Fighting for Joy: Eternal Perspective

Posted on August 3, 2011 by

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The following is the second part of a series of posts that grew out of a sermon originally preached on Sunday morning, July 31st, 2011, at First Bapstist-Las Colinas. You can read the original post here.

1.     Eternal perspective enables true contentment

Peter is writing this epistle to a church who is struggling for joy – struggling to find true joy in the midst of horrible social, political, and physical persecution. He is writing to a group of people who know that merely being caught reading his letter may be enough to feed them to the lions, and he is telling them that they have hope. And here is the reason that he gives for this hope:

…which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

 So here it is again: this reminder that there is something better. But we are not left with vague promises. Peter iterates very clearly for us what our hope is and what we have been “begotten again” for: An inheritance and salvation.

An inheritance

To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

This inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. We know that there is glory and there is joy and there is unlimited satisfaction awaiting us in heaven. Nothing can take that away. Nothing can corrupt or defile it. And it won’t fade with time.

This is what makes dwelling on heaven and our eternal rewards so gloriously and effectively practical. Do not make light of your inheritance by dismissing the study of heaven and thoughts on heaven as impractical or non-applicable to you because you’d rather hear a sermon on child-rearing or finances or something else that you, in your unquestionable wisdom, have labeled as “more practical.” Dwelling on heaven isn’t escapism – it’s not foolishness. It’s setting our heart and our treasure on true realities that are going to help use through the harsh realities we are facing now.

And there we have the difference between the hope that God gives and the escapism that the world sells:

  • God gives us hope so that by looking toward future bliss we can be made more content with our present circumstances.
  • The world will sell you escapism, in exchange for your precious time, that will offer us temporary relief, but make us less content with our pained existence.

Salvation

Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

This is what holds the inheritance. This is what makes it sure. And notice that a very significant part of our salvation is still in the future, from our perspective. By the “last time” what it means is “the uttermost time”, where time is not the linear seconds and moments that we know (chronos), but rather a “season” (kairos), which is a specifically and purposefully appointed period.

So our salvation isn’t done yet. There is more coming. And in due time Christ is going to reveal (literally “pop the lid off”) our salvation and we are going to be fully and utterly complete and completed in Him. We’re not there yet. But we are getting there. And that makes these circumstances bearable.

No, more than that. It makes them something that we can rejoice in. That is what is enabling Peter to burst forth in this declaration of doxology. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Right here, right now, right in the midst of this trial and this pain. Right in the midst of this despair and lost. Blessed.

Do not think that Peter is merely spewing platitudes. He penned these words in the height of Nero’s reign.

Nero – certainly the most infamous of the Roman emperors. Nero, who had his brother and mother murdered. Nero – a cruel debauched man who lived his life to excess; who played his fiddle while Rome burned to the ground, then blamed it on the Christians; who systematically hunted the followers of Christ and burned them, fed them to wild animals, had them tortured, maimed, and slaughtered for the pleasure of the masses.

Nero, who would see the Apostle Paul beheaded and Peter himself crucified upside-down. No, Peter is not speaking of mere concepts or ideas. These were truths that he lived each and every day. And that is one of the great things about Scripture – because it does not give us the right to say, “they couldn’t possibly know what I’m going through,” or, “since he hasn’t been through what I’ve been through he doesn’t have any right to tell me how to deal with my pain.” In fact, Peter went through worse. Paul went through worse. Jesus went through worse. This does not make your pain less – only these passages so much more meaningful.

And so here it is: this eternal perspective, this “living hope” is not wishful escapism – it is practical theology that leads to doxology. It is a knowledge that our joy is ultimately rooted in things that go beyond the here-and-now that allow us to be content in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. Here is how Paul said it:

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

It is this true contentment that will open the door to abiding joy.

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