A Brand New Start

How many of you made New Year’s Resolutions? Some of you no doubt have given up on New Year’s resolutions because you manage to make it a couple of weeks into the new year and no longer follow it. People make all kinds of resolutions, but probably the most popular are to lose weight, to stop smoking, or to stop drinking, or to not do any number of things that are harmful to our bodies. Many make resolutions that they won’t be making resolutions because they can’t keep them. This creates despair. We live in a hurting world. We live in a world of despair. Where is the hope? Chuck Colson summarized this feeling over 10 years ago and here’s what he wrote:

“Where is the hope? I meet millions who tell me that they feel demoralized by the decay around us. Where is the hope? The hope that each of us have is not in who governs us, or what laws are passed, or what great things that we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people, and that’s where our hope is in this country; that’s where our hope is in life.” – Chuck Colson, Prologue to “Heaven in the Real World” by Steven Curtis Chapman

One of the reasons we make new years resolutions is to give us hope that we can change and that we can change the world. Not many of us feel that way anymore, but as we take a look at God’s Word this morning we find that we can have great hope.

Text: 1 Peter 1:3-2:3

3Praise 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, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Are you in need of a shot in the arm this morning? God in his great mercy the scriptures tell us has given us new birth and it is this new birth that gives us a living hope, not a dead hope because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Many of us are trying to build up inheritances for our children. But God has an even greater inheritance, such a great inheritance that no one in this world can even attain, not Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or Donald Trump. He grants us an inheritance to heaven through our faith in Jesus Christ. This morning we continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It is the second Sunday of Christmas. This baby that was born two thousand years ago was born to make heaven a reality for you. Peter continues:

6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Peter says, continue to rejoice in your inheritance in Christ Jesus, because you will suffer. Jesus Christ himself said that we will suffer for our faith. Peter echoes Jesus’ words here. He says that those trials come so that they can refine your faith which is even worth more than gold. Why do we go through trials? To prove our faith is genuine, to refine our faith, and to praise and honor our Lord Jesus Christ when he is finally revealed on the last day. Let’s continue

8Though 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, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

Peter sets us up with a great hope. He tells us that our faith will go through a refining process and that is good. Gold that is purified has to go through the fire. A faith that is pure has to go through the fire. But we must always remember the inheritance that we have in Christ Jesus; an inheritance that was given to us by a baby born over two thousand years ago.

So how do we prepare for this inheritance? I’m glad you asked.

13Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

17Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

22Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24For,

“All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25but the word of the Lord stands forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.

1Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

If you want to make a real new year’s resolution this year, I challenge you to take these words of Peter to heart. God calls His children to be holy; to live holy lives. Why; because we have been bought with a price. We were not bought with perishable things Peter says, like gold and silver, but with the blood of Jesus Christ, the perfect, spotless lamb. If we were bought with the perfect, spotless lamb, we should strive to live like that.

Some people have misunderstood the Wesleyan teaching on perfection. God calls us to be holy as he is holy. Some translations say God calls us to be perfect as he is perfect. This is not a sinless perfection, but heart purity. If our heart is where it should be, if we love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, many things will fall into place. God wants us to live holy lives, to get rid of the evil in our hearts. Peter says, to rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. This attributes are not character attributes that a child of God ought to have.

But what is our guide? How do we know how to live? That is a great question. I have in my hands the secret to hope. I have in my hands the secret to starting a brand new life. I have in my hands the secret to living a holy life. That secret is in the Word of God. Jesus Christ came to us. John the Evangelist, tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This year is the Year of the Bible. I encourage each one of you to read through God’s Word this year. What would happen if each one us would read through God’s Word this year. It could lead to some great transformation in each one of our lives and if it leads to great transformation in our lives think of what could happen in our church. Peter quotes from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, when he says,

“All men are like grass,

and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;

the grass withers and the flowers fall,

25but the word of the Lord stands forever.”

We can put our hope in God. We can put our hope in God’s Word. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. The living enduring word of God is Jesus. What can we put our trust in? We can put our hope in God. We can put our hope in his Word. My challenge for you this morning is to read God’s Word every day in 2006. God’s Word is transformational. Start each day with it and we will see great things happen this year. Perhaps you don’t believe me. I ask you to try it. See what happens.

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