“Great Expectations” (I Peter 1:4-5 sermon)

One of Charles Dickens’ greatest novels bears the title: Great Expectations. “Great Expectations” didn’t just mean that great things were expected of the young man Pip, whom the story was about. To have “expectations” in old England meant that you had the “prospect of an inheritance” that was coming to you. So if a large inheritance was expected to come to you, then it might be said of you that you had “great expectations.”

Well if anyone has “Great Expectations,” it is the child of God. Our scripture in I Peter 1 this morning says we have been “born again to a living hope … to obtain an inheritance, which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you who are protected by power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Last week we saw that because Jesus rose from the dead, those who commit their lives to Him have “a living hope.” And this verse now goes on to tell us that this “living hope” is TO an INHERITANCE that God has waiting for us in heaven, that is the greatest of all “Great Expectations”!

I. The Christian’s Expectations

The Bible tells us here in :4 that as Christians, God saved us “to obtain an inheritance. An “inheritance,” of course, is money and other possessions you receive from a relative who has passed away, and who has left those things to you. Perhaps you have personally received such an inheritance, or maybe you know someone who has.

But the Bible says that as Christians, GOD has promised us an inheritance:
— Acts 20:32 “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Paul said when we respond to God’s word of grace and are saved, we are given this “inheritance.”

— It is usually someone who dies who leaves us an inheritance, and Hebrews 9:15 says it was Christ’s death that gives us the promise of our eternal inheritance.

— Ephesians 1:14 says that when we are saved, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and sets God’s seal on our heart, “as a pledge of our inheritance.” In other words, God guarantees that the one who is saved and sealed by the Holy Spirit WILL receive that inheritance — and the Holy Spirit Himself, in our heart, is the guarantee of that inheritance.

All these verses and many more in the New Testament speak of the inheritance that Christians have waiting for us. If you are a child of God (and that is a big “IF” that you need to make sure of; we’ll talk about that in a minute) then you have an inheritance coming to you from your Heavenly Father! You really do have “great expectations.”

You might be excited if, when you got home from church today, you got a phone call, or an e-mail, that some long-lost relative had passed away, and an inheritance was coming your way. But how much MORE excited should we be, that GOD HIMSELF is promising us an inheritance? The Christian is promised an inheritance from His Heavenly Father.

II. The Nature Of Our Expectations

The inheritance that God has promised us is a different kind of inheritance, I Peter 1:4 says. It says this inheritance is “imperishable, undefiled, will not fade away, (and ) reserved in heaven …”
This tells us several things about the nature of the “expectations” we will receive from our Father:

A. “Imperishable”
This same Bible word is used in I Cor. 9:25, where Paul writes about those who compete in the games ( the Greek athletic contests, like the Olympics). He says “they (compete) to receive a perishable wreath — but we an imperishable.” When the Greeks had their Olympic games, the winner of a race or a wrestling match or whatever the contest was, was given a “crown” — a little “wreath” that they would put on their head. But that wreath was made out of little branches and leaves from a bay laurel tree, so of course in just a few days that “crown” they had worked so hard to win, would crumble into nothing — it would “perish.”

But he says as Christians, what we are running for is an “imperishable wreath.” It will never fade or crumble like the rewards of this world do. What God will reward us with, is an “IM-perishable inheritance.”

B. “Undefiled”
This Bible word means it is not “stained” or defiled. How many things that we work so hard for, or love, in this world, get ruined? I bought a shirt one time that I really loved — it was a white OU golf shirt. I paid a good little bit for it, but I felt like it was worth it because it was so nice. Well, one time I was going to wear it, but it looked a bit wrinkled, so I thought I would just iron it — but the second the iron touched it, the shirt melted into the iron. You weren’t supposed to iron it. And there was nothing I could do; the shirt was ruined.
And so many things in this life are that way: clothes get stained, cars get rusted; homes deteriorate; baseball cards or stamps get torn or fade; electronics get out of date. But the Bible says that our inheritance in heaven will never get torn or stained or rusted. It will always be “undefiled.”

C. “Will not fade away”
Somewhat similar, this word is used in James 1 of rich person, who, like the flower, “fades away”. Flowers wither — and so does so much of what most people live for. It just fades away. But not our inheritance from God. It will never fade or wither.

D. “Reserved in heaven”
This is important. The reason the Christian’s inheritance is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, is that it is NOT in this world. Our “Great Expectations” are in heaven, NOT on this earth.

Misunderstanding this nature of our inheritance as being in HEAVEN is the basis for a lot of bad theology and practice today. We hear all these false teachers proclaim that God’s people will receive their “best life now”, right here on earth: that you will be healthy, wealthy, prosperous in every way. NO! Jesus never promised His followers that. He said, “In this world you will have tribulations.” Hebrews 11 talks about how some of God’s most faithful servants “went about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated,” and suffered “nakedness and peril and sword.” No, our best life, for the Christian person, is NOT now. Our reward is not here. Our “Great Expectations” are not here; they are “IN HEAVEN” Peter says. Your inheritance is “reserved in heaven” for you.
— So don’t be discouraged if you are not healed here. This is not the place of ultimate healing; heaven is.
— Don’t be depressed if you’re not rich here. This is not where your real riches are. Your riches are in heaven.
— Don’t be dismayed if you don’t always get justice here; ultimate justice is not found here; it WILL be found in heaven.
— Don’t fret if you don’t have a big inheritance here; your inheritance is not here; it is “reserved in heaven for you” Peter says!

If we can just remember this, it will totally revolutionize the way we think, and live, every day. In Matthew 6:19-20 Jesus said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.”

Think about it: Everything you buy or save here on earth is perishable or can be taken away:
— If you get valuables, they can be stolen
— If you put it in the bank, it can be devalued by inflation.
— If you put it in a house, it can be flooded or destroyed
— If you buy commodities, they can rot or ruin.
— If you put it in investments, the market can crash.

Everything you can do with your money here on earth is potentially perishable. But Peter says as God’s children, we have an inheritance which is “imperishable, undefiled, will not fade away” because it is “kept in heaven” for us. Whatever you save and invest in the Kingdom of Heaven, you cannot lose, but you will keep it forever!

I remember several years ago, hearing the testimony of about a man from Texas, who had made a lot of money in the oil business. During the “boom,” he had donated pretty substantially to some Christian work here in the state. But just a few years later, the market went “bust”, and the man lost everything he had. One of his “friends” (who must have taken a cue from Job’s friends) said to the man, “Now I bet you wished you hadn’t given all that money away!” But the man had a different perspective. He said, “On the contrary; if I had kept that money, I would have just lost it all too. But as it is, the only thing I have kept, is what I gave away.” Every other investment he had was LOST — but what he gave to the Kingdom of God, was stored up for him in heaven, and could never be lost.

We need to think this same way: of all the money we make, how much do we really “keep”? And I don’t mean how much you bring home, or how much you put in your savings account. Because in the end, we are going to lose all of that, aren’t we? It’s just like they said of the rich man who passed away, “How much did he leave?” “All of it.” We will eventually lose everything — EXCEPT what we give to the Kingdom of God.

So we need to ask ourselves, how much are we investing into God’s Kingdom? How much are you saving for your inheritance in eternity?
— are you giving the 10% that God asks from each of His children as our tithe? We ought to gratefully put that tithe check in the offering box each week, knowing that every time you do, you are saving up for eternity, a reward that can never be taken away! We should joyfully tithe; we should joyfully give to missions and to the Pregnancy Help Center and the Port Ministry and to our new building fund, which will put us out on the highway where we can influence this whole area for the kingdom — because every time we give to those things, we are investing in our eternal inheritance, and it is the very best investment, for:
— no moth or rust can corrupt it
— no thief can steal it
— no flood or fire can destroy it
— no inflation can devalue it
— no “bust” can take it away

And it’s not only your money, either — it’s also your time, it’s your service for the kingdom which is storing up treasures for you in heaven which can never be taken away.

Think about it: how much of your time is just WASTED on worthless things? Most of us probably don’t want to know! Watching television, playing video games, or whatever — and listen; it’s ok to have some fun; we can have a little entertainment. But you don’t want the biggest chunk of your life to be spent on things that are just basically throwing your life down the drain. What are you going to end up with from all that? We should spend the biggest part of our lives doing the most important things— things that will bring us a lasting reward in eternity. A reward that is “imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for us.”

III. The Certainty Of Our Expectations

So our “great expectation” is an inheritance in heaven that can’t be taken away. But how sure is it that we will actually get it one day?

First of all, you need to make sure that you have the saving faith that Peter talks about here that gives you a home in heaven, and the inheritance there. See, God made us to live forever with Him. But we sinned, and our sin separated us from God, and brought death to our lives and to the whole world, and judgment upon ourselves from God. But like we talked about last week, God is such a God of mercy, that even though we deserve His wrath, He still loved us. He came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, and died on the cross to pay for our sins. And when we turn from our sins and follow Him as our Lord & Savior, He sends His Spirit into our hearts like Ephesians 1 talks about, sealing us as belonging to Him, and promising us the inheritance that is waiting for us in heaven.

If that has happened to you, and you have that genuine saving faith in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit sealing your heart, then your inheritance in heaven is guaranteed! Verse 5 says you are “protected by the power of God for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Your “great expectations” are guaranteed and protected by the power of God!

People are always looking for a safe place to put their money; for a “guaranteed investment.” The FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) was created during the Great Depression to guarantee deposits in banks, to restore confidence in our banking system. What you put in the bank is guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the United States government, so you can be confident that you can deposit your money there, and you will not lose it.

And there is a certain confidence you can have in that; but even that is not perfect, is it? Our Federal Government has been pretty reliable; but there are some things about it that don’t exactly inspire confidence: a 21 trillion dollar debt; they just came out with an updated report that Social Security benefits will exceed income for the first time next year, in 2020, and it’s going to get worse for years to come. So the FDIC has been good; for years, our government guarantee has been good — but we can’t have absolute confidence even in our government, can we? Governments throughout history have gone bankrupt.

But the Bible says that our inheritance in heaven is guarded by Someone far greater than the FDIC or even the United States of America — our eternal inheritance is kept in heaven for us by GOD!

The word “reserved” here in :4 is a Bible word (tereo) that means: “watch over” or “guard.” Matthew 27 & 28 uses it several times of the guards who watched over Jesus. Just like those guards were guarding Him, so GOD is guarding your inheritance in heaven. Those Roman guards failed in their duty — but God will not fail in His! He will guard what you invest with Him in heaven!

But it is not only our inheritance in heaven that is guarded and kept by God; even more importantly, verse 5 here says we OURSELVES are protected by God. It says this inheritance is kept in heaven “for you who are PROTECTED BY THE POWER OF GOD through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

This word “protected” here is a different Bible word than the one used in verse 4, but it is very similar in meaning. It means “to guard like a military sentinel.” So not only is God guarding your inheritance, the Bible says God is guarding YOU! He is keeping watch over YOU! No person or no thing will ever steal YOU from God!

Romans 8:38 says “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God says NOTHING can separate us from Him. HE HIMSELF is guarding us.

Jesus said in John 10:28-29, “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no will will pluck them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of the Father’s hand.” Jesus says once He gives eternal life to us, we are held in His hand, and NO ONE can take us out! HE is guarding us; HE is keeping us. And what GOD keeps, no one can take!
— The guards at Jesus’ tomb failed
— The FDIC may fail
— Our government may one day fail
— but the God who is guarding us will never fail; when you entrust your life to Him, you are guaranteed,100% secure!

Paul said in II Tim. 1:12, “For I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”
GOD is the one guarding us, and He will KEEP what we have entrusted to Him.
— Have you entrusted your soul to Him? If you did, He will keep it, and you will never, ever, be lost.
— Have you entrusted your tithes and offerings and time and service to Him for His Kingdom work? If you have, then you are storing up for yourself an eternal inheritance in heaven that is being guarded by GOD, and it will not be lost. Your Heavenly Father is keeping all of that for you. And you can entrust it to Him with all confidence.

I remember when I was a little boy, someone gave me a silver dollar. And I thought that silver dollar was so neat; I just treasured it. But I didn’t trust myself with it. I was afraid that in a weak moment I might spend it on something foolish, or I might lose it, so I gave it to my dad, and said, “Dad, will you keep this for me?” And he said he would, and he took it. Time went by. In fact, over 40 years went by. I had actually forgotten all about that silver dollar. But my dad did not forget. A couple of years before he died, I received a little package in the mail from, and from the block print handwriting he so often used, I knew it was from my dad. In that package was that silver dollar. And on a note on the inside, he had written: “Shawn, you asked me to keep this for you, so you wouldn’t lose it. I think it’s time to give it back.” I’ll never forget that. My dad DID keep what I had entrusted to him, all those years.

And what my dad did with that silver dollar is just an earthly picture of what our Heavenly Father will do with whatever you entrust to Him. He will KEEP whatever you give Him:
— trust Him with your time and your money and your resources. Whatever you invest in His Kingdom, He will KEEP it treasured up for you in heaven until the day you come into your inheritance.
— And most importantly, entrust your soul to Him. If you will, He will guard it; He will keep it, and no one will ever be able pluck it from His hand.

He will guard, He will keep, whatever you entrust to Him, until that day!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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