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TEXT: I Peter 1:3-5
SUBJECT: Two Easter Blessings
Today God's People are gathering all over the world to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. This is a good thing, of course, as long as we don't limit the party to one day a year. In the Early Church, every Sunday was Easter because on the first day of the week, very early, our Lord rose from the dead.
The Resurrection is not a symbol, a figure of speech, or a pretty thought. It is a fact-it really happened in time and space. If you had entered the tomb at, let's say, four o'clock in the morning, you would have found a dead body, as still and cold as any other corpse. If you came back two hours later, you'd find the same body alive and well and raring to go.
That day about a dozen people saw Him alive. In the next few weeks, five hundred more spied Him walking, talking, cooking, eating, and doing other things live men do and dead men don't! The Lord is risen, indeed!
The fact of the Resurrection is central to our faith and witness. Take it away or change it into a myth, and we've got nothing-nothing to say and nothing to live for. If the Lord is not risen-Paul says,
Our preaching is vain.Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.
The Apostles proclaimed the Resurrection of Christ and defended it against every critic. No one was bolder than Peter in this great work. On the Day of Pentecost, he stood before thousands of people and told them what they had done--and what God had done about it.
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him.You have taken, by lawless hands, crucified, and put to death.Whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it!
When men scoffed at the Resurrection, Peter stood up for it.
We have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the coming and the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His Majesty.
Peter didn't dream this up; he didn't get it out of a book or hear it from a preacher. He saw the Lord dead and then he saw Him alive. Not with his faith, but with own two eyes.
Peter was a witness to the Resurrection, a powerful preacher of the Resurrection, and an able defender of the Resurrection.
But in today's passage he plays a very different role. First, he's a believer thanking God for the Resurrection, and then, he's a teacher telling us what the Resurrection is doing for us now and what it will do for us in the future.
The passage begins with the word, Blessed. Two Greek words are translated "blessed" in our English Bibles. One means "happy". It's the one found in the Beatitudes:
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
.And so on. This may be applied to God and sometimes it is. He is The blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and the Lord of Lords. When we think of the attributes of God, blessed or happy rarely comes to mind. But it ought to. The Lord's happiness is as infinite, eternal, and unchangeable as His holiness, justice, or mercy. He could no more quit being happy than He could stop being wise.
But this is not the word Peter uses in our verse. No, here he uses the other word for blessed. It means something like well spoken of or worthy of praise. Peter is lavishing praise on the Lord. Now, as a devout Jew, Peter has blessed God all his life. But now, he's praising Him more richly than he has before. He's not just saying nice things about God, but he's bursting with gratitude and joy and wonder at what the Lord is and what He has done.
His feeling recalls the great hymns of the faith. I think of Bernard of Clarvaux,
What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee dearest Friend,
For this Thy dying passion,
Thy pity without end?
Charles Wesley felt the same stirring of sacred emotion,
O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer's priase,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace.
Long before these men were born, the greatest composer wrote,
My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Gird your sword upon your thigh,
O mighty one,
And with your majesty, ride prosperously
Because of truth, humility and righteousness.
David was a skilled musician, a masterful composer, and a warm-hearted believer, and yet he felt unable to praise the Lord as he wanted to; he felt his instruments were not sufficient for the great work he was called to do. And so, he rouses himself and his instruments to the work of praising God,
Awake, my glory!
Awake, lute and harp!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, O Lord among the peoples;
I will sing to you among the nations.
For your mercy reaches unto the heavens,
And your truth unto the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
Let your glory be above all of the earth!
Peter doesn't have the skills of a great poet, but he has the heart! His words are not eloquent and moving like the others, but they're sincere and they spring from the soul!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me,
Bless His holy name.
This is what Peter wants to do!
THE GOD AND FATHER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
The one he means to bless is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every word is bursting with praise. He is God, the Lord who called Abraham out of Ur and gave him a son when he was a hundred years old. He is the Lord who came to Jacob in the vision of Bethel. He is the God who went into Egypt with His people and brought them out with a mighty hand. He is the Lord who fed them in the wilderness, who gave them water from a rock, and brought them into a land flowing with milk and honey.
He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of Moses, Aaron, and Joshua; the God of Gideon, Ehud, and Samson; the God of Samuel, David, and Solomon. The God of the prophets; the God of the Reformers; the God of John the Baptist.
He is the Father, providing for His children, teaching them wisdom, being patient with their follies, forgiving their sins, and gently nudging them back to the right way.
But He's more than Peter's God and Father; He is chiefly the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the God who begat the Lord in Mary's womb, and Father who raised Him from the dead. He is the One Jesus Christ worshiped and feared and obeyed and revealed to us.
It is right and wholesome to praise people, but we have to be careful lest we overdo it! But the praises of the Lord cannot be exaggerated! In His Presence, the Seraphim are at a loss for words-all they can do is repeat themselves, over and over!
Though everything about God is worthy of our highest praise, Peter selects one thing in particular to bless Him for. And what's that? It is His abundant mercy.
We don't know how the angels praise God, but I suppose they honor Him, mostly for His holiness or His wisdom, His power, or maybe His beauty. These things would be most attractive to unfallen creatures.
But to the creatures who have fallen into sin and under God's wrath, the thing we admire most is His mercy! His common mercies give us life. His special mercies give us eternal life.
Everyone lives on God's mercy-including the ones who don't believe in it. But we do believe in His mercy-and we praise Him for it with loud voices and with no shame!
But wait, Peter doesn't say His mercy, but His abundant mercy. The mercy of God is not like bread and water in solitary confinement. No, it's like a Thanksgiving table, groaning under the weight of turkey and ham, stuffing and mashed potatoes, corn and cranberries, pumpkin pies and whipped cream, with your family and best friends all around.
Just how abundant is God's mercy? The Psalmist measured it and said it was,
As high as the heavens are above the earth
And as far as the east is from the west.
As far as the eye can see-up and down, back and forth-that's how big the mercy of God is. According to the Psalmist. But Paul said it is a lot bigger than that.
Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
If it's measured by number, God has more mercies than we have sins! If it's measured by effect, God's mercies do us more good than our sins do us harm! If sin breaks the world to pieces, God's mercies put it back together-only better than it was before! Salvation is better than innocence! Heaven is better than Eden! God the Redeemer is more glorious than God the Creator!
BORN AGAIN.THROUGH THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
Peter sees God's mercy all around him, of course, but His abundant mercy is found in our salvation-first in this life. He says God has.
Begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ to the dead.
The new birth (or, being born again) is a figure of speech used all over the Bible. Here, the work is attributed to God the Father. We are not "born again" by our efforts or the efforts of the Church. It's not by accepting the Lord as your personal Savior or by being baptized. No, the New Birth is God's Work-a work He does alone and on His own initiative-and not in response to what we do first or later.
This new birth brings us into a living hope. A natural birth brings you into the world-a world full of suffering and despair, and finally, death. But the new birth brings you into a world of hope. Now, hope is not wishful thinking! It is a future blessing that is sure, not probable or almost certain, but absolutely sure, with no chance of failure.
Hope is what God gives us in this life. Living in hope does not mean living without a care in the world! Far from it; the most hopeful people are also the ones who have suffered the most. Think of the sufferings common to life: You were not well treated by your parents. Your friends have done you wrong. There's physical suffering and the loss of loved ones. Then there's poverty, discrimination, and being excluded for no fault of your own. Add to all this the guilt of sin and then comes death!
This is our plight-your plight, mine, everyone's! But through the new birth, these things do not sink us into the pit of despair.
Why not? Because the Lord suffered all these things-and God raised Him from the dead! If Christ had hope and we are in Him, then we have hope!
These things I have spoken to you so that in Me, you mayl have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
A lot of bad things have happened to you. And if you live much longer, worse things will happen to you. But Christ suffered more and worse things than you have or will. And look what God did for Him-He raised Him from the dead! And if Christ is already risen to a place of peace and happiness, we will be in God's good time. Till then, we live in hope-a living hope, a hope that cannot die.
This is the blessing the resurrection provides in this life. The other blessing is even better.
If we live in hope now, our hope will not be disappointed. What we're hoping for is an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for [us].
And, oddly enough, that is precisely what God has for us! When a relative dies, a child may get his estate, but not right away. It is put in trust, till the child is ready for it-at 18 or 21 or 25 or at whatever age the will indicates.
Jesus Christ is our Relative! He died and left us His estate. Some of it we have right now-an annuity paid out in modest installments, you might say. But one day, the small checks will stop coming-and we'll receive all He has for us! And that is all things that pertain to life and godliness! It is every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. It is exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think. He will give grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from those who fear Him.
Unlike other legacies, this one cannot be lost. It is ours forever. Because the tomb is empty! If Christ is dead, our hopes are dead and heaven is dead. But He isn't dead and our hopes and heaven will live as long as He does!
How long will He live? Let Him have the last word:
I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore!
The resurrection of our Lord is in the past; He will never rise again. But the blessings of His resurrection are new every morning! And for everyone who believes in Him.
So why don't you believe in Him? What have you got to lose but despair in this life and damnation in the life to come? Why not choose hope for now and heaven forever? Why not? The Resurrection isn't for one or two people, it is for everyone! Whoever wants a part of it can have it. But he can only have it one way, God's way, by faith in Christ.
And if you have a part in His Resurrection, join Peter and all the saints by blessing the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ [for] His abundant mercy!
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