Chapter OneNew Birth
1 Peter 1:1-12
So you've become a Christian. You said a prayer. You made a commitment.
But what actually happened? What caused you to make this commitment
when you did? Is anything really different, and how can you
know for sure?
Take a look at your watch. You can see the movement as the seconds tick.
What you don't see is the complex activity of wheels or electrical impulses
inside the watch that make this movement happen. That's what it's like
when a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ. God has been at work behind
the scenes, opening your mind, warming your heart, and breathing new
life into your soul.
The Bible calls this inner transformation the new birth, and that's the first
thing that Peter wants us to discover.
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. (1 PETER 1:3, emphasis
There is often a great deal of confusion over what is meant by the phrase
"born again." People ask, "Are you a born-again Christian?" as if Ibis was
one brand among many.
When the Bible says "you have been born again" (verse 23), it means that
God has brought a deep change at the very center of your being. He has
given you a new nature, which means that you have a new disposition, a
new appetite, and new capacities.
Your New Disposition
God created you with your own unique gifts, personality, temperament,
and abilities, and it is important to understand that the new birth does not
violate what God has made.
Shy sinners become shy Christians. Zany sinners become zany Christians.
Cautious sinners become cautious Christians, and cool sinners become
cool Christians! The new creation does not contradict the old creation. God
does not reverse what He has already done.
The Holy Spirit will help you to gain control to master your own temperament.
He will give you power to overcome the effects of sin in your personality-like
pride, anger, or greed. But God will not override His own
work. He redeems His work by giving you a new disposition.
That's what happened to Peter. Christ took this man with his flair and passion
and moved him in a whole new direction. Thomas never had that flair
or passion. He was a more introverted type, a thinker who liked asking questions
more than launching initiatives. Peter and Thomas were completely
different men before they met Christ. And after they met Christ, they were
completely different Christians. God's purpose is to take the unique individuality
that He has already created in you and move that in a new direction.
Some time ago I talked with a teenager who had found it difficult to make
a commitment to Christ. When I asked her what was holding her back, she
told me that she did not want to he like her Sunday school teacher. The
teacher was a rather straitlaced older lady who dressed in a conservative
manner and didn't look like she laughed a lot. She was a very fine
Christian, but her personality, temperament, and style were totally different
from the fun-loving teenage girl!
I was glad to have the opportunity of explaining to the girl that becoming
a Christian did not mean becoming like the teacher. Her face lit up as
she saw that God wanted to take her unique personality and move her in
a new direction.
God never intended you to spend your life trying to be like somebody else.
Every person reflects a unique angle of the glory of God. He has made us
all in His image, and yet He has never made two of us exactly the same.
In the new birth, God takes your unique individuality and gives you a new
disposition so that you can begin to live for His glory. There is no other
Christian in the world like you.
Your New Appetite
Nature determines appetite, and when you are born again, God gives you
a new appetite that reflects your new nature. Birds have an appetite for
worms and slugs. Cats have an appetite for meow mix. I don't care for
either of these diets because it is not in my nature.
The principle is simple. Cats have an appetite for what cats love. Birds
have an appetite for what birds love. Sinners have an appetite for what
sinners love. And those who have been born again through the resurrection
of Jesus Christ have an appetite for what Christ loves.
This does not mean that old appetites that might lead you into sin disappear.
We live this Christian life in the flesh, and so we often find ourselves
drawn to things that displease God. But these are not the deepest longings
of your heart. Through the new birth, God creates a new desire within you
to know Him, to please Him, and to follow Him.
Many people turn away from Christianity because they think it is about
imposing a set of rules on a person's life. Obviously this is not attractive,
and thankfully it is not what being a Christian is all about. In the new
birth God creates a deep longing in you to live a new kind of life, and real
freedom is found when what you most desire turns out to be exactly what
Your New Capacity
Nature determines capacity as well as appetite. Dogs can't fly; it's not in
their nature. Fish can't run; it's not in their nature. In the same way, sinners
can't live in the presence of God or obey the laws of God, because it's
not in their nature.
That used to be your position. But when you were born again, God's Spirit
came to live in you, giving you not only the desire to live a new life but
also the capacity.
If your faith rested on a decision or commitment that you made, the
Christian life would be impossible. You would be in the same position as
the people in the Old Testament who promised to obey all of God's commandments.
They were utterly sincere in their intent, but completely naive
about their ability. But you can live this Christian life because God's Spirit
is within you. You have the power and the capacity to do all that God calls
you to do.
The Christian life is lived from within. It is the growth and outworking of
a miracle that has happened within your soul by the power of God's Spirit.
He has brought you to a new birth. He has given you a new disposition
with new appetites and a new capacity.
Some people have a hard time connecting with this truth because they
cannot remember a time or place where they made a definite commitment
of faith in Christ. It's important to remember that a person's salvation
comes through faith in Christ, not through a precise or vivid recollection
of when that faith was formed.
I can't recall anything about my natural birth, but that does not cause me
to doubt that I exist! The evidence that I was born is that I am alive. It's
the same with the new birth. The evidence that a person has been born
again is that he or she is living the new life. You discover that you have
a new disposition and a new appetite, and the wonderful explanation for
these things that you begin to see in yourself is that you have been born
No wonder Peter says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ! He has given us new birth." Never underestimate the miracle of
what God has done in bringing you to faith in Jesus Christ.
Have you ever wondered why God moved in your life to bring you to
faith? After all, there are millions of people who have never come to faith
in Christ. When I think about the fact that some of my neighbors, family,
and friends have never experienced the new birth, it leaves me asking the
question "Why me?"
The only answer to that question is the mercy of God. It is "in his great
mercy" that you have been born again (verse 3). Birth is something that
happens to you. You do not contribute to it. God did not breathe new life
into you because you were a better person or more sincere or more worthy
than your unbelieving neighbors or friends. If any of these things were
the cause of God's work in you, then the credit for your salvation would
ultimately belong to you.
But Peter makes it clear that this is never the case. The only explanation
for the miracle of your new birth lies in the mercy of God. Stop and ponder
that for a moment. It will leave you with a sense of awe and mystery
The reason you see the glory of Jesus is because He has opened your eyes.
The reason you love Him is because He has opened your heart. The reason
you want to follow Christ is because He has given you that desire. And the
ultimate explanation of these things is not to be found in anything in you,
but rather in God, whose great mercy has touched and changed your life.
God has been merciful to you. Let that bring you to worship.
If you began reading with the idea that becoming a Christian was all about
you making a decision or saying a prayer, I hope you can see that much
more was going on behind the scenes. God is at work in your life. In His
great mercy He has given you new birth.
Your Living Hope
Through the Resurrection
This new birth brings you into "a living hope through the resurrection of
Jesus Christ from the dead" (verse 3).
Notice that your hope flows directly from the resurrection of Jesus. That's
important. Peter is not talking about the power of a more optimistic view
of life. I've listened to motivational speakers tell large audiences to "think
positive and be positive." That may be good psychology, but it has nothing
to do with Christianity.
Your living hope is not a mind game in which you create your own reality
by the power of positive thinking. Peter tells us that it is tied to the resurrection
of Jesus. When Jesus rose from the dead, He broke the power of
death, and through the new birth the living hope of His victory touches
and embraces you.
God has brought you to share in the triumph of Jesus' resurrection. Death
has no hold over Him, and death will have no hold over you. When the
moment of your death comes, whether that be through illness, old age, or
what we call an accident or disaster, it will be a translation out of your
body into the immediate presence of Jesus. Try to lake that in. It will help
you to overcome fear and to live with confidence.
Kept by God's Power
You have been born again "into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil
or fade-kept in heaven for you" (verse 4).
Your new birth has brought you into a new family. You are a child of God,
and as a member of His family you have a share in the greatest of all
inheritances. God will keep that inheritance for you until the day when
Jesus Christ will come and gather the whole family together into the
immediate presence of God.
It is a wonderful thing to know that God is keeping a place in heaven for
you. The reservation is made. It has been paid for by the blood of Jesus.
There is an inheritance with your name on it, and when you see it you will
not be disappointed.
But God does more than keep an inheritance for you. He also keeps you
for the inheritance. Through faith, you are "shielded by God's power until
the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time'"
I've met many Christians who believe that God has an inheritance for
them in heaven, but they sometimes wonder if they will arrive in heaven
to receive it. God wants you to know that your salvation does not depend
on your ability to hold on to Christ but on Christ's ability to hold on to
you. It does not depend on the strength of your hand but of His, and His
hand is stronger than yours. That's the basis of Christian confidence or
Christ is keeping an inheritance for you, and He is keeping you for the
inheritance. Try to picture the two outstretched hands of Christ. In the one,
He holds an inheritance. In the other, He holds you. Both are safe in His
hands, and when He comes, He will bring the two together, and the inheritance
will he yours.
Trials That Prove
Your Faith Is Authentic
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have
had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your
faith . may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and
honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (VERSES 6-7)
If you found an old painting that resembled a Rembrandt, you would want
to know if it was authentic, and you would seize any opportunity to find
out. This is why the Antiques Roadshow has been such a success on TV.
Experts arrive in a city, and people bring their antiques, wanting to know
what they might be worth.
Your faith is of far more value than a Rembrandt painting. Peter says your
faith is "of greater worth than gold." Gold will eventually perish like every
other created thing, but your faith, if it is genuine, will last for eternity.
But how can you know that your faith is authentic? How do you know
that it is not a passing phase? Peter has the answer. When you suffer grief
in all kinds of trials, you will have all the evidence you need that your
faith is authentic. Here's why: If your faith were just a human decision or
a passing phase, then as soon as you began to suffer, you would renounce
your faith and turn away from God. Then you would spend the rest of your
life either saying you could no longer believe in God or else smoldering in
bitterness and resentment against Him.
I can think of several people like that. No doubt you can too. The big question
is "Why isn't everybody like that?" All of us experience some share
of suffering in this life, so why don't we all turn away in bitterness and
Thinking about the congregation of believers I am privileged to serve in
Arlington Heights, I can picture people who are struggling with unanswered
questions, disappointed hopes, and shattered dreams. I think of
some who have lost loved ones, others who have suffered severe illness,
violence, or some other personal catastrophe. And yet they still believe!
They still love Christ!
There is only one explanation for this: Christian faith is a miracle. It is the
seed of the life of God planted within your soul, and it is indestructible.
Think about a bulb being planted in the ground, and try to imagine the
experience from the bulb's perspective. The gardener takes you in his loving
hand and digs a hole specially shaped for you. He places you in that
hole, which seems like a gentle cradle. You look up to the light of the open
sky above. Life is good and you are filled with joy.
Then, suddenly, the same gardener who seemed so caring drops piles of
dirt on top of you. He buries you, and you find yourself surrounded by
darkness. You think your life is at an end, but actually this is the beginning
of your growth.