them are struggling. The husband explains, “My life is falling apart. The business is not doing well. My career is going nowhere. The trial is just too much for me. I don’t think I can take it anymore.” And the wife says, “Dear, dear. It’s okay honey. God is in control. We need to trust him.” Then the counsellor asks the wife, “Then what is wrong with you? You seem to handle this issue with the business very well.” The wife begins to talk, “I am in depression. My life is falling apart. I don’t know what to do with my children. I did everything I can but I can’t help them.” And now the husband says to his wife, “Dear, dear. It’s okay honey. God is in control. We need to trust him.”
Do you see what happen? They both care about work and they both love their children. And they believe in God. But the husband put his hope in his work while the wife put her hope in her children. Even though we believe in Jesus, it is time of trials that will reveal to us where our true hope is. If your hope is in anything else but Jesus, you will be grieved and devastated when that thing is taken away from you. There will be no joy. But if your hope is a living hope, if your hope is in Jesus, then the deep sorrow you experienced will produce a deep joy. How can that be? Because of what Peter says next. Trials are designed to prove the genuineness of your faith that is more precious than gold. Gold is a symbol of a very precious item. In order to make that gold more precious, they would put the gold through fire in order to burn away all the impure materials that stick to the gold. And this is what trial does to our faith. Trials get rid of impurities in our faith. Trials burn away our self-righteousness and false hope and drives us to Jesus. Isn’t true that your sweetest experience of Jesus happens in your most agonizing trials? God is purifying your faith because genuine faith is much more precious than gold. Why is it much more precious than gold? Because gold has its expiry date. A day will come where gold is no longer precious. But your faith is of infinite value because your faith will lead you to your eternal inheritance. And it is by purifying your faith that God is sustaining your faith to the very end.
And what is the result of testing our faith? It is very beautiful. Peter says, “that your faith… may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Now, let me confess that I have always misunderstood this verse. I always thought this verse meant that the genuineness of our faith will result in God receiving the praise, glory and honour that he is due. And it is not wrong. This truth is declared all throughout the Bible. But I was shocked when I read commentaries on this passage. I was wrong. Then I read another commentaries, and I was wrong again. All the commentaries that I read, either gives two meaning to this phrase or they lean toward a different meaning than the one I held previously. And I think they are right. What Peter has in mind in here is not the glory, praise and honour that we will give to God at the end. It is the opposite. It is the glory, honour and praise that we will receive from God. It is God of the universe saying to you at the end of it all, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master. I will clothe you in praise. I will honour you. And I will envelope you in glory. You will reign with me forever in my kingdom.” Imagine that! The purpose of trials is so that God can sustain your faith till the end and give you the praise, glory and honour at his return. That is why the genuineness of faith is more precious than gold. The only natural response to such beautiful truth is to bless the Lord.
Bless God for the gospel
1 Peter 1:8-9 – 8 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, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
In here, Paul lies out the marks of true Christians. Christians are those who loves Christ. Christians are those who believes in Christ. Christians are those who rejoice in the joy of Christ. But here is what’s interesting though. We love him, believe in him, and rejoice in him, though we do not now see him. In this matter, Peter is a bit different from us. He saw Jesus. He lived with Jesus. He experienced Jesus first-hand. But this same Peter says that we can love, believe and rejoice in Jesus without seeing him in our physical eyes. How?
Remember the story of Thomas? I always feel sorry for Thomas. He followed Jesus faithfully for 3 years and he just had one bad day where he doubted Jesus, and he is forever known as the doubting Thomas. So when Jesus was resurrected, he appeared in a room filled with the disciples. The disciples were at first afraid to see Jesus but then they were filled with joy. Their master had defeated death and is alive again. However, Thomas was not there. Maybe he was running a train, we do not know. When Thomas returned, all the disciples told him, “We have seen Jesus. Jesus was here.” But Thomas doubted. Thomas replied, “Unless I see him with my own eyes and put my finger in the mark of nails, I will never believe.” A week later, Jesus showed up again and said to Thomas, “Yo Tom, I heard that you will not believe me unless you see me with your own eyes and put your finger in my hand. Here you go. Touch it.” And straight away Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God.” But listen to what Jesus said next. John 20:29 – Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” There is a blessing for those who have not seen and yet have believed.
How? How can we believe what we do not see? And why are we blessed? There is only one answer. Through the gospel. In and through the gospel, God opened the eyes of our heart to see the true beauty of Christ that no physical seeing can gives. You can see Jesus with your physical eyes but yet do not see his beauty. This is what happened to the Pharisees. But there is a kind of seeing that captivates your heart with the beauty of Christ without seeing him with physical eyes. Paul puts it this way, 2 Corinthians 4:6 – For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Through the gospel, you can see Jesus in far better way than those who see him face to face.
So, what do we see in the gospel? In the gospel, we see a God who is merciful. In the gospel, we see God who caused new birth that turned rebels into sons and daughters. In the gospel, we see God who does not operate on merits but according to his great mercy alone. In the gospel, we see God who defeated death and became a living hope for his people. In the gospel, we see God who prepared inheritance for his people and kept it safe in heaven. In the gospel, we see God who by his omnipotent power carefully watched over his sons and daughters to make sure they will receive their inheritance. In the gospel, we see God who sustain the faith of his people till the end. In the gospel, see God who designed trial for his people, not to destroy them but to purify their faith so that their faith might be proven genuine and it is more precious than gold. In the gospel, we see God who designed joy and sorrow to happen simultaneously. In the gospel, we see God who welcomed his children and give them glory, praise and honour that is his. In the gospel, we see God who loved his people so much that he wrote his love story and put it in a book called the Bible. In the gospel, God opens the eyes of his people to see his beauty even though they have never seen him. In the gospel, God prepares a joy that is beyond words and is filled with glory. In the gospel, God is the one who gives faith. In the gospel, God is the one who sustains faith. In the gospel, God is the one who completes faith. All of that to say, the story of the gospel begins with God and ends with God. Your story and my story are secure because God is the one who begins and completes our story. This is the gospel.
And let me end the sermon this way. I don’t have time to preach on verse 10 to 12 but read it tonight when you are home. If you are following our Daily Bible reading plan, then you have read few books of the Old Testament. We have encounter the great heroes of the Bible such as Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. And we will encounter many more. And Peter says that those heroes and prophets that came before us, do you know what they were saying? They wished they were us! Can you imagine that? They found out that the reason for their lives was to serve us, to help us see the full story of the gospel. All they saw in their lifetime was a glimpse of the good news that Christ will come and fulfil. But today, we already have that fulfilment. We hold it in our hands. We have the full story of the gospel. What a privilege. And not only that, Peter writes that even the angels long to look at the gospel. The word long here comes from the word lust. The angels lust after the gospel. Can you imagine that? I mean, the angels been around for what? 1 billion years? I don’t know. But they never tire of looking at the gospel. They want to look at it more and more. It blows their mind how their God, their Master, the glorious, sovereign and majestic Lord, would write a story where he gave his life for our lives. Where he traded his righteousness for our sins. Where he took a rebel like you and me, and crown us with glory, honour and praise. We bless God for the gospel.
When is the last time our hearts are captivated by the gospel? When is the last time we hear the gospel and responded with “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”? Maybe it’s time for us to stare again at the gospel and see for ourselves what it is about the gospel that makes angels long to look at it. May we never ever lose the wonder of the gospel.
- What does it mean to “Bless God”?
- Explain what do Peter means by “born again/new birth.” Share your “born again” experience.
- Read verses 4 and 5 carefully.What guarantee does Christians have on both their inheritance and being the inheritor?
- Explain the role of faith in the life of Christian.
- One of the sweetest experience of Jesus often happens in your most agonising trials. Agree or disagree? Share your story.
- Jesus said, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Explain how this verse is applicable to us and why it is important for us to “stare” at the gospel.
- What often stops us from being captivated by the gospel? Think of ONE step that you can apply in your life to be more serious about the gospel. Write it down and apply that one step this week.