* November 16 - 22
A Living Hope
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: 1 Peter 1:3-21.
MEMORY TEXT: "In his [God's] 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, NIV).
KEY THOUGHT: The Bible says we have a living hope, and that is because we have a living Savior, One who shed His blood for our sins and, having been resurrected, now stands as our living Representative before the Father in heaven.
A LIVING HOPE! That is what God, through Christ, gives to us. Most religions are experiments in hopetrying to provide answers to the hard questions of life, to give meaning and purpose, and, most of all, reasons to continue the struggle that life often is. But what other system of belief focuses on a God who comes to His children in their own form, lives among them, dies at their hands, atones for their sins, and then through His great gift of salvation and resurrection provides them with the hope of eternal life?
That is why the Advent hope is called the living hopefor it gives assurance of God's constant presence in our lives now and the guarantee of a future life with Him when He comes. This week we will look at that hope through the eyes of someone who knew it well, the apostle Peter. How did Peter understand the living hope?
*Please study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, Nov. 23.
Sunday November 17
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who 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 Pet. 1:3, NASB).
Talk about a rich text, a full text, a text worth devouring. Here in one verse is captured the essence of the gospel, the essence of God's love for us, and thus the essence of our great hope.
Notice, first, that it is not because of us, or anything that we deserve, that we have this hope; it comes only because of God's "great mercy."
How do you understand mercy? Look up the definition in a dictionary. What does mercy mean? How does one give mercy to someone? What conditions are needed for mercy to exist? Write down some examples of when mercy has been exhibited, along with some description of its characteristics:
The text then says that it was God's mercy that has caused us to be "born again." This is crucial, because Jesus Himself made it utterly clear in John 3:3 that we must be "born again." Peter here shows that the new birth is something that God does for us. We can no more do it ourselves than we can save ourselves. And it is this "new birth" that leads us into "a living hope."
According to the text, what historical event has made this "living hope" possible?
The direction of this text ultimately ends up at Jesus, to His resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:10, 11). In short, we have a living hope, because we have a living Savior, One who not only died for our sins but now lives; and because He lives, we have the hope that we will live, now and forever. Thus, our great hope, this living hope, is based not on ourselves but on the living God, who is the Source of life and who alone imparts life (Col. 3:4).
|Dwell more on this idea of a living hope. Based on what you have read today, write a paragraph or two on how you would explain "living hope" to someone who is not a believer in Jesus. Help them understand what you have that they don't and why they should want to have it and even how they can get it.|
"To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet. 1:4).
This text helps complete the thought of the verse that precedes it. First Peter 1:3 says that through God's great mercy we have been born again in a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. But what does that mean for us, personally? How is this hope finally realized? A better life here, only then to die and end up as food for worms? To be reincarnated into another existence, again and again through an endless cycle of births and deaths? Where, ultimately, is our faith supposed to take us?
In 1 Peter 1:4, what points does Peter make about the quality of our inheritance? What do you understand those points to mean? Look up the following texts and write down how they help clarify just what a wonderful hope it is that we have:
Matt. 6:19, 20 _______________________________________________
1 Cor. 15:42 ________________________________________________
1 Cor. 15:52-54 ______________________________________________
1 Pet. 5:4 ___________________________________________________
All around us, in every way, we see corruption, we see decay, we see a descent toward dissolution. In fact, the second law of thermodynamics teaches, basically, that every day the physical world around us is heading toward decay, chaos, and disorder. It is a natural law.
Fortunately, as believers in Jesus, we have a hope that is not in nature, is not in anything just natural. We have a supernatural hope, one based on the supernatural acts of God, who transcends the natural world we, as fallen beings, find ourselves trapped in. Because of Jesus, because of what He has done for us, we are promised a way out of this downward slide toward oblivion. We are promised literal, physical bodies that will not get sick, will not get hurt, will not decay, will not fade, and will not die. Talk about hope!
|"Oh, you Christians just believe in some myth, some fantasy of a better world in order to help you not feel so bad about this one." How would you respond to that charge? And, despite the charge, how, indeed, does this wonderful hope help us cope with the problems that life presents to us here and now?|
Perhaps the most exciting part of this verse, one brimming with hope for us, is the last part, which talks about our reservations in heaven. Because of God's mercy, we have been born again into a living hope (through the resurrection of Jesus) that leads us to an inheritance of eternal lifean inheritance that is reserved, or kept, for us in heaven. Talk about safekeeping! There isn't a bank or a vault in the world that can offer that kind of security. Of course, considering what is being safeguarded, i.e., our inheritance of eternal life, absolutely the most important possession anyone can have, it is no wonder the Lord has placed it in such a safe location.
Look up the following verses. Write out how you understand these texts to help us see just what it means to have our inheritance in heaven: Jer. 33:16; Rom. 3:24, 25; 8:34; 1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:12; Heb. 6:19, 20.
Our inheritance is in heaven because Jesus, our Savior, our Righteousness, and our Redeemer is in heavenand our salvation, our hope, and everything is found only in Him. After Jesus died, having wrought out in His life perfect righteousness by His perfect obedience to all of His Father's commands, after suffering death in our stead (having borne in His flesh all our sins), He ascended to heaven, where He now ministers that perfect righteousness in our behalf before the Father. Our inheritance is in heaven, because He is in heaven, the One alone in whom we have the promise of "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away." We now have a living hope, because we have a living Representative standing before the Father in our stead, pleading the merits of His perfect righteousness in our behalf. It is clear, then, that our inheritance is secure, because it is based solely on Jesus and what He has done for us.
Thus, as long as we cling to Him in faith, our inheritance is as secure as the promises of God Himself.
Of course, though our hope is in heaven, in Jesus our Savior and High Priest, we still have the battle here on earth, where the great controversy rages around us. And, sometimes, the problems and troubles of the battle seem to be overwhelming. Fears over job security, financial worries, war, family crises, revolution, damaged relationships, health worries, bereavementall can lead to so many kinds of grief. To be human is, to some degree or another, to sorrow. Peter was aware of this reality, and thus after talking about the great hope we have in heaven, he shifted to some more immediate earthly problems.
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faithof greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by firemay be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Pet. 1:6, 7, NIV). What is Peter saying here? Keep in mind the verses that preceded these.
Peter's not saying that all trials come from God in order to refine our faith. That would be too simplistic. Instead, our response to whatever trials come, that is what is most important to the Christian. If we cling to the Lord in faith, whatever happens, we can still have a wonderful hope beyond what this life now offers.
Look at what Peter wrote next: "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 goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 Pet. 1:8, 9, NIV).
Thus, after talking about the trials of life, Peter then shifts the focus back on Christ and the hope that believers can have because of Him, no matter their present situation.
Why? Because of the promise of salvation. The joy we experience is in recognizing that God is saving us, that He is right now fulfilling His promises, and that the blessed hope will be that glorious reality.
This is not some passing excitement or foolish sense of fun. This is the deep-seated joy that is totally sure of the objective of hope. In the words of Annie Smith in her Advent hymn, "I Saw One Weary":
"O! what can buoy the spirits up? 'Tis this alonethe blessed hope."
|For the next few days, write down every time you think of the promise of eternal life that we have because of Jesus. Write down, too, the situation that sparked that thought. How many times did it come? What caused it? What comfort did it bring?|
"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:13).
I n the end, no matter what Christ has done for us, no matter the fullness and completeness of His sacrifice in our behalf, salvation comes down to our choice. Do we accept or reject it? All of us, indeed, make one choice or another. Because we make this choice only with our minds, it is no wonder Peter emphasizes the need to control our thoughts. For here, ultimately, the battle for individual souls is won or lost, because here is the place where our choice is made.
Look up these verses. What do they say about our thoughts and what should go on in our minds? Gen. 6:5; Ps. 10:4; Prov. 5:10; Isa. 55:7; Matt. 5:8; Phil. 2:5; 4:8; 1 Pet. 4:1.
The original Greek reads that this grace "is being brought to you," as in even now they are partakers of God's grace. Peter here sets forth the Christian walk as a growing realization of the presence of Jesus Christ, a deepening fellowship that surpasses the closest earthly friendship. Day by day the life and work of the Savior will be increasingly revealed to the child of God until the final "revelation" occurs at the Second Coming. Those who adoringly view Him then will be those who have already come to know Him in this life.
Thus, we are told to focus on God's grace toward us, which should be the foundation of all our actions and motivations. It is through the graciousness of God that we even live, that we receive His salvation, that there is an eternal life to look forward to. When Jesus is revealed at His second coming, then grace is made complete in the transformation from mortal to immortal, from perishable to imperishable (see 1 Corinthians 15).
In what ways, even now, are you benefiting from the grace that is "being brought to you"? How, in your own experience, is that grace being brought, how are you experiencing it, and how has it changed your life?
FURTHER STUDY: "The power of Christ alone can work the transformation in heart and mind that all must experience who would partake with Him of the new life in the kingdom of heaven. 'Except a man be born again,' the Saviour has said, 'he cannot see the kingdom of God.' John 3:3. The religion that comes from God is the only religion that can lead to God. In order to serve Him aright, we must be born of the Divine Spirit. This will lead to watchfulness. It will purify the heart and renew the mind, and give us a new capacity for knowing and loving God. It will give us willing obedience to all His requirements. This is true worship."Ellen G. White, Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 37.
"There we shall know even as also we are known. There the loves and sympathies that God has planted in the soul will find truest and sweetest exercise. The pure communion with holy beings, the harmonious social life with the blessed angels and with the faithful ones of all ages, the sacred fellowship that binds together 'the whole family in heaven and earth'all are among the experiences of the hereafter."Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home, pp. 548, 549.
"There every power will be developed, every capability increased. The grandest enterprises will be carried forward, the loftiest aspirations will be reached, the highest ambitions realized. And still there will arise new heights to surmount, new wonders to admire, new truths to comprehend, fresh objects to call forth the powers of body and mind and soul."Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home, p. 549.
SUMMARY: Our hope is real, and it is assured to us by God Himself. And this hope does make a real difference in life and can be appealed in all situations. As we accept Jesus, we are reborn into this living hope, a hope that is relevant and meaningful. In both the joys and sadnesses that we each experience, God's hope remains the constant source of encouragement and gives direction to the way we live.
Habib* huddled in his dark prison cell, trembling with fear. A fellow prisoner, sensing Habib's desperation, secretly offered him a copy of a holy Book. It was the New Testament. Habib had always considered the Koran to be the most holy book, and he wondered whether he should read this Christian Book. But, in his loneliness and despair, he began to read. The Bible brought him peace and hope.
When Habib was transferred to another prison, he had to leave the Bible behind. But he did not forget the power of this Book to bring him hope and peace.
After his release from prison, Habib tried to find a Bible, but Bibles are not available in his country. However, while listening to his shortwave radio one day, he found the Voice of Hope program on Adventist World Radio. In his country listening to Christian radio can be dangerous, but Habib began to listen regularly. Soon he found the same peace and hope that he had experienced while reading the Bible.
He took another risk and wrote to AWR thanking the producers for the programs and for helping him learn about Christ. "How attractive these subjects are!" he exclaimed. "You encourage us to have hope and trust in God. You pour the holiness of Christianity into our thirsty hearts. I am a new traveler in this way, the way of worshiping God. Many events have transpired in my life that have changed my thinking."
It is impossible to know how many people are listening to the Christian messages presented via Adventist World Radio in the 10/40 window, because many of the listeners live in areas where they cannot safely send a letter. Each time Habib writes, he risks being discovered.
Habib still does not have a Bible or other Christ-centered literature in his own language. But God is working in his life. "I see the world differently than I saw it before," he said. "I'm sure that this change was God's doing, because He will lead those who are willing to be led. God's word is like a gem that I present as a gift to my dear friends."
Pray for Habib and the thousands like him who are discovering peace and hope in Jesus Christ in spite of difficult circumstances.
*Habib is a pseudonym; the man lives in a country whose identity cannot be revealed. Philip Follett is special assistant to the president of Adventist World Radio.
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