Have you ever watched a movie with a plot that seems to twist and turn—giving you enough to keep you hooked and begging to know what happens in the end? If you were reading passages of the Bible for the first time and not sure of how it all ends, there are plenty of twists and turns that leave you wondering what could possibly happen next. You just have to look at the scriptures (Kings and the Prophets) which give a historical account of God’s judgments on Israel for their rebellion and idolatry. There are twists and turns that keep you hanging to know more.
About 30 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Apostle Peter wrote to believers scattered across Roman provinces—what we now know as modern Turkey (1 Peter 1). These people were suffering some persecution as a result of their faith in Christ. This part of the Bible has its twists and turns, but it doesn’t take long to read on and find out how it ends. By this stage, Jerusalem had not yet fallen; more persecution was to come for the believers.
Peter revealed to the believers that though they were suffering different kinds of trials (1 Peter 1:6), these trials tested the genuineness of their faith (1 Peter 1:6-7). Peter encouraged God’s people to endure with eyes fixed on the glorious inheritance to come, Salvation (v 13). His exhortations and encouragement revealed why God’s people can endure times of trial and hardship—this endurance is only possible because of the gospel. God’s children have their hope in God himself, through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Peter called on God’s people—those who believe in Christ—to display God’s character, echoing what God had commanded Israel to “Be holy, because [he] is holy.” (1 Peter 1:16, Leviticus 11:44). There is comfort in knowing that as believers, we are God’s people. But being holy sounds like a lot of work. Peter commanded the believers to “set [their] hope” (1 Peter 1:13) on the coming salvation, to “be holy” (1 Peter 1:16), and to “live out [their] time…in reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:17). However, there is a slight danger when you set these sorts of commands for people.
We’ve seen how that story plays out. It results in living lives that are more about obedience to religious observance and less about mercy, and skin-deep transformations that appear wholesome and good on the outside, yet beneath the surface harbors darkness and sin. Most Christians can relate to this. We try our best to live holy lives in a world where we are bombarded by selfishness and evil desires, all the while fearing the judgment of God who requires “holiness” as our standard. For Israel, we know how that story ended. As much as they tried to live up to the commands, they stumbled at every opportunity. They rebelled, they bowed down to other gods and did not trust in God. Their sinfulness ended with God coming to the world’s salvation: Jesus hanging on a Roman cross.
However, this not where it ends for Christians. It’s where it begins! Our status as God’s children is completely dependent on God’s grace. That grace is applied to us through the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. Our ability to endure trials and suffering, and to reflect his character, are all dependent on him, not on us.
The sacrifice of Jesus was not a patch-up job for a failed covenant between God and Israel, it is the covenant between God and his people. A covenant that is totally dependent on God alone for the fulfilment of its requirements. Our faith and hope are in him. Why? Because God is faithful. His faithfulness in the past guarantees his faithfulness in the future.
But it gets better. The sacrifice of our Lord Jesus enables Christians to live as God’s children who follow his example now. It enables us to keep his commands and endure suffering and persecution. A Christians’ salvation and new life does not perish like the physical things of this world, because it is spiritual, eternal salvation and new life that we now have.
Jesus is the foundation of the Christian life. It is our spiritual rebirth through the gospel that enables us to fulfil the commands of God and reflect his character.
If you’re struggling in any way, or possibly even feel like your life as a Christian is a failure or too much hard work, don’t give up. Look to God for your strength. Remember that God alone is faithful. He keeps his promises. Our ability to endure and reflect God’s character is 100% dependent on him. It is only possible because of him. And we know how the story ends for those who have faith in Christ.