The Believer’s Hope: Know Christ, Be Like Christ, Be With Christ

We drafted this post prior to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks—and the subsequent protests around the country calling for an end to racial injustice. If you want to learn more about how Pastor J.D. and the Summit are responding to issues of race and injustice, (1) consult our Commission for Oneness and Reconciliation, and (2) watch our recent worship gathering, which centered on race, justice, reconciliation, and the gospel. 

We hope the following post, while not borne out of these recent events, nevertheless enriches and encourages you.

­—Chris Pappalardo, Editor

In his first letter, the Apostle Peter says that, in the resurrection, we have a “living hope.” Hope is in short supply these days, and I’ve heard a lot of people bring up the word. But “hope” without any substance isn’t hope at all. That’s why I’m thankful that Peter didn’t just talk about hope, but described the contents of our hope.

In the first few verses of 1 Peter, we see three aspects of living hope. No surprise, all three relate to Jesus:

1. The believer’s hope is to know Christ.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy …” (1 Peter 1:8 CSB). The goal of our salvation, the hope that sustains us in trials, is not an end to our suffering. It is knowing God, loving him, and enjoying him. God isn’t the means; he’s the end.

In college, I signed up for a theater class, thinking we were going to do skits and learn improvisation. I probably should have read the catalog better because it was a class on the history of drama in the theater. We spent our entire semester learning about great plays. As a college junior, I was not interested in theater, so the class turned out to be a challenge. But I studied and did well in my theater class so I could get a good grade. After all, good grades lead to good jobs and good jobs lead to paychecks.

Now, 25 years later, I have a job. I have a paycheck. And guess what I enjoy doing? Going to the theater. (Especially now, during quarantine, since it’s not an option.)

In college, theater was a means to an end. I studied it only as a way to (eventually) get money. Now it’s flipped: I use money to enjoy theater. What was once a means has become an end. Theater used to be useful to me; now it is beautiful.

Is God useful or beautiful to you? Do you seek him because he is a means to the good life, or because he is the good life?

Is God useful or beautiful to you? Do you seek him because he is a means to the good life, or because he is the good life?

2. The believer’s hope is to be like Christ.

Peter talks about God refining and purifying us “because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). In the preceding verses, he alludes to all three dimensions of our salvation.

We are freed from the penalty of sin (v. 3). In theological terms, this is called “justification,” and it happened in the past. “You were born again,” he says. When you embraced Christ as your Savior, you received, at once, forgiveness for all your sins; you were given a perfect record, the righteousness of Christ, and stood blameless in his sight. This was all given to you when you received Christ.

We are freed from the presence of sin (vv. 4–5). This is called “glorification,” and it happens in the future. It’s something that will be revealed later. We will have a perfect, pure heart; we’ll love the right things; we’ll no longer struggle with pride and hatred and rebellion and deceit and racism. We’ll be like Jesus.

This leads to the third dimension of our salvation: We are freed from the power of sin. This is “sanctification,” and it happens right now as God grows us more into Christlikeness day by day.

All three—justification, glorification, and sanctification—are part of our salvation and all are activated by faith, which means believing that Jesus has done it all for us and will do it all in us. We rest in him, let him do the work, and become Christlike.

3. The believer’s hope is to be with Christ.

Peter points us to “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). “Imperishable” means it cannot be destroyed; “undefiled” means it will not ever spoil; “unfading” means it will last forever and never get boring; “kept in heaven” means no one can ever take it away. It’s an inheritance preserved from disease and corruption and protected from poverty and injustice.

In The Lord of the Rings, Samwise Gamgee responds to Gandalf’s resurrection with a bewildered question, “Is everything sad going to come untrue?” That was J.R.R. Tolkien’s way of talking about this inheritance: a time in eternity where all sad things come untrue, where justice reigns, disease is taken away, oppression ceases, relationships are finally and fully healed, there is no more pain or crying, and God wipes away every tear.

Our current trials are not small, and they are not easy to bear. But if we are in Christ, we can be sure that these trials help purify our hearts for the best part of our salvation and our true hope: knowing Christ, being like Christ, and being with Christ.