Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
It caused Nicodemus to scratch his head. In case you forgot Nicodemus was a Pharisee who came to Jesus one dark night to speak to him secretly.
“What do you mean ‘born again.’ I’m already old, can I be born again? Can I go back into my mother’s womb and start all over again? That doesn’t make any sense!”
Nicodemus was a wise old man, but Jesus words confused him. Jesus couldn’t really mean what he was saying. “Listen closely.” Jesus continued, “no one can enter into the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. You see, human beings are flesh they can only give birth to human beings. Flesh is flesh, but spirit is spirit. The Spirit can give birth to spirit.”
It is perhaps one of the strangest metaphors used in the bible. To be born again. When Jesus had that discussion with Nicodemus he was left with scratching his head. He was an educated man, and yet he was still confused. What ever it means to be ‘born again,’ it is apparently very important because Jesus says that you can’t have a relationship with God without it. It is a good topic for the Easter season. After all Jesus Christ died and rose so that human beings could once again have a relationship with God. So to be born again must have something to do with that also. And here it is in our text this morning: According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope. New birth, born again, what exactly does it mean?
Well, let’s start by taking a closer look at the text.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Peter opens this section with a statement of praise to God. He’s using God’s name as that statement of praise. He begins here with what might be called a Doxology that is, praise to God for what he has done for us.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise him all creatures here below, praise him above ye heavenly host, praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Just like the song he’s saying let’s praise God because of who he is and what he has done. Let’s begin “In the name of God…” According to his great mercy, he has caused us… God the Father of Jesus Christ is acting as our Father, too. He gives us good gifts, just as any good father would do. He is a father that cares for us and gives to us what we need. Here, Peter says, he gives us
born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading
Well, there it is: being born again; The new birth that Jesus talked about to Nicodemus, being born again; The new birth that is necessary for anyone to ‘see the kingdom of God.’ The new birth that is a birth through the Spirit of God. So the text says that this new birth comes about through the resurrection of Jesus. This new birth has everything to do with Easter. It has everything to do with what Jesus has done for us. Notice how the text says that it was given to us. It’s a gift; new birth is something that we don’t have much to do with. How many of you had something to do with your first birth? How many of you chose to be born, when and where you were born? So in the same way we have as much to do with our ‘new birth’ as we did with our ‘old birth.’ Nothing. It comes to us because of God, too. The same with our new birth. It comes to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says that the Spirit must give birth to spirit. He is talking about faith in the work of God, through Jesus Christ. Faith that is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
So we still haven’t answered the question yet, we know where it comes from but, we don’t know exactly what it is. But before we answer that question lets ask another; Do we really need to be born again? Well… Many people feel that life is a dead end. Modern life with all its gadgets and distractions (as many of you might know I’m a gadget guy!), with all its entertainment and pleasures, can feel quite pointless and without purpose. It’s easy to feel like a hamster on a wheel running for all your worth, to get nowhere. There doesn’t seem to be time to do anything well. It’s easy to look back to the ‘good old days’ and feel that life in the past had much more purpose.
“I remember when… things were just better. I remember when this church was filled to the rafters. I remember when downtown was packed every Friday night. I remember when men were men and boys were boys. I remember when gas was 15cents. And a coke was 5cents. I remember when we announced for communion. I remember when…”
When people feel that way, often it isn’t that they have lost a sense of meaning in life, the real problem is that they have lost the meaning of life. That is to be in a relationship with God, the creator of the heavens and the earth. Sometimes we get that way especially in the church. We forget why we are here. We forget why the church exists. The church is here for this morning. Here is where our relationship with God is fully expressed. The church is here to receive from God the gifts that He loves to give. Through Word and water, bread and wine we receive what we need for life to have meaning. Whenever we loose sight of God at work in our lives in this way we cannot understand life’s ultimate purpose. When we receive these wonderful gifts from God, we turn around and share them with the rest of the world. Without that, we can’t see the purpose for our existence. We focus on ourselves and our lives and all that we have to do. We are cut off from the one that that makes life worth living. We are self centered, living only for me. That’s when life feels like a dead end because it is a dead end. This is sin and sin brings only death. And we are mired in sin up to our eyeballs. Not other people’s sin, but our own. We need God’s forgiveness; we need to be born again, without it we are lost.
But St. Peter talked about being
born again into a living hope.
A living hope, is a hope that makes a difference in a life. It’s a living hope, not a dead end. It’s new life, born again, not an old life with no future. St. Paul describes it too, in his letter to a Pastor named Titus. He describes us pretty well when he describes our sinful nature.
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7, ESV)
Paul too talks about rebirth, being born again. Did you hear how he describes it? God saved us through the washing of rebirth that he poured out on us through Jesus Christ! There are other words that we have heard recently:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4, ESV)
There it is again. New life, it says, so that we can live a new life! It’s talking about dying and being born again. Dying with Jesus Christ. That’s what baptism is all about. We are connected to Jesus death. In fact, we die with him on the cross. There is no other way to put away sin. You know that if you’ve ever tried to be perfect. We excuse ourselves by saying, “I’m only human.” Well, that’s exactly the problem. Humans cannot be perfect as long as they are alive. But Baptism takes care of that. We die with Jesus. He takes our sinful human nature, and nails it to the cross. He takes ours sick, sinful, hearts and pierces them with the Roman spear. He buries our sin sick bodies, dead and buried in the grave. That’s what Baptism does. Not because I say so, but because God says so in His Word. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death. Our sin is done away with and we rise to new life. A life marked by the joy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A new life that has hope, living hope. A new life that has meaning and purpose because we have forgiveness of sin through the death of Jesus. Our relationship with God is restored. It is our inheritance. Peter wrote: born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. That is the living hope that we have been baptized into.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Even though we have been born again, there is still trouble while we live on this old corrupted planet. Even though our hope is living, our living is filled with all kinds trials. It should be expected. Many of you have experienced exactly what Peter is talking about here. Suffering grief and pain of many kinds, hospitalization, tragic accidents, cancer, and death. And even trouble from your own bad decisions. But these, Peter says, also have purpose. If your new birth gives your life purpose, then the troubles in your life must have purpose too! They come, says Peter, to increase your faith. They comes, he says, so that you can see the new life you have in Jesus even more clearly. Trials make us see our faith Jesus as a gift and nothing we can do for ourselves. When you can’t depend on yourself, you have to depend on Jesus. When you know you will fail, you turn to the one who gave his life for you, because what he gives you that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, and is kept in heaven for you.
It’s a new life that you’ve been given, new life full of joy and hope. How do you know it’s yours? How do you know that you’ve been ‘born again?’ It’s a gift from the Father, a gift to you, not because you deserve it, or because you chose him, but because he chose you when he poured out on you new life a new birth. He did it when he said to you:
“I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.