1 Peter 1.3-9 and John 3.1-15
We live very close to the coast and the wind plays an important part in our lives. We have just had a four day period of 40mph winds. The wind howls round the front door and the trees whip and twist. Young plants have been torn from the ground and established trees in the fields are bent permanently in the direction of the prevailing wind. Walking on the beach in shorts becomes painful as the sand blasts the skin below the knee. This last weekend my wife turned to me and said, ‘Look at the wind out there.’ Clearly, we could not see the wind but the effect of the wind was dramatically apparent. Jesus describes the impact of the Holy Spirit on people’s lives in just these terms. ‘The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear it’s sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’ John 3.8
Peter celebrates this spiritual birth, ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!’ 1 Pet 1.3 Peter is referring back to Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus a prominent Pharisee and Jewish religious leader, who later came to faith in Jesus and helped with his burial in the tomb. Jesus made clear that just as we have a physical birth, for a relationship with God, there is a need for a spiritual birth. John 3.5-7 This new birth involves being cleansed from one’s old sin driven life and our heart, or inner person, being spiritually renewed. As Paul puts it, ‘He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus expresses surprise that this is puzzling to Nicodemus as an Old Testament scholar because it is clearly expressed in Ezekiel 36.25-27 and Joel. 2.28-32 Just as a tree bending in the wind is evidence of the wind so a believer’s life should be evidence of their spiritual new birth. Many look for dramatic spiritual signs as evidence of the Spirit’s work but the most significant signs are to be found in changes in the believer’s life. Peter encourages them to live out their new life. ‘Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.’ 1 Pet 1.22.23
Peter explains that this new spiritual birth is due to the believer’s participation in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 1 Pet 1.3 The new life will not die as our body dies but is an inheritance of eternal life. Once given it is God who keeps it secure and it will become evident in what Peter terms, ‘in the last time’. Peter is encouraging believers to live in the light of this secure hope. The reason Peter wants believers to be secure in this understanding is that it will create resilience in times of trouble. Resilience here is more than simply bearing suffering, the knowledge of God’s eternal promises will bring about joy during suffering. ‘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 Pet 1.6
New birth has led to resurrection hope and rejoicing in times of trouble, resisting sin, and this in turn brings glory to Jesus Christ. ‘These (troubles) have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Pet 1.7
Peter is the one who has seen for himself the suffering, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and heard his teaching. Time now has passed and the letters’ recipients have only heard about Jesus, they have the Old Testament writings but as yet they would have limited, incomplete collections of New Testament gospels and letters. It was therefore very important for the churches to hear firsthand from those who lived with Jesus. Even so, Peter is excited by the evidence of their new birth through the Spirit. He shares with them the joy of their salvation. How lovely that he is thrilled by their salvation and is rejoicing for others. ‘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 end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.’ 1 Pet 1.8
How much would others see in our lives evidence of new birth as the wind can be seen in the trees?
Who are we rejoicing with that though they have not seen him, they love him and are filled with joy as a result of their faith and salvation of their souls.?
Power of your love