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Safe In The Father’s Arms

The search for safety

Let’s talk about safety. Everyone longs for security—and fear the loss of it. We choose where to live based on schools and how safe the community is. The daily news cycle always includes whether stocks are up or down. Fears surrounding security drive everything from video doorbells to home alarm systems to self-defense training. We’re searching for security.

Out of curiosity, I did a quick search for the safest place on earth. Where could you go to be safe from violence, theft, fire, flood, or any other kind of disaster—any of the things that we try to protect ourselves from?

Many say the safest, most secure place on earth is the Svalbard seed vault in Norway. Located deep beneath the ice of a remote chain of islands, the vault protects and secures the greatest global collection of seeds. Every kind of seed that we could possibly need to recultivate following a natural disaster is kept safe in that vault.

Physically, the Svalbard seed vault is impervious to disaster. A 6.2 magnitude earthquake that struck nearby damaged nothing. The vault is designed to even withstand a direct nuclear strike.

Time can’t rob its treasures: the vault is expected to rival the Great Pyramids of Egypt in longevity.

Temperature doesn’t affect its security: even if all the electricity in the vault failed, its setting beneath the arctic permafrost would preserve the seeds for years to come.

And theft? Unlikely: the vault’s location, about 600 miles from the North Pole, is one of its greatest safeguards.

Security is a universal longing.

·         As parents, we do our utmost to keep our kids safe, from infant car seats with police helping install them correctly, to training wheels to guard against falls, to driver’s ed when they hit their teens, to serious talks about self-protection when dating or out at night. We want our kids safe.

·         When you invest toward retirement, you have to choose between risk and reward, between what is safe up against what has the greatest potential for gain. There’s a tension there.

·         We try to safeguard our health with what we eat, with exercise, and with way too many gimmicks that are for sale.

·         Even our cars are being built with ever-increasing safety features like impending collision detection and automatic emergency breaking.

We long for safety, for security.

Security for unsettled Christians

And so for this final message in our series on Living Out of God’s Love, I want to unpack for you a fantastic New Testament passage that is all about the only truly safe place that exists—and it is available to you. Building on the work of Ralph West from the apostle Paul’s first letter to Christians who were longing for security, I want to showcase for you the safest place there is.

If you have a Bible or Bible app, open to 1 Peter chapter one. 1 Peter chapter one. While you’re turning there, let me quickly set it up for you. Peter is writing to Christians who find themselves not quite fitting in with society at large—not because they’re weird or picking fights, but simply because their commitment to Jesus has them standing out as different from the surrounding culture. To be a genuine Christian has always meant there will be ways we are different from what society at large values and champions. And so they were feeling the pinch of resistance and resentment against them because of their faith. They felt, in a word, unsettled.

As Peter starts writing this letter to unsettled Christians, then, he begins by rooting us in the only place where enduring security is found. And it makes Peter sing with praise. Look at it with me. We read in 1 Peter 1:3-6…

“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, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 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. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” 1 Peter 1:3-6

To people who find themselves feeling unsettled, Peter starts with what for the Christian is assured: your inheritance won by Jesus Christ. Because of what awaits us, Peter says, we can still rejoice, even when there are things around you that leave you feeling unsettled or uncertain.

Peter directly addresses their unspoken question: Where am I safe? How can I experience security? The answer, Peter insists, comes from looking up more than from looking around. If you are a Christian, one who is trusting in Jesus for forgiveness of sin and his daily leadership, then you are already the recipient of God’s great mercy, of the new birth spiritually, of a living hope, and you are now promised an eternal inheritance that is secure. This, Peter insists, is the antidote to our universal worries and stresses over safety and security.

We had a couple of break-ins at our 116th Street building recently, with windows broken and a mess to clean up. It was a hassle and a violation. We had to pay for repairs, upgrade the alarm system, add motion-sensing exterior lights. It shook our sense of security.

Keep your eyes out for the gold

By contrast, Peter fixes stressed Christians’ focus on the secure inheritance we have waiting for us because of Jesus. Who doesn’t love a good inheritance story? Here’s one from Clark Cothern, true story:

Over the years, Clark’s Mom from time to time would say, “After I’m gone, keep your eyes out for the gold.” Clark and his sister chalked that admonition up to maybe a bit of memory loss. But, just in case, they kept their eyes open.

After their Mom died and it was time to sell the house, they searched under drawers, behind cabinets—anywhere they thought she might have hidden some gold, but they didn’t really expect to find any.

The day came when Clark went to his Mom’s bank to retrieve the life insurance policy from her safety deposit box. In a privacy room by myself, he opened the long narrow metal box. There was the life insurance policy, and beneath it was a brown paper lunch bag with a rubber band wrapped around it that was so old that it crumbled into pieces when Clark picked up the bag. Inside were two, 3-inch long rolls…of gold coins. Alone in that room, Clark laughed out loud.

He and his sister used that money to ready the house for sale. The gold was just as shiny as when their Mom had purchased it decades earlier. And it was a lot more valuable than when it had first come to their Mom.

Clark and his sister hadn’t done anything to deserve that inheritance. Yet it was given to them, kept safe until the right time.

That’s the spirit of what Peter reminds us of. When your nerves are frayed and your routine is unsettled, fix your sights on the inheritance that awaits you because of Jesus Christ.

To help stressed Christians then and today, Peter zeroes in on four key verbs that capture the extent of the Christian’s security won by Jesus. Did you catch them?

Look at your Bible or Bible app again, verse 4 of 1 Peter chapter one. I want to unpack these four powerful descriptions of the Christian’s eternal security and safety. Let these put your worries in perspective.

First, Peter says…

1.       Our eternal inheritance cannot rust away.

Peter writes, God in his great mercy 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. Christian, your eternal inheritance can never perish. Peter uses the Greek word apthartos, meaning decay. Your inheritance cannot decay.

Concrete eventually cracks. Asphalt inevitably crumbles. Steel over time rusts. And so bridges have to be inspected, repaired, and replaced. Roads have to be resurfaced or outright replaced. Buildings have to be shored up, jacked up, renovated or bulldozed and start again. One of our neighbors discovered that the front of her house was sinking. Workers had to remove the brick facing, dig down beneath the house, and install stabilizers before reinstalling the brick. Couldn’t ignore the decay.

This is just the way things go. Everything decays over time. There’s one exception. Jesus described it in this parable from Matthew chapter 7:

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27

Security, Jesus insists, comes from building your daily life on him—hearing what he taught and putting it into practice, walking it out. Because as a classic hymn puts it, “all other ground is sinking sand.” Peter discovered this as he got to know Jesus. And he commends this to us, saying, praise God, the inheritance we are promised because of Jesus will never perish. It can’t rust away, rot away, or fall away.

Our inheritance is apthartos, it cannot perish. As good as those rolls of gold coins tucked away for years—it is imperishable and invaluable.

Your new birth is imperishable, your redemption is imperishable, God’s mercy toward you is imperishable, Jesus himself is imperishable having been raised from the dead, as are all who trust him, and your inheritance because of Jesus is imperishable.

So whatever stresses or worries are gnawing at you lately, let this push the worry back: because of Jesus, you have an eternal inheritance awaiting that will not decay and cannot be destroyed.

Let’s keep going. One down, three to go. Peter pushes further, reminding us that…

2.       Our eternal inheritance cannot rot away.

What you have in Jesus can’t rust away, and it can’t rot away. Peter celebrates that God in his great mercy 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 spoil. Your inheritance can never spoil. This is the Greek word amiantos, found just four times in the New Testament. It’s used once to describe Jesus, it’s used a second time to describe a godly marriage, it’s used a third time to describe the kind of religion that God accepts as pure and faultless, and it’s used here to describe the Christian’s secure inheritance.

Here’s what they all have in common: each is undefiled, unsoiled, free from contamination. How many of you have bought fresh fruit or vegetables with the best of intentions, but then you forget about them? And so by the time you remember those somewhat green bananas you brought home from the store, they’re soft and brown. Maybe they’ve kicked off a rave party for fruit flies. So you throw them in the freezer with banana bread in mind. And then eventually you realize you’re not going to make banana bread and so you throw them out. Same thing with the veggie drawer in the fridge.

Even good things, left alone, can end up rotten. They can spoil. Peter’s readers understood this more readily than we do, because everything they ate had to be fresh or it would go stale, rotten, or rancid.

·         Their bread had to be a day or two fresh, lest it become stale or moldy.

·         Their olive oil had to be protected in a closed container, or it would go rancid in the Middle Eastern heat.

·         The fruits or vegetables they grew or bought at the local market had to be eaten quickly, while ripe, before they rotted.

Every day they lived with this firsthand experience that good things left alone can go rotten. Peter contrasts the Christian’s eternal inheritance against that daily experience, reminding us to praise God that what he gives us because of Jesus can never go bad. Rest in that. Trust that what Jesus has for you is secure.

Let’s keep going. Two down, two to go. Peter keeps praising, pointing out that…

3.       Our eternal inheritance will never fade away.

What you’ve been given because of Jesus cannot rust away, it cannot rot away, and it will never fade away. Again, listen to how Peter celebrates God’s great mercy toward us. He writes, “God in his great mercy 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 fade.” The inheritance that awaits you can never fade.

Here Peter uses the Greek word amarantos, which comes from roots meaning immortal and flower. Peter is the only person who uses this word in the New Testament. This being a year of the summer Olympics, perhaps Peter was drawing on how winners in the ancient Olympics were awarded the laurel wreath, placed on their head as a crown. The victor then had the privilege of running up the steps next to the king, and the king held up the hand of the winner.

But that crown was short-lived. Made from freshly plucked plants, after a day or two the leaves would wither and wilt and dry out, disconnected from their source. The beauty of that crown quickly faded.

Peter was certainly also thinking of Isaiah chapter 40, the dramatic turning point of that great Old Testament prophetic book. After 39 chapters warning of God’s holiness up against human sin, chapter 40 turns to the amazing gift of God’s saving intervention. It is Isaiah that Peter quotes later in this same chapter, 1 Peter chapter one, writing…

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, [and now Peter quotes Isaiah chapter 40]

“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
     but the word of the Lord endures forever.” 1 Peter 1:23-25

Plants wither. Flowers droop. Leave fall from trees. Old seeds go bad. But this inheritance can never fade away. You are secure, safe in the Father’s arms.

Three down, one more to go. What you as a Christian have been given because of Jesus cannot rust away, it cannot rot away, it will never fade away, and fourth and finally, Peter celebrates, it cannot be stolen away.

4.       Our eternal inheritance can’t be stolen away.

Peter redirects stressed Christians upward, writing, “This inheritance is 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.” Our inheritance is kept, secured by God Almighty himself. Translated kept, Peter uses the Greek verb tereo. Another translation is that our inheritance is reserved for us.

Your eternal security is guarded by God himself. Getting right with God is not about our ability. It’s about God’s power. And our eternal inheritance is likewise anchored to God’s character, his promise. As Paul writes in Philippians 1,

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

God, who began a good work in us, will carry it on to completion, till the day Jesus returns and we receive the inheritance he has guarded for us until then. No one can steal away what God has already set aside for you, Christian.

So I ask you: What are you stressed about lately? What gets you worried? Where do you feel a deeper need for safety and security? Listen one more time to the Holy Spirit’s word to stressed Christians, to worried Christians, to frazzled Christians:

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.”

Coming out of the stressful, unsettled time of pandemic, it’s important that we regather to celebrate together the wonders of God’s great mercy and the amazing inheritance that Jesus has won for us.

September 12, the second Sunday of September is when we will come together again in the Fishers YMCA. I am asking you to recommit to coming to worship services again in person.

When you look at that date on your calendar, and the Sundays that will follow, I want you to remember what Peter showcases—which is that Christians have not gathered for the past 2,000 years to say, “The stock market has risen. It has risen indeed.”

Christians have not come together every Sunday to say, “My house’s value has risen. It has risen indeed.”

The one solitary reason Christians for two millennia have been motivated to get up on Sunday mornings and leave our homes and gather in Sunday worship, on every continent is together to make this declaration of praise: “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.”

God has got you, Christian—whatever has happened, and whatever you worry about that might happen. He is with you right now. He is protecting you by his power until the day you receive the fullness of your inheritance, that which awaits all who trust and love the Savior our Father has sent. So rejoice, even amidst the uncertainties. And plan to join us back together again beginning September 12th.

Allow me to pray for you, would you? Father God, we echo our praise along with Peter and our 1st-century brothers and sisters in Christ, praising you that you hold us securely. For each one watching who is grappling with anxiety or stress or fear, I ask you to speak peace to their soul, powerfully. I ask you to fill them with holy confidence, trusting the word we have received today. For all the places we are tempted to search for safety and security, Father, we each gladly say my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. We wholly lean on him. Amen! And amen!