17 April, 2024

Living Hope and Unquenchable Joy: Celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus

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by | 1 March, 2024 | 0 comments

By Tom Claibourne 

What difference does it make if some guy died on a cross and rose again many years ago? Does it really matter? Does it make any difference . . . 

• when life is unfair? 

• when many political leaders seem godless and corrupt? 

• when evil is considered good, and good is considered evil? 

• when the persecution of Christians escalates? 

• when life is considered expendable? 

• when Satan’s attacks are relentless? 

• when death is inevitable? 

No doubt many believers in recent years have asked these questions during moments of despair. No doubt some believers asked similar questions as early as three decades after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter likely had these believers in mind when he wrote his first Epistle and assured them in its opening chapter that no matter what happens in this life, we as followers of Jesus can have a living hope through the risen, living Christ and a salvation to be revealed in its fullness someday in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-9). 

Peter wrote about the power of hope and how hope makes possible an unquenchable joy even in the face of pain, uncertainty, and shattered dreams. The basis for that hope is the glorious victory over death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus fought and defeated the king of death. 

HOPE AND JOY LEAD TO CELEBRATION 

We celebrate a new birth. “Praise 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” (1 Peter 1:3). 

We were born again (John 3:3) of imperishable seed through the living and enduring Word of God (1 Peter 1:23). Through God’s great mercy and grace we are no longer “dead in our transgressions” (Ephesians 2:5). We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Scripture says repentant believers who were baptized into Christ “were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:4-5). 

When we arose from the new birth by God’s resurrection power, we began a never-ending life and no longer need to fear death nor even the crises that come in this life. When the Christian scientist Sir Michael Faraday was nearing death, a journalist questioned him as to his “speculations” about life after death. He responded, “Speculations? I know nothing of speculations. I am resting on certainties. I know that my redeemer lives, and because he lives, I shall live also!” 

No wonder Peter speaks of a living hope found in a living Savior. No wonder the living Word of God describes hope as a confident expectation of something good, in contrast to a worldly hope that reflects wishful thinking.  

There is joy that comes with the new birth . . . and also the promise of a future inheritance.  

We celebrate a permanent inheritance. “. . . [A]nd into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-5) 

The word inheritance typically grabs our attention. Some even fantasize about a long-lost, wealthy (and childless) relative leaving them a massive estate. But should that unlikely scenario actually occur, all the things we inherited eventually would perish, spoil or fade, or we would leave them all behind for someone else when we died. Ecclesiastes 2:21 describes this futile cycle. 

Down through the ages, people have sought a “fountain of youth” in a desperate attempt to thwart growing old and dying. I once read about police officers who arrested a con artist for selling bottles filled with a liquid he claimed slowed the aging process. One detective told his partner, “Check his record. My gut tells me that our guy has played this game before.” The partner reported back, “You’re right; he’s got priors. He was busted for the same thing in 1815, 1887, 1921, . . .” 

There is no fountain of youth, but there is a fountain of life that comes from the blood of Jesus and is sealed by his victory over death, making possible a living hope for us. God offers us a permanent inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. God keeps it on layaway for us in heaven where sin’s curse no longer has power (Revelation 22:3); this assures us that no court action can revoke it, no thief can steal it, and no fire or rust can destroy it (Matthew 6:20).  

As long as our faith remains strong, we can maintain our secure place as God’s heirs and joyfully anticipate our permanent inheritance. 

We even celebrate suffering. “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:6). 

Suffering and trials are part of living in a fallen world. The curse that resulted from human sin (Genesis 3) will not be undone until Jesus returns and brings full restoration (Romans 8:18ff). Thus, Christians are not now exempt from illness, job loss, abuse, grief, poverty, and physical death. We face “all kinds of trials.” But praise God for the implications of that phrase “a little while” in verse 6. Our suffering here is short in comparison to eternity. Truly, our “momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). 

In a blog post from July 2020, pastor Lewis Holland shared an old story attributed to Charles M. Davis that was found in an old Bible. 

Davis wrote about a man known as Uncle Jake who had done yard work for him years before. Uncle Jake was uneducated but had amazing knowledge of the Bible. Davis once asked him to name his favorite Bible verse.  

Uncle Jake leaned on his spading fork, pushed back his hat, scratched his chin, and explained, “Well, sir, I’ve lots of favorites, but there’s one that has helped me most. It’s found all through the Good Book, but it’s just five ordinary words.”  

“And what are those five little words?” Davis asked.  

“Well, sir, those Bible words are ‘And it came to pass.’”  

Davis looked puzzled, so Uncle Jake continued.  

“Don’t you see? ‘It came to pass.’ It didn’t come to stay. I’ve known a heap of troubles, but they came to pass. They didn’t come to stay.” (Posted at preacherlewis.com.) 

Troubles typically stay for just a little while.  

James M. Gray asked in a hymn, “Who can mind the journey when the road leads home?” The child of God can have joy on the bumpy journey of this life because of living hope. 

OUR FAITH REFINED 

Peter referred to our faith as “of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire” (1 Peter 1:7a). 

As gold is refined by fire, less precious minerals are separated from it. Similarly, the faith of a Christian is made purer and stronger by the challenges we experience in the fires of life. In the Old Testament, God spoke of bringing some of his people through fire. “I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God’” (Zechariah 13:9). 

Peter himself learned how suffering can refine us and make us better. During Peter’s three years of training with Jesus, God used Peter’s challenges, struggles, and failures to prepare him for greater things later. 

Are the trials of life refining you or are they burning you? It’s up to you. If we let God refine us, we can rejoice in our trials and celebrate the resurrection power of God working in our life. 

OUR FAITH PROVEN 

“These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith. . . may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7) 

We don’t demonstrate the reality of our faith on Easter Sunday in a full house of worship by lifting our voices in celebratory songs of praise. We don’t demonstrate the reality of our faith on a balmy spring day when flowers are blooming and all is well. We don’t demonstrate the reality of our faith when our health is great, our wealth is secure, and our family is at peace.  

No! We prove the reality and depth of our faith when the rug has been pulled out from under us, or the fire burns us, or disease ravages our body, and yet we still look to God in unwavering, confident hope.  

Peter seems to imply that when Jesus returns he will commend his faithful followers with praise, glory, and honor for passing our tests of suffering and persecution. That in turn will bring praise, glory, and honor to Jesus because people will see how we were empowered to be faithful through the resurrection power abiding in us through the Holy Spirit of God.  

OUR FAITH REWARDED 

“Though 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, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9) 

Peter addressed his original readers and readers today by reminding us that we have not physically seen Jesus as he had. We did not walk the dusty roads of Judea and Samaria with Jesus. We did not marvel with Peter and the others when Jesus calmed the raging sea. We did not touch the scars on his hands after his resurrection.  

Yet the Bible has painted a clear picture of him for us. He has saved us from our sins and continues to work in our lives. As a result, we sincerely believe in him and in the full and complete salvation he is preparing for us.  

Verse 9 is interesting, for it uses the present tense to say we are now receiving the salvation of our souls. It is important to remember that God gives us our salvation through the risen Christ in stages. We have been saved from sin’s penalty (in the past). We are being saved from sin’s power (in the present). And we will be saved from sin’s presence (in the future) since nothing impure will ever enter the heavenly city. (See Revelation 21:27.)  

It is only a matter of time. Our goal is in sight. Our God reigns supreme. Jesus is alive and will return in glorious victory. The Bible is still true. Salvation is real. And soon we will be heading home. 

Maranatha! 

Tom Claibourne celebrates hope with his church family, the Bethlehem Church of Christ, near Winchester, Ohio.  

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