Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Born Again to a Living Hope Through the Resurrection

Following is my article for the April issue of IBC's Newsletter, "The Messenger":

In the meticulous providence of God, we come to the study of First Peter in the heart of the Easter Season. This is wondrously appropriate, for perhaps no individual in Scripture was so radically transformed by the resurrection power of Jesus than the Apostle Peter. Perhaps best known for his threefold denial of Jesus on the evening of His betrayal and condemnation, Peter's story doesn't end there thankfully. When the women came to the tomb early that Resurrection Sunday morning, an angelic messenger told them to go and tell the disciples AND PETER that the Lord would meet with them in Galilee (Mark 16:6). Frustrated and discouraged, Peter had returned to fishing on the Sea of Galilee when the risen Lord Jesus appeared on the shore and called the disciples to Himself. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, and three times Peter affirmed his love for the Lord, and three times the Lord recommissioned Peter to serve Him by caring for His people; once for each time Peter denied the Lord. As a result of this encounter, Peter was restored to right fellowship with Jesus and His people. Empowered by the Spirit, Peter became the boldest spokesman for Christ in the early church. As he put pen to paper to record the inspired letter we call First Peter, the Apostle wrote to a persecuted band of believers who had been scattered across Asia Minor to encourage and embolden them to persevere in faithfulness to Christ. He begins his pastoral exhortation to them by reminding them that God the Father, "according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3). Because of Christ's victory over sin and death through His crucifixion and resurrection, we have been granted a new birth and a real and vital hope in Him. Peter's sin and failure had been great, but greater still was God's mercy, Jesus Christ's salvation, and the Holy Spirit's power. What Peter had experienced personally, he tells the original audience of his letter that they could also experience in the midst of their hardship and suffering. And what was true for them is true for us as well. Because of Christ's resurrection we too can be born again through faith in Him, having our sins forgiven and our lives transformed by the indwelling power of the risen Christ through the person of His Spirit. And though life in this fallen world is hard, it is not hopeless. Because Christ conquered death, we have a living hope that in Him we can overcome whatever obstacle is before us, including death itself. His resurrection is the basis of our assurance that we too can experience life beyond the grave with Him. As one modern hymn writer has put it, "No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me." May the reality of Christ's resurrection do for us what it did for Peter and those to whom his first epistle was addressed! May we be ever encouraged and emboldened to face the difficulties of life in His overcoming power knowing that He has granted us new life and a living hope!

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