The Living Hope
November 2, 2008
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
First Peter 1:1-9
The Living Hope
1. "The living hope." Peter the Apostle used that phraseology. The reason "the living (vibrant, lively) hope" is being addressed in Peter's epistle is that there is, on the other side of things, suffering in the every day lives of people who are living the best they can in [normal] society. On top of that, the folks who had received this epistle were also bearing down under much much suffering. And especially in this instance, since it was a time when persecution against the church was beginning to become fierce, the act of being a Christian in and of itself already meant that one was putting oneself into difficulties of various sorts. Even in verse six which I read to you just ago, the scripture says, "For a while now, though, you just may have to suffer various trials." Thus, they did have to suffer "various trials" for sure. For that very reason then, Peter had written this letter to them. This "living hope" turned out to be critically important.
2. What does it mean when [we] say "to have hope?" It means we have something to expect and wait for. We are to wait for something that we anticipate in the future. That's what it means to have hope. In contrast, this thing called suffering snatches away "the hoping heart" from human beings. Suffering chips away at "the heart that has hopes for the future." Doesn't it? I would think everyone of us has had experiences of this nature. [We] have suffered yesterday. Today, being no different, [we] will have suffered as well. Therefore, tomorrow is going to definitely be another painful day. That's always how [we] feel. And so what if today actually was another painful day like I expected? Won't I end up thinking that tomorrow will be an extension from yesterday and today? Tomorrow will definitely be the same as ever. Thus, without realizing it, we fall into the idea that suffering will just keep on going for ever. [Like] we're walking in a pitch black tunnel, and unless a light appears straight ahead, even if we go a hundred steps, if we go two hundred steps, if we go a thousand steps in the dark, we will end up thinking the darkness will go on forever. This is how people lose their hopes for the future. They don't have anything good up ahead to wait for any more. There is nothing else that they should expect to see any more. Thus, people quit waiting and expecting. For that very reason, especially so amid pain and suffering, "the living hope" must be addressed again.
3. Even if it may be totally dark right now, we are waiting for something good in the future, [with something] to cause our hearts to leap again and again. Thrilled, we anticipate the unseen future. How ever the situation is now, believing that the dark now is on the way to a bright future, we take the next step happily. We can surely make the claim that when persons go through their lives this way, they are certainly "living." We can make the opposite case. When a person quits expecting the future, he or she is already dead. When a person quits hoping and waiting, he or she is already dead. When even a young person, who is still expected to have a lot of time left in his or her life, stops having anything he or she could expect to see in the future, that person is already dying. When there is hope, a person can live under just about any conditions. When there is a living hope, no matter what the conditions, no matter if they are in a pitch black tunnel that keeps on going, a person can live in a vibrant and lively way. The one and only thing needed is "the living hope."
Through The Resurrection Of Jesus Christ
4. What should we be doing in order to live having this "living hope?" What does the Bible say? It says that God has given us the "living hope." "The living hope" comes from God. It comes from above.
5. Since that's the case, what does that mean, then? It means that we must look above. We must not watch just the pain. It means that we must not turn our focus just on our suffering selves, or on some other person who is under something painful, or on some [painful] circumstances around us, or on our personal histories and upbringing or on things that happened in the past or anything like these things. We must turn our thoughts to God. We must not be looking at the future, leaving God out of it, as a mere extension of the past and the present.
6. [Listen] everybody, the future is not an extension of the present from the past. The future is always open to every kind of possibility because the future has many entrances for God to enter in from. In fact, the Bible teaches that one day, all of a sudden, God entered into a human life. One day, all of a sudden, God started something. What else is there in the Bible on top of that? The future does have many entry ways by which God comes in.
7. In the Old Testament scriptures that I read to you today the following is also written.
"My thoughts are different from your thoughts
My road is different from your road, says the Lord.
As the heavens go high beyond the earth
My way goes high beyond your way
And my thoughts beyond your thoughts," (Isaiah 55:8).
9. This is God. The God, who goes way beyond our thoughts, cares about both this world and our lives. Therefore, the future is not an extension of the present from the past. It is also written that, "Instead of thorns, the cypress will grow, instead of briars, the myrtle," (Isaiah 55:13). This is what God is doing. We wind up thinking that thorns will keep on growing wherever thorns are growing. But that's not true. Through God, the cypress will grow in its place. That kind of thing does go on. In this way then, the future is open to every kind of possibility.
10. What kind of thing is it that represents God's deeds which go far beyond the thoughts of humankind? The scriptures declare as God's [most] decisive intervention the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, in particular, God declares that "(He) has given us the living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead -- It means that since it is from God, even death is no longer hopeless. Peter clearly knew this. The future is, in a way, even open to beyond death. He knew that.
11. So, the future, which is open to beyond death, the future in which we can expect and have hope, is expressed by the scriptures in the following way. "Furthermore, he has made you as inheritors of property that is being reserved for you in heaven, incorruptible, unspoiled, undecaying," (verse four). Isn't this a future that goes way beyond our thoughts? [It is a] future that goes way beyond any category we can possibly imagine. For that very reason then, we can only express it with a trite sounding word with the meaning of "property." So, we cannot even depict it right, but since it speaks of inheriting property, it must be that it is a joyous future.
12. So, even still in death, a person can have hope for a joyous future in the beyond. Even still on one's death bed, we can live to the very end with anticipation for the future. In fact, are you not able to recall several folks from among those already called up? I think you can; they were able to live always hoping for the future, inflated with joyous expectancy, until the very last second of their lives, until the last draw of their breath. They could live vibrantly, lively to the end because God has given them "the living and the lively hope" through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
He Lets Us Be Born Again According To His Abundant Mercy
13. But, in order to live with this "living hope" like that, there is still one more important thing. Before Peter speaks about "the living hope," he says, "God lets us be born again according to [his] abundant mercy."
14. Now I have been saying that God has given us "the living hope." Thus if I make the assumption "the living hope" comes from God, then clearly the next point of "How is [your] relationship with God?" becomes decisively important. What does it mean if [your] relationship with God is bad? Will the fact that the future is not an extension of the present from the past, but is when God suddenly intervenes, simply lead to a joyful expectancy? It won't. I said earlier that "The future has many entrances for God to enter in by." But if [you] have a bad relationship with God, won't you end up wanting to block all the entrances [for him]? God, please don't come in! Please don't care about my life! Isn't it possible for a person to get that way somehow? If a person keeps turning his or her back on God and one's relationship with God stays bad, at the final hour of life, on the other side of death, can he or she expect a happy future? I don't think [such a person] can.
15. That's right. The main thing is one's relationship with God. If one's relationship with God is bad, then God's being present and there [for you] won't have any connection to hope for you. In that condition, you cannot live with "the living hope."
16. For that very reason God has sent Christ into this world. He did it to improve relations between God and us. How exactly is he making the relationship better? He is doing it by making atonement for our sins, by putting Jesus Christ his only son on the cross. He is doing it by announcing forgiveness of sin to us from God. This is how he has made it [possible] that we can live born again as children loved by God. He has made it [possible] that we are able to live in the best of relationships, that of the relationship between parent and child. That's what it means [when it says], "God lets us to be born again according to [his] abundant mercy."
17. Anybody, no matter who, can begin to live as a born again child of God. That is actually the gospel. It is the good news. Since a relationship with God is like that of parent and child, there's nothing to worry about [since you understand that already]. No matter how dark it may be now, it will be all right. For, since God the good parent cares about you, you can always hang on to your expectations for the future. Until the last hour of human life, we can expect a good future and live with the living hope.