"A NEW BIRTH"

I PETER 1: 3-9

FEBRUARY 17, 2013

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            Born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

            Born on the wrong side of the tracks.

            Born again.

            Born to be wild.

            Born to lose.

            Born free, as free as the wind blows, as free as the grass grows ...

            Baby, we were born to run.      

             I wasn't born yesterday.

            Before we turn to what the Apostle Peter has to say about the new birth, and specifically what we have been born into as followers of Christ, let me offer a little background.  The Apostle Peter is writing here to a suffering church.  He mentions the word "suffer" in our passage in verse six and he'll mention it fifteen more times in this letter.  He is writing to a group of Christians living in what was called "Asia Minor."  Today it would be modern day Turkey, and he is writing them from Rome most likely in 64 A.D.  This would have been about the time in which the persecution of the church under Nero was beginning, and Peter has seen the persecution first hand in Rome, and Peter writes to these folk in Asia Minor, where the persecution will soon come, with the love of a shepherd for his sheep or with the love of a parent for his or her children.  In this letter Peter does not deny the suffering to come under Nero.  He just reminds them of what they have in Christ to withstand the persecution to come. 

            Peter begins our passage for today with an ancient doxology.  The term "doxology" comes from two Greek words "Doxa" which means "glory" and "logia" which means "word" so literally is is a "glory word" most often a short song of praise sung as a part of worship.  We sing a doxology most every Sunday.  "Praise God from whom all blessing flow, praise Him all creatures here below ... " and well, you know the rest of the song.  Unfortunately, we refer to that as "The Doxology" like it's the only one, but it is not.  There are others and the Apostle Peter begins our passage today with an ancient, early church doxology, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!"  The early church adapted this doxology from the Jewish synagogue.  In a Jewish synagogue they would sing "Blessed art Thou, O God."  The Christians took it and added Jesus to the mix.  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!"  They probably sang that doxology on a regular basis in the church there in Asia Minor, just like we regularly sing "The Doxology."

            Then after grabbing their attention with a familiar doxology, a short song of praise, he reminds them of who they are and what they have in Jesus Christ.  He reminds them of their new birth, and specifically their birth into two things.  Let's take note of what we have been born into as followers of Jesus Christ.

            First, we have been born into a living hope. 

 

            By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

 

            I'm sure you heard about the Carnival cruise ship fiasco in the Caribbean this past week.  The event reminded me of a middle-aged man on a Caribbean cruise was enjoying his first real vacation in years.  Thankfully, he and the other passengers on this particular cruise did not suffer the problems that the passengers on the Carnival cruise ship Triumph suffered  On the first day out to sea he noticed an attractive woman about his age who smiled at him in a friendly way as he passed her on the deck.  This pleased the man greatly.  That night he managed to get seated at the same table with her for dinner.  As the conversation developed, he commented that he had seen her on the deck that day and he had appreciated her friendly smile.  When she heard this, she smiled and commented, "Well, the reason I smiled was that when I saw you I was immediately struck by your strong resemblance to my third husband."

            At this he perked up his ears and said, "Oh, how many times have you been married?"

            She looked down at her plate, smiled modestly, and answered, "Twice." 

            Hope is the sustainer of life.  It's the motivator to action.  It's the promise of tomorrow, and we haven't just been born into hope.  We have been born into a living hope.

            I was told of a strange custom in the Fiji Islands.  It is known as "calling to the dead."  The one who has suffered bereavement climbs to a high tree or a cliff, calls out the name of the deceased, and then cries out pathetically, "Come back!  Come back!" But there is no answer.  The person is dead.

            We, on the other hand, have someone who has but now lives again.  We have the Risen Lord who lives in the hearts of his followers.  With his life within we can face the disappointments, the struggles, the tragedies of life.  We are never alone.  When we cry out his name, he answers.  When we cry out, "Come back!  Come back!" he comes.  We have been born into a living hope. 

            No one told eight year old Joseph, but he knew.  He knew.  His doctor revealed to him in his eyes that death was close by.  His Aunt May and Grandma and Grandpa gave him anything he wanted.  "I had dreams. I had hopes. I had ambitions," said Joseph, "but I was running out of hope."  On his 9th birthday, there was the usual ice cream, cake, candles, balloons, and books, everything to make a bed-ridden child enjoy his special day.  But then Uncle Bob arrived on the scene.  Uncle Bob, the no-good scoundrel uncle who always smelled of beer.

            Brushing by Grandma as she ate her cake, Uncle Bob asked, "Where's my birthday-boy?  Where's my Buddy?"  Uncle Bob sat next to Joseph on the bed and shoved a box into his face, saying, "Happy Birthday!"

            Opening it, Joseph began to cry.  Grandpa, protectively, moved toward Joseph with incredible speed.  Grandpa looked in the box to see what had made little Joseph cry and began shouting at Uncle Bob,  "How silly!  How insensitive!"  Joseph cried even more, and then Joseph held up a pair of roller skates.  Someone believed he would live to use them.  Everybody else had accepted the prognosis that Joseph was going to die of tuberculosis.  But it was those roller skates that gave him the hope, and he lived to be a man.  Joseph, himself, related the story as an adult. 

            "By his great mercy we has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."

            But we have been born into something else as well.  We have been born into an imperishable, undefiled and unfading inheritance. 

 

            By his great great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

 

            I'm sure you have seen the bumper sticker, "I'm spending my kid's inheritance."  Apparently, they are quite popular on RVs particularly among aging Boomers.  And what about the acronym ... SKI?  Capital S, Capital K, Capital, I.  Spending Kids Inheritance.    There are even books on the subject.  Theres Anne Hulleys book How to Spend Your Kids Inheritance and Tad and Alicia Boxmuellers book, Blow Your Bank Wad: More Than 101 Scandalous Ways to Squander Your Kids Inheritance.    

            Thankfully, for us, God is not an aging boomer.  Instead of spending our inheritance God is protecting our inheritance.  Lowell and Linda Iske took us to a travel documentary on Tuesday night titled from Rome to Oberammergau.  It told the story of a trip from Rome, to Assisi, to Florence, to Pisa, to Venice, through Switzerland to Oberammergau and the Passion Play in Bavaria.  Part of the trip included a trip to the Vatican and the filmmaker tarried a bit on the Swiss Guards at the Vatican.  Why Swiss Guards at the Vatican?  Because they had a reputation for valor and loyalty.  At one time they protected the French Monarchy to the death and the Pope was so impressed by their valor he decided to employ Swiss Guards to protect the Vatican. 

            Well, our inheritance will never perish or fade away because it is being protected by the very power of God.  

            Let me close with this.  A great preacher by the name A. J. Gordon lived many years ago, and one afternoon he was out for a stroll and he saw a dirty-faced, barefoot boy with a rusty birdcage. In that birdcage were some sparrows.  Gordon, who was a nature lover, stopped the little fellow and said, "Where did you get those birds?" 

            The boy said, "I trapped them."

            Gordon said, "Well, what are you going to do with them?"

            The boy said, "Oh, I don't know. I'm going to play with them for a little while."

            Gordon said, "Then what are you going to do with them?"

            The boy said, "I guess I'm going to kill them."

            A. J. Gordon said, "Son, would you like to sell those birds?"

            The boy said, "Mister, you don't want these birds.  They're no good to anybody. They're just little field sparrows."

            Gordon said, "I know what they are.  I just asked if you wanted to sell them." 

            The little boy said, "Well, what would you give for them?" 

            Gordon said, "I'll give you $5."  Now remember this was many many years ago, 1870 to be exact and that was a good sum of money back then. 

            The little boy looked at him incredulously and said, "Mister, are you crazy?" 

            He said, "No son, I mean it. I'll give you $5 for those birds."

            The little boy said, "Mister, for $5 you can not only have the birds, you can have the cage."  A. J. Gordon paid him the $5 and thanked him.

            Gordon took that birdcage of frightened birds, waited until that little fellow  had left and walked into an alley where no one could see him.  He opened the door on the rusty cage, tapped the bottom of it, and one by one those little birds came to the perch of that rusty cage that was open, spread their little wings and flew away. 

            The Lord Jesus Christ did something similar for us.  He said, "Satan, what have you got?" 

            Satan had a cage, a dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking cage, and in that cage he had you and me.  Satan said, "Well, I've got a cage full of sinners."

            Jesus said, "What are you going to do with them?" 

            Satan said, "I'm going to torment them, and then I'm going to kill them."

            Jesus said, "Satan, I'll buy those sinners." 

            Satan said, "They're not for sale, especially to you."

            Jesus said, "Satan, I'll pay any price."

            Satan said, "Jesus, it will take the silver of your tears and the gold of your blood."            Without blinking an eye, Jesus said, "I'll pay it."

            In exchange for hell, Jesus gives us heaven.  In exchange for our sin, Jesus gives salvation.  In exchange for eternal death, Jesus gives us eternal life.  And that inheritance ... salvation, heaven, eternal life ... is imperishable, undefiled and unfading.  Amen.