When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus promised Peter that upon the Rock of that confession He would build His church. The truth of who Jesus is empowers common man to speak the message that opens the doors of Heaven to sinners. This month, we begin a yearlong series by Skip Heitzig, pastor of Calvary of Albuquerque, exploring the two letters Peter later wrote to Jewish and Gentile Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor. First Peter begins with a mention of the living hope we find through our new birth in Jesus Christ.
I love experiencing new birth! I know that’s easy for me to say because as a man I can feel the joy of new birth without going through the labor. My son Nathan’s birth was one of the greatest days of my life. And now I’ve discovered the thrill of the birth of grandchildren. A friend of mine told me that a grandparent’s responsibility is to fill the kids full of sugar and return them to their parents. I can do that.
It’s exciting to watch babies grow and change. A baby’s pediatrician looks for certain milestones: Do they roll over? Do they crawl? These are big moments, but then comes one of the most important milestones: the child’s first steps. First steps are especially significant because they lead to other steps: a walk to school or to a friend’s house; or later, a walk down the aisle. In most cases, birth leads to walking.
Spiritually, new birth in Christ also leads to walking. We’re not physically learning to put one foot in front of the other, but we grow in Christ and walk in relationship with Him. When we place our trust in Christ, we’re born again. This new birth is a spiritual transformation that occurs inside our hearts and works itself outwardly in the way we live. Our new birth in Christ calls for its own mileposts—stepping stones that show we’re maturing.
The first stepping stone for believers is hope: The Apostle Peter wrote that God has “begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). One thing the world desperately needs—and Christians have in abundance—is hope. As believers, we don’t hope to exist, but we exist to hope!
Before Peter met Jesus, he probably had an ordinary life in Capernaum. He got up early every morning, went out fishing on Lake Galilee all day, came home to his family, ate supper and went to bed. Then he got up and did it all over again. You probably have a similar sort of routine to your life.
Perhaps as Peter worked day in and day out, his life may have seemed monotonous … even hopeless, as often was the case for so many menial laborers of the day. He probably thought, Is this all there is to life? Then one day, Jesus walked into his life and said to him and his brother Andrew, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Hope was born inside Peter that day. Life from then on became exciting, purposeful. For the next few years it was all uphill—until the day Jesus was crucified. At that point, Peter’s hope died, too.
But something happened to revive Peter’s hope: Jesus rose from the dead! When the man you called Messiah rose from the dead just as He had promised, your hope would have shot through the roof! That meant all the promises Jesus had made about eternal life were true. Peter’s hope was a living hope because of the power of a risen Jesus. No longer dormant, Peter’s faith was living.
What about you? Do you walk through life, going about your routine business, feeling colorless and dull or even hopeless? Through a new birth of faith in the resurrected Savior, you step into the living hope that because He conquered death itself, He can conquer anything that comes your way.
A second stepping stone of our spiritual maturity is the hope of Heaven. Peter could walk confidently, knowing he had an eternal inheritance. He wrote that believers are born into “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Peter 1:4). An inheritance is property, money or a title that passes to an heir upon the death of the previous holder. Typically an inheritance is passed on to children by their parents.
We as children of God have an eternal inheritance. If our hope is only for this world and this life, with its temporary pleasures, it’s pretty hopeless. The world is fading, and eventually our lives on earth will end. But we have the birthright of property in Heaven—a place prepared for us by Jesus Himself (John 14:2-3). As Warren Wiersbe once said, “Heaven is more than your destination; it’s a motivation.” What motivates you? Earthly pleasures, property and pursuits? Temporary pleasures and gratifications? If so, you’ll wind up gravely disappointed. But if you’re motivated by the hope of an eternal inheritance and heavenly rewards, life is worth living.
Peter gives a third stepping stone for growing believers—staying power. As we can walk in hope and awareness of our eternal inheritance, we can also walk in power. We “are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). In this context, it means God’s power will guard and keep you all the way from earth to Heaven. He has the power to save you, secure you and send you to Heaven.
Peter was speaking about the ultimate salvation that endures—past, present and future. When you placed your faith in Christ, you were saved from the penalty of past sin— Christ accomplished that work on the cross. Presently, you are being saved from the power of sin’s grip. Most theologians call this process sanctification. In the future, you will be saved from the very presence of sin in that day when Jesus gives you a new, resurrected body. The steps to enlivening hope, enduring power and eternal inheritance begin with your choice to be born again.
After the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was asked how he would treat the rebellious Southerners who returned to the Union. He answered, “I will treat them as if they’ve never been away.” If you have walked away from Christ, Jesus will treat you the same way— with abundant mercy. He wants to give you the full privileges of an heir, an inheritance rich in hope for this life and for Heaven, full of God’s power to safeguard you all the way to eternity. If you haven’t taken the step toward life in Christ, won’t you step out in faith now? D ©2014 SKIP HEITZIG
ALL SCRIPTURE IS TAKEN BY PERMISSION FROM THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW KING JAMES VERSION.
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