Intro: How can you tell whether gold is genuine or not? If it burns its pyrite, fake. I’m sure the women know this, what happens when you dip your diamond ring in water? A fake one will lose its sparkle but the genuine will sparkle even more. So my next question is how can one know that he or she is a genuine citizen of heaven. Can it be tested?
Last Sunday, we looked at understanding kingdom citizenship. We ended up with the first evidence that when one is born again he will love Jesus and because of that love relationship, he will want to know the one he loves. The hunger for the spiritual food will come naturally. Do you have to make an effort to eat food for your physical body? You don’t even have to think about it because when you are hungry, you know it. Our love for Jesus comes after we have received the love of God and it is the Holy Spirit who produces that love for Jesus and His Father. The cover of our bulletin says “All things work together for good to them that love God.” However, this lacks the reason why we love God. The full verse says, “Who have been called according to his purpose.” Is this statement true and is this true to everyone? Let’s first understand that the letters of Paul is addressed to the citizens of the kingdom. The truth and our confidence in this passage is that we have been called by Gods purpose. The title of our message today is,
“God proves the Genuineness of His Faith”
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though for now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 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. 1:3-9
There are three things that stand out in this one paragraph that pertains to a citizen of heaven. First there is the assurance of salvation. Then there is the testing of His faith and lastly, experiencing salvation on earth.
I. God’s Assurance of Salvation:
Take note that the apostle Peter is writing to those who have already professed Christ as their Lord and Savior. There are three truths we see regarding their ASSSURANCE OF SALVATION
“In his great mercy he has given us new birth.”
The birth did not come from us. “Born of God.” God caused the birth, we have no part in it. If God saved us, then He will keep us saved. If we had even a tiny part, then it is not all of God and we don’t have it. Why? God will not share His glory in our salvation. It is all His or nothing.
“Into a living hope.” Our hope is in Christ who is alive. Because Jesus resurrected, we too will be resurrected with Him for He said,
“Before long, the world will not see anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” John 14:19
“Into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.”
Anything we inherit in this world will be lost one way or another. Money is spent, it can be stolen or lost in bad investment. Material things will rot. And finally all inheritance here on earth will be left after one dies. But citizens of the kingdom will inherit a place in heaven, a mansion as Jesus promised that God is keeping in heaven for them. We are already co-heirs with Christ here on earth but our final inheritance is in heaven, kept by God Almighty that no one can take away. We will receive that full inheritance when we die or are caught up to the sky to meet Jesus in the air if we are still alive at the rapture. Our bodies will be changed like His glorified body, never to die again but live forever and ever. And because of this, we “greatly rejoice.” Are you always in a rejoicing mood? What about when times are not so good or circumstances are not favorable should we still be joyful? We should as Paul wrote,
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I say again: Rejoice!” Phil 4:4 What is our primary reason for rejoicing? Jesus said this to his disciples,
“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:19-20
This is the reason we ought to rejoice, whether in a good situation or bad.
II. “Testing the Genuineness of His Faith”
First of all we have to understand that faith is not from us. We cannot produce saving faith. It comes from Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, produced in us by the Holy Spirit through the word of Christ.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Eph. 2:8
“Though for now you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” What is this suffering Peter is talking about? It is the suffering that comes after we are saved. It is not suffering as a consequence of sin. It is suffering for righteousness sake. Last Sunday we looked at a passage that identifies the Christian as a co-heir with Christ. What does a Christian inherit with Christ? Many take that as all blessings and good health. But this is not so.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Rom. 8:17
This suffering is not just a headache or a bad cold. Everybody gets that. It is suffering that brings grief. It is a deep sadness like mourning in death. There was a teenage girl from Ohio, I believe whose parents were Muslims. When she became a Christian, her father threatened to kill her if she does not give up the faith. She ran away and ended up in Florida where she was taken in by a pastor of a Christian church. But this is nothing new to Muslims who converts to Christianity. Many are either killed or put in jail. Jews who become Christians are in danger of being disowned by their parents. We can be thankful that we do not suffer in this way here in the USA, but there are many kinds of trials. When I made my faith known, my relatives were not happy with it. When my friends learned about it, they also started avoiding me, especially my drinking and gambling buddies. When I sent Christ’s testimony in my life and the gospel to my unbelieving friends by e-mail, my contact with them stopped and was even told never to e-mail them again, except a few. Even a relative did that. Paul reveals this truth.
“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are a smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.” 2 Cor. 2:15-16
Suffering can also be a financial reversal, or being persecuted for doing what is right, but not for doing what is wrong. Why? Because Jesus said so,
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. This is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.” John 15:18-21
How were the early Christians persecuted? These are Hebrew Christians.
“Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that together with us would be made perfect.” Heb. 11:35b-40
Our suffering today compared to the early believers are just like a bad cold. They were tormented and tortured for their faith in Jesus Christ.
v. 7, “These have come so that your faith –… may be proved genuine and may result in praise glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” What have come? TRIALS. I have heard testimonies of some who claim to be Christians that after they believed in Christ, life became a series of blessings and prosperity. They even reject sickness as coming from the devil and rebuking the devil as the one responsible for the sickness.
But are trials expected to come to Christians? Yes. It comes as a package deal with our salvation. So how does a genuine believer respond? Will he give up his faith and stop following Christ? Will he persevere? There were those who found Jesus as the answer to their physical needs so they followed Him. But after hearing his teachings found it hard and gave up. Christians may grow weak and discourage but their faith will not fail nor will he give up and deny Christ. Jesus will keep their faith. He gave it.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31
Where does our strength come from? For Christ was tempted and persecuted worse than any man can experience but He never sinned nor give up but came out victorious. Jesus was not exempt from temptation but God made Him suffer for a purpose.
“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering…Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Heb. 2:10, 18
A genuine believer when going through trials and suffering will cry out for help to the Lord and the Holy Spirit gives him the strength to persevere. Those who do not have the Holy Spirit will give up. So when one overcomes the trial, it will prove to him that he is genuine because he trusted and Christ proved His faithfulness. We go through trials for this very reason and after the victory, who gets the glory? It results in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed by the victory. Trial then is for our benefit for our good, to assure us that we belong to God and our faith in Christ is genuine.
III. Experiencing salvation on earth.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him…and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” After one experiences victory over trials, you experience the love of God that results in our response to loving Him even more. When you love the Lord, joy follows. It is an inexpressible and glorious joy that is beyond description. The goal of our faith is victory over sin and having the right response to trials. You will be amazed at how you overcame that trial, yet it was not really you who made it possible. It was God who worked it out in you for your good. Faith believes the unseen. For who among us here have seen Jesus? Formerly we were deceived into believing in a Jesus made of wood or metal and still hanging on the cross. That’s a lie. The Bible calls that idolatry and those who believe and practice that hates God. That’s a Jesus made by the hands of men and is dead. Jesus is alive and is seated at the right hand of God the Father. There are just a few who have seen the resurrected Christ. His disciples after His resurrection, the apostle Paul but saw only light that blinded him and John who was transported to heaven to write the book of Revelation. There also was a man who saw Jesus while still alive but only for a short time. His name was Stephen. He was the first to be martyred for his faith in Christ.
“When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears, and yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:54-60
Who does this remind us of? At the cross,
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Matt. 23:34.
Stephen have responded to this horrible persecution but responded as Jesus did? Why? He had genuine faith. Is your faith genuine? Has all these truths been real to you? Have you been born again into the kingdom of God? If not and the Holy Spirit is convicting you of your sin and your need for a Savior, come to Jesus. He is the only one who can save and forgive you of all your sins. Today could be your spiritual birthday by receiving this new life in Christ by believing this gospel and making this personally apply to you.
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:3-4
Repent and believe in your heart this good news and come to Jesus and receive Him as your Lord, confessing Him publicly with your mouth.