Our Identities and Futures Are Tied Directly to Our Triune God!
O God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—as we come before Your presence this day in worship and with praise, be with us and bless us. Open our hearts to hear, our minds to understand, and our hearts to love as we seek instruction from Your word and strength from Your almighty hands. It is in view of Your grace that we come before You this day. Amen.
The LORD revealed His Trinitarian nature through the benediction He commanded Moses to use when Israel came to worship in Old Testament times. We use that same Trinitarian benediction to end our worship services today. We use it confident of the LORD’s presence and blessing!
The Trinity revealed itself at the time of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus, the Son of God, was baptized. The Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove descending down to and alighting upon Jesus. God the Father affirmed through a voice from heaven that Jesus was indeed His Son, in whom He was well pleased!
Text: 1 Peter 1:1-9
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
In Christ Jesus, who with the Father and the Spirit is the God in whom we place our trust, dear fellow redeemed:
Our identities are very personal. Our futures are very important. There are people whose identities and futures are determined by birth. Prince William’s identity, for instance, is tied through his parents, Charles and Diana, to the English royal family and his future will involve becoming king and enjoying great privilege. There are millions of other people, however, in India who upon birth have been given the identity of being an “untouchable” and for whom the future will involve little other than struggle and pain, for their society will not allow them to rise above the destiny fate supposedly has given them. Within our democratic society we resist such thoughts and maintain that an individual’s identity is not determined by his parentage or his social status at birth, but rather is determined by his character, while his future is tied directly to the effort he is willing to exert to achieve success. All of these thoughts, however, both regarding identity and the future are tied to human views of this life and limited to this world. In addition, they involve a great deal of uncertainty, for no one knows how long privilege or troubles will last. All we know is that neither will last forever. When the Bible speaks of our identities as Christians and our future, however, it does so in a completely different way. The Bible ties our identities and futures to the Trinity and it does so both for time and eternity. Those biblical revelations are exciting and can bring us both great comfort and great confidence. Let us consider the opening words of Peter’s first epistle, for they reveal that OUR IDENTITIES AND FUTURES ARE TIED DIRECTLY TO OUR TRIUNE GOD!
Peter informs us, first of all, that we are His elect! He writes, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.” Peter was writing in the first century to Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor—the country we would call Turkey today. He identified them, even as the Holy Spirit identifies us through him as “elect”. Elect in what sense? To what is Peter referring? In the Bible the “elect” are those individuals the Triune God chose to be His own in connection with His eternal plan of salvation. In eternity, before the creation of our universe, the Bible informs us that God chose us in connection with Jesus Christ to become His sons and daughters through faith. He knew us and loved us long before we were conceived within our mothers’ wombs and brought into this world. The apostle Paul put it this way to the Ephesians, “He (God the Father) chose us in Him (Jesus Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:4-5). Our election was completed, as Peter says, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” God, who knows all, knew us, cared about us, and selected us in connection with Jesus Christ to be His very own.
The conversion of our lost souls and our introduction into God’s family was accomplished, Peter says, through the “sanctification of the Spirit.” By nature the Scriptures remind us that we are lost and condemned sinners, but the Holy Spirit is able to take our hard and rebellious hearts and soften them through conversion. John Newton, the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace” was a hardened and blasphemous sea captain of a slave-ship, before the Spirit of God softened his heart and led him to become one of the most passionate preachers of Christ of the entire eighteenth century. Even so the Spirit has led us to confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Having led us to make that confession, the Spirit goes on to work within our hearts to sanctify us further—to fill our hearts with the desire to walk in faith, love, and hope. This then is the object of our election—that we might be led by the Spirit to submit ourselves in obedience to God rejoicing in the “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” which purifies us and paves the way to an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father and Brother.
Dear friends—who are you? Each of us possesses a different and individual identity—the gift of our Creator God. But each of us by the grace of our Triune God also possesses a precious identity as one of His elect, which make us as Peter states later in this first epistle one of God’s “chosen generation,” a part of His “royal priesthood”—that “holy nation” and one of God’s “own special people” (1 Peter 2:9)—individuals in other words to whom God extends and multiplies the blessings of His peace.
Rejoice, for OUR IDENTITIES AND OUR FUTURES ARE truly TIED DIRECTLY TO OUR TRIUNE GOD! As Peter informs us—He has begotten us! Peter writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Jesus once told Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). To be “begotten” by God is to be born again—to have life and hope in the midst of a world that is so often filled with death and utter hopelessness. The very possibility of such hope is tied, Peter says, to the greatest event in human history—the miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The fact that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead allows Peter to tie our identities as God’s elect and begotten children to our future—an incorruptible and undefiled, eternal existence in heaven.
Notice that Peter says this eternal existence it “reserved in heaven for you!” We make reservations to secure a future advantage for ourselves, whether it be a seat at a restaurant, or a night’s lodging at a motel, or the certainty of securing transportation through a car rental agency. We want a guarantee that we will obtain the item we have reserved. We do not want to worry or have to wonder about whether or not we will have a seat, or a room, or a vehicle to use. Even so our Savior God has reserved the gift of eternal life for you and me, so that we can live our lives in this world with boldness and confidence in love. As if to further that reason for confidence, Peter assures us that we will be kept by “the power of God”—a matchless power through faith unto that salvation, which God Himself will reveal at the end of time!
Our God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have worked together to restore for us that wonderful relationship that Adam and Eve once enjoyed—a relationship that is deep, and close, and abiding—rich and confident. God does not want us to wonder or worry about our future. Therefore, He has accomplished our salvation, delivers that salvation, and now promises to secure it for us. Thanks be to our Triune God!
Yes, OUR IDENTITIES AND OUR FUTURES ARE TIED DIRECTLY TO OUR TRIUNE GOD! That is why Peter assures us, finally, that He will save us! The fact that we are God’s elect and that we have been begotten by Him and have been assured of the gift of heaven, does not mean that our lives will be without problems in this world. Peter knew that and so wrote in the final verses of our text, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”
Our relationship with God and the certainty of our salvation gives us a reason always to rejoice. This past Friday evening I was privileged to attend the graduation concert at our Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire. One of their pieces was entitled “Rejoice in the Lord” and was based upon the apostle Paul’s words, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). We can do that in spite of all that confronts us because we have a powerful and gracious God and Savior in heaven above to whom we can turn at any time and upon whom we can depend at all times.
Still Satan and this world will war against us and cause us to pass through a variety of troubles. We face an assortment of troubles in life—physical troubles requiring surgery and hospitalizations; financial troubles requiring difficult decisions and at times severe adjustments to our personal and family budgets; troubles between friends and family members that can cause us great emotional upheavals. Yet, as we walk though this life and experience those trials, we can do so confident that God will be faithful to us. He will use those trials to strengthen our faith—to prove its genuineness. Even as the impurities of gold ore are removed through the smelting process, so the troubles of our lives move us to greater trust and dependence upon God. As we overcome difficulties and exhibit our faith and love for others, our attitudes, words, and actions will bring praise, honor, and glory to our Jesus. Peter assures us that while we have not seen Him, we still love Him and one day our hearts will be filled with inexpressible joy and we will experience the fullness of the glory of heaven, for God, who is faithful, will give us the end of our faith—the salvation of our souls!
Later today my daughter, Erin, will obtain a different identity in the eyes of this world. She will become Mrs. Mark Povolny. We are excited for her and wish her and Mark, our new son-in-law every blessing and great success in the future. Yet, the greatest blessing that my daughter and her husband can have consists in the identity and future they share as the result of the love of their Triune God. So it is for each of us. May we rejoice in and always treasure the truths of our Savior God revealed through His word and share them with all who will listen. Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting