St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

New Year’s Eve Is A Time To . . .

Sermon on 1 Peter 1:22-25
(New Year’s Eve)

Text: 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. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,
“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word that was preached to you.

My confirmation class can tell you that we don’t just study the catechism during our class time together. Often we find ourselves delving into the world of history, geography and science. Another area which we often touch is English. Sometimes, the way that we say something can make a big difference in what we believe and convey to others. One area of English that draws our attention is that of verb usage. Verbs are those action words that have three tenses: Past, present and future. Those three terms are also appropriate for us as we gather together on New Year’s Eve. It’s a good time for us to look at where we’ve been, where we are and what lies in the future.

Peter looks at our past by saying in verse 22, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth.” Later, in verse 23, he says, “You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” These are things that have happened in your past. You have been purified. You have been born again. Obviously, Peter is speaking of the time when we were brought to faith. We were purified. We were made clean.

This cleanliness is, obviously, in contrast to the filthiness into which each of us was born. Each one of us was born sinful. We inherited this sinfulness from our parents, who inherited it from theirs going back to Adam and Eve. Because of this sinful nature, each of us was guilty in God’s sight and is deserving of spending an eternity in hell.

But, as we were so beautifully reminded last week, God sent his Son into the world to be our Savior. Jesus Christ came into the world to take our place. He lived the perfect life that you and I could not live. He did so for us. Furthermore, he willingly went to the cross to pay the penalty due us because of our sins. The result? As we are reminded in John’s First Epistle, “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” We have been purified. We have been washed clean of our sins.

Peter also reminds us in verse 23, “you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” We were born again. For most of us, that took place when we were baptized. There the washing waters of baptism made us clean of our sins and we were born again, not of perishable flesh and blood, but into a New Man that delights in doing God’s will. For others, it was later in life when we were brought to faith. The fact remains that you, too, were born again.

Note the agent through which this happened: “through the living and enduring word of God.” Through this Word of God, the Holy Spirit creates that saving faith, through which you were born again and purified. What a precious gift God has given to us in his Holy Word, for through it God creates and strengthens the faith in Jesus, who saves us.

The Word of God is also a past, present, and future. Even though God inspired people to write his Word, in some instances more than 3,500 years ago, it has continued to the present. Just think of the miracle that is. How many other things have endured for that amount of time that people are still using. The number of things would be small, indeed. But, God saw to it that his Word would continue to pass down from one generation to another. Thank God for his wonderful Word, which he has given us.

We are also thankful for the future of God’s Word, if you will. Peter refers to it as the “living and enduring word of God.” Then, as proof, he quotes Isaiah 40:6-8, “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.” Many people have spoken against God’s Word in the past. Many empires have risen and fallen. The same will hold true for the future. However, as Peter reminds us, “The word of the Lord stands forever.” In spite of man’s worst intentions, God’s Word will remain until the end of time. Through that living and enduring Word of God, we have been purified.

That is what took place in our past. How about our present? The result of having been purified, Peter tells us in verse 22, is “you have sincere love for each other.” This is what we have now. Because we have been purified, we have sincere love. This sort of love, a sincere love for those around us, can only come when we have been brought to faith. Otherwise, the love, the affection, can only come in response to love and kindness shown to us. If someone is nice to us, we will be nice to them.

Our present is living in thankful response to what God has done for us. There are many ways in which we can do this. Here, Peter brings to mind our love for those around us. Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, we can think of many times when we’ve been less than loving to those around us. We haven’t helped others when we had the opportunity. We have thought the worst about others. We have refused to forgive until we feel they are sorry enough. For these, as well as our other sins of the present, we ask God to forgive us, and we have the assurance that we are forgiven, for Jesus’ sake.

That is our present. We are living in thankful response to all that God has done for us. Now how about our future? It is interesting to see that, after Peter said, “You have sincere love for each others,” he adds, love one another deeply, from the heart.” Peter said, “You have love.” Then, he commands them to “Love one another.” As a matter of fact, when you see the Greek (and it’s reflected in the English), you can see that it is intensified. In other words, Peter is saying, ‘You’ve been doing great. Now do it better.’ It’s kind of like a coach telling his team that they are playing well, but there’s always room for improvement.

The type of love that Peter is talking about is more than loving those who are nice to you. It is a choosing to love. It is a loving even when the other person has done something that is very unlovable. It is the type of love that God showed to us by sending his Son to be our Savior. This love exhibits itself by forgiving each other, by looking for the best in those around us. It is a serving type of love.

I’m sure that each of us can think of instances in our lives when we could have done better or more that we could have done for others. We try to get by with the bare minimum, or if we can escape notice altogether, all the better! Peter would say to us, ‘You’ve made a good start. Now here’s where you can improve.’

How can we do so? The answer is the same as to how we were purified: “through the living and enduring word of God.” As we read his Word and hear it taught, our faiths will be strengthened through the working of the Holy Spirit. As we read God’s Word, we see, again and again, the evidence of God’s love to us and it encourages us to show love to others in response. Again John wrote in his First Epistle, “We love, because he first loved us.” This is our future. We want to continue to love each other and do it all the better. New Year’s is often a time for resolutions. May we, motivated by God’s love and strengthened by his Word, resolve to live for him in this new year.

It is interesting to note how quickly big news stories very quickly fall to the background. For example, think of September 11. We don’t have to say the year. We don’t have to say any more than the date. It has had an impact on us. Yet, remember how big a story it was at the time. There was continuous news coverage. Everyone was talking about it. However, it wasn’t too long before that story was pushed aside for another one. Yes, the effects are still there, and may be for some time in the future. They are, however, no where near as intense now as they were then, and will probably be less in the future. May the same never be said of us and our Christianity. We have been purified, saved from the very depths of hell. We are, at present, living for our God. May he continue to strengthen us in our faith life in the future. We know that God will be with us in the future as he has been in the past. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” May this wonderful assurance be with us to guide and support us in the year that lies ahead, until he calls each of us home. Amen.