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Weekly Word

Entries in Hope (7)

Tuesday
Mar292016

There is Hope

Romans 8:16-30.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty on March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday.

Hope is a word that we use to refer to the anticipation of something good in the future.  This seems to be the default position of the human heart.  When we are young and innocent we have a basic sense of good things ahead.  However, through difficult experiences in a fallen world and our own moral failures, we can lose hope.  In Jesus God has restored hope by demonstrating the depths to which His love is willing to go for fallen humans.  Yes, we may give up on hope, but God will never.  He is the creator of hope.

It is also important to recognize that we are not talking about hope in the sense of wishing for something.  “I hope I win the lottery,” is a statement that is more about wishing for something.  In the Bible the hope in our heart is instigated by the object of hope that God has promised in our future.  It would be more like the hope a young person has of graduating from college because their parents have promised to pay for it.  Today we are going to remind ourselves of the hope that God has anchored in the future for all who put their faith in Jesus and follow him.

We Are Children Of God

In verses 16-22, Paul reminds us that we are children of God.  Now we all belong to God by the fact of creation.  Thus all humans are children of God in that sense.  However, in the Bible it has a more narrow sense.  It is referring to those who have been born spiritually.  When you were physically birthed you were the child of two human parents, i.e. a child of man.  In order to be a child of God you must also be born spiritually by putting your faith in Jesus as your teacher and the one who covers your sins.

As a child of God we are also heirs, and joint heirs with Jesus.  Technically it is Jesus who stands to inherit all/ things because of what he did while he was on this earth.  He lived the perfect, sinless life and yet was unjustly attacked.  Instead of fighting, Jesus puts his full trust in the God of heaven.  Though the cross may seem to show his trust was ill-placed, the resurrection proves that Jesus knew what he was doing.  God has declared that those who put their trust in the work of Jesus and his commands will be brought into the Family of God and allowed to inherit with Jesus.

Notice that Paul states at the end of verse 17 a conditional phrase.  We stand to inherit with Christ, “if” we are willing to suffer with Jesus.  Just as Jesus suffered in the hope that the Father would answer him so too, we must pick up our cross and follow him.  Now we will not all suffer the same things or in the same way.  But we will experience many hardships in this life that will challenge our decision to follow Jesus.  His commands are very clear and cause us to have to choose between trusting him or making our own way.  Some people walk away from the faith when they encounter suffering.  But, this seems strange because we are going to have pain and suffering whether we follow Jesus or not.  This world is filled with them everywhere you go.  Thus Paul states that those who will follow the way of Jesus will suffer on this earth, but they will one day be glorified with Jesus.  Just as Jesus was glorified with an immortal, indestructible body and was glorified in his position over all creation, so we too will receive glorified bodies and a glorified position beside Jesus.  To illustrate this, I would point us to the Basketball tournament that the NCAA is putting on right now.  These teams are in the middle of a great struggle to be the champions.  As each game is played one team walks away saddened because they lost, but the other team is rejoicing because they have won.  As the final championship game ends with the blare of the buzzer, the time of blood, sweat, and tears will be over and one of the teams will enter into a time of glory, the time of enjoying the fruit of your labor.  This is what it will be for all believers at the Resurrection.

This is what is being referred to in vs. 19.  All creation awaits the revealing of the Sons of God.  This is the moment when believers are glorified and revealed to the world in glorified form and position.  Most people don’t recognize how critical mankind is to the universe.  Through our moral fall, all of creation was put under the curse of sin.  In the Old Testament the term Sons of God is a reference to the angelic beings.  They were direct creations of God and they were immortal.  However, through Jesus, God is raising up lowly humans to join the heavenly Sons of God.  This is referenced in Hebrews 2: 9-10, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angles, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.  For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”  Yes, we are in a time of difficulty, blood, sweat, and tears at this time.  Yet, a day has been appointed in which all who have believed upon Jesus Christ will be raised up immortal.  We will be revealed as the Sons of God, along with Jesus the One and Only Unique Son of God.

In verses 20-22, we are reminded that the curse was given for the hope of what was to come.  We might be tempted to look at the effects of the curse and sin on the Earth and accuse God of doing a terrible job, perhaps even being evil.  The truth is that we were not cursed for the sake of vengeance, but for the hope of what would one day come.  The triumph of mankind over the devil would be a long time in coming, but come it would.  At the cross, the devil was disarmed.  The truth was given to the world and the law was satisfied.  For the last 2 thousand years people have been plundered from his control, people from every language and nation.  One day all of those people will stand immortal beside the Lord, while the devil is captured and removed from the scene.  This is the victory that the Lord has assured us.

Jesus Is The Hope Of Mankind

Starting in verse 24 we see the hope that Jesus makes possible for mankind.  First it states that this is what we have been saved for.  Putting your faith in Jesus is not about simply trying to get something better in this life.  It is about so much more.  Sure, following Jesus will change the way you live and bring many good things into your life.  But it can also bring some bad things into your life as well: suffering, pain, rejection, and even death.  But the apostles knew that they were not dying for a lie.  They had seen the resurrected Lord and had been told by him that they too would experience resurrection if they followed him.  It would be good for American Christians to recognize that our greatest hope is not in fixing America, as great as that would be.  Our greatest hope is to reign with Jesus over a new earth and a new heavens that is not tainted by sin, pain, and suffering.

In verse 28 we are told that all things are working together for the good of those who are called by God.  It may seem impossible to understand that such a thing could be true.  Yet, even for a person who is not an unbeliever, this can be true the second they believe in Jesus.  Until that moment, everything that happens in their life is a sad story.  But once they believe in Jesus, it all becomes part of a glorious story of overcoming an enemy that was far too strong for us.  Don’t push faith aside.  By doing so you will only allow your pain and suffering to remain meaningless and evil.  But when you embrace it, all that difficulty becomes full of meaning and goodness.

Verses 29-30 show us that God’s plan is far greater than ours.  It is greater in effect and greater in scope.  From the beginning of time before he created, He foresaw all that would be.  In the moment that he chooses to create, He also chooses a destiny for all who would trust Him.  This is what is meant by Predestined.  He destined those who would trust him to be transformed and made like Jesus (morally and physically).  Then, in the course of time, He Called us to join His family.  All of us who are followers of Jesus had to hear the call of God by the Spirit and through a human being.  When we responded in faith that destiny became our own.  Then, those that responded to the call were Justified.  They were made to be righteous by the work of God.  No one will be able to stand before God and make a case against them receiving such a destiny.  They have been justified by the judge himself.  Lastly, those who have been justified will one day be Glorified.  The justified will be clothed with immortal glory and enter into the inheritance of a new creation.  This is the hope of mankind that Jesus has made available to whosoever will believe upon Him.  If you haven’t already, please do so today.  If you hear the call of the Spirit to join the ranks of the redeemed then respond today and let God justify your claim to the glory He has for you.

hope audio

Thursday
Dec272012

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Today we will look at the Angel’s message to Joseph before the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:18-25.  He faced a difficulty that in many ways he probably wasn’t prepared for. 

We often face difficulties, but it is very different when we have the tools to deal with them.  So the person who has to go to work in the snow can be more confident if they have snow tires and 4-wheel drive.  The person who is lost in Seattle can be more confident if they have a 4-G cell phone with a data plan. 

But, Joseph wasn’t the only one with a tough problem.  We will see that all mankind had a problem, in fact still has a problem, and that problem is sin.  No matter how many tools we create and assemble we won’t be able to remove that stubborn bane of mankind—sin.  It is not just the sin in others, but even the sin within us personally that mankind cannot remove.  Christmas is the celebration of the truth that we have not been left alone in this impossible battle.  God is with us.

Jesus Comes

The central point of this passage is that Jesus, who is the long-awaited messiah, has come.  This is the moment that Israel had been waiting for since its inception.  In fact, we could say that even the Gentile nations with their twisted theologies and religions had longed for “the gods to come down.”  Thus Jesus who is God comes down in a miraculous way: He is born of a woman who had never been with a man.  Though we might be quick in this modern era to scoff at such an idea, we must recognize that if God can create man in the first place, then surely he can cause a egg to be fertilized in the womb.  In fact what is the insertion of the sperm but an insertion of information?  God did not even need a sperm.  The Holy Spirit was able to activate the egg by the same creative power he had at the beginning.  You either believe in God or not.  But don’t pretend that the reason you don’t believe in him is because of such miracles.

Jesus came in a way that looked shameful.  Though Joseph and Mary were betrothed, they had not tied the knot, so to speak, yet.  For Joseph to go ahead with the marriage would be to confess simultaneously that he is the father and that he was not a righteous man.  His only option seemed to be calling off the wedding in as discrete a way as possible.  Thus Jesus would be born with the social stigma of a shameful conception to unrighteous parents.  Of course this is nothing in our society today.  However that is not to our honor.

Jesus comes to earth accompanied by angels.  We see much activity of angels with Mary, Zechariah, the shepherds, and here, Joseph.  Didn’t Joseph believe Mary?  We are not told.  However as he is determining his response to the news of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph has a dream.  The angel tells him that Mary’s story is true.  As wonderful as that news may have been to Joseph, he still has a tough decision because no one else will believe the story.  However, Joseph becomes a picture of God.  He is innocent, yet marries a bride that the world sees as unfaithful.  In fact, unlike Mary we have been unfaithful.  We are more like Gomer in the story of Hosea.

Jesus also comes as an answer to prophecy.  In verses 22-23 Matthew points out that the virgin birth had been spoken of in Isaiah chapter 7.  The messiah would be recognized as God with us, Immanuel.  But his “name” would be Jesus.

Jesus Saves Us From Our Sins

Jesus is an English version of a word that begins in the Hebrew or Aramaic tongue.  It was some form of Yeshua or Yahshua.  This was transliterated into the Greek language as Iesous.  The name literally means Yahweh is Salvation or Yahweh Saves.  This is the central point of who Jesus is: He is the salvation of God. 

The problem of mankind had been fully explored by mankind.  The Gentiles had continued down the road of creating their own path of salvation.  The Jews had proven that even if God gave us His perfect laws it would not make us righteous.  We all needed a miracle.  We needed God with us in this battle.  In fact we needed him to fight for us.  We were not just bound in slavery to sin.  But this slavery had even infiltrated our mind.  We self-justified those pet sins that we liked and thundered against those we didn’t.  This ever evolving, ever-changing definition of righteousness only protected sin.  This same problem is just as bad today.  We may shrink in horror at a gunman in Conneticut who shoots 20 kids in cold blood.  But then turn around and angrily defend a woman’s right to have a cold-blooded doctor rip apart the life within her.  Over 1 million babies a year are aborted in America.  But few choke up over such infanticide.

In Isaiah 1:18-20, God called to Israel to reason with him.  Though their sins were as scarlet and crimson, he would make them white as snow.  The picture is one of blood.  Sin causes our life to be stained with a stain as difficult as blood.  No matter how hard we try our white righteousness will never look the same.  It will only become more and more stained.  But, God promises to help us.  He says to those who are willing and obedient, rather than rebellious and refusing, that He will make them white.  This is precisely what Jesus was coming to do: to save us from our sins.

“He will save His people from their sins.”  Does this just mean Israel only?  In Matthew 12:50 Jesus had revealed to his disciples that, “whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”  Thus Jesus was stating that his people were not identified by biology, or what town they lived in, or what culture they shared.  Rather, they are identified by their desire to God’s will.  What is God’s will?  John 6:29, “This is the work of God; that you believe in him whom he sent.”  That one is Jesus.  Our faith in Jesus makes us a part of the people of Jesus.  He promises to save each one.

Final Thoughts

Without Jesus we have no hope against our sins, much less those of mankind.  We can continue to lie to ourselves.  But the stakes only continue to go higher and we have more and more to lose.  We cannot create enough rules or technology to protect ourselves from the effects of sin.  Only Jesus can.

Jesus is God’s proof that he has not abandoned us.  He will cleanse those who trust him and his ways.  But, how can an innocent baby save us?  Only because he is Immanuel; God with us.  With God on our side we cannot fail.

This Christmas make it a truly white Christmas by putting your trust in Jesus alone as the one who covers your sin and makes you white as snow.

dreaming white Christmas audio

Tuesday
Nov202012

We Give Thanks To You, O Lord

We will take a break from 1 Peter today and focus upon this week’s topic of Thanksgiving.  It can be easy to lose hope, joy, and peace as things get difficult in our life and our nation.  However, for us in America, it is important to remember that the first century believers were in circumstances more difficult and under governance that was far more oppressive.  In other words God’s Word can take us through whatever is ahead of us.  Paul wrote the letter of Romans to the believers in Rome.  As he closed that letter he encourages them.  Let’s look at the passage in Romans 15:5-13,

May God Grant Us the Mind of Christ

When you boil verse 5 down you see that Paul is praying for them to not just be like-minded but “according to Christ Jesus.”  Thus the mind we need to share is not yours and neither is it mine.  Rather we are to share the mind of Christ.  Back in verse 3 he had reminded them of this mind that Jesus had.  He did not please himself but rather laid his life down that we might live.  Notice that it is God who “grants” or gives this to us.  How we ought to pray and seek God for the gift of having the mind of Christ with one another.  This very same God is the God of patience and comfort.  Both of these are necessary if we are to live out the mind of Christ.  When it says that he is the God of comfort, it doesn’t just mean that he has a lot of it in his kingdom.  Rather, his very nature is patience and comfort.  Let’s look at patience first.  To remain under a situation is to be patient.  We all will draw the line and say that we will not put up with anything beyond it.  However, the mind of Christ is willing to die in order that others might live.  Are my “lines” from God?  No, they are from my flesh.  As the God of patience, this is what he is building in us, helping us to see our need of patience and its value.  We also need comfort.  Literally the word means to come alongside.  So it can refer to help in any sense: instruction, aid, encouragement, help, defense, or correction.  His nature is to come alongside of others to help.  Thus we can trust God to come alongside of us and wait for his perfect timing in our lives.

The “like-mindedness” is defined by Christ’s words and his actions.  Unity is good, but not in a bad thing.  The Nazi party was unified, but we reject that it was a good thing.  Psalm 2 tells us that there is a global rebellion against God and his Messiah.  This is not a good thing.  Do not join it.  Rather, repent and turn back to God so that you may be saved.  Be patient and receive his help so that we can be the body of Christ in this world.  We need to be unified around Christ, his truth and his actions, so that we can speak with his voice to this world.  Then God will be glorified by us.  Ask yourself do you accept other believers in the same way that Jesus received us?  Think about what that really means.

Jesus Became a Servant

In verses 8-13 Paul reminds them of that mind of Christ.  He served.  First he served the nation of Israel.  Paul refers to them as the “circumcision” because they took great pride in this act of the flesh and how it separated them from the rest of the world.  They thought God accepted them merely because they had cut some flesh off their body (outward action).  Jesus served them by verifying and protecting the truth: God had always received them only because of the faith in their heart.  Jesus had come to confirm that the promises of God were real and would be completed.  Even today, there is recognition that God is raising up Israel, once again, so that he can draw her heart to him and save them.  Why? Because the life of Jesus confirmed God’s love for us all.  Jesus also was a servant to the Gentiles (the nations other than Israel).  Jesus teaches us the glorious mercy of God.  While we were yet sinners Christ Jesus died for us.  We didn’t deserve it.  Paul points this out in chapters 9-11 of Romans.  Romans 11:15 says that if Israel’s being cast away allowed the world to have peace with God then what will be their acceptance back, but life from the dead?  Why will God show his mercy to Israel in these last days?  He will do so, precisely because it is a metaphor of his Resurrection nature.  He is Life.  Outside of him there is no life.  He is not afraid of death and even incorporates it into his plan because he is life.

He has done all these things that we might abound in Hope.  Our hope is both behind us and ahead of us.  But let us never forget that our greatest hope is still ahead.  That hope is Jesus ruling over the world.

Paul prays that God will fill them with “all joy and peace” in their faith.  If you are not joyful and peaceful then ask yourself what exactly is robbing you of it?  Part of our joy is to fellowship with the Holy Spirit and to fellowship with fellow believers.  God wants us to have joy and peace as much as he wants us to serve the lost.  May we learn to find true joy and true peace in him.  Notice that it can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps we need to spend some time praying in an upper room until we know for sure that with the Holy Spirit we can have joy and peace in every circumstance.  Whether it is Paul and Silas in a jail cell singing praises to God, or believers singing while they are being burned and fed to the lions, we can boldly stand against the destroyer and refuse to give up our faith.  We can stand against the destroying lion and that destroying mountain and know that the God of the universe holds us up.  If he is for us then who can be against us?  None, for greater is he that is in us then he that is in the world.

Final Thoughts

When things get difficult we tend to lose our sense of hope.  This happens when we have pinned our hopes on things of this world.  We forget that the Scriptures promised us that this world will pass away.  We forget that we were told to not love the things of this world in a way that would compromise our faith.

Also, according to the Keep-It-Simple-Stupid principle (KISS), we should focus on the simple task our Lord has given us.  Keep your faith fully upon Jesus and fully love your Christian brothers and sisters.  Believe and Love as Jesus did.  Not in the way that others tell you or your flesh wants to believe.

Lastly, our greatest hope is ahead of us not behind.  Quit looking at the decay of society around us and giving up.  Start looking up for our redemption is drawing near.  Our leader is not of this world and the kingdom that we inherit is not one that we have built.  Trust God and love your brothers and sisters.

We Give Thanks Audio

Tuesday
Sep182012

Our Present Life

We continue our walk through the New Testament book of First Peter and will look at chapter one verses 13-15 today. 

After reminding believers of the testing trials of this life, Peter then moves to encourage them in their everyday life.  Starting in verse 13 we have three exhortations that appear to be commands.  However, only one of them is commanded, where the other two are put out as descriptions of how to do the main command.  Can you figure out which is which?  By consulting other versions you can discover that the main command has to do with our Hope.

We Must Hope To The End

Is that correct?  Is Peter really commanding them to Hope?  Is that possible?  It is just as possible as our other command to love.  We tend to think of love and hope as feelings.  Peter is not commanding them to have “hopeful” feelings.  Rather he is talking about an action that we can choose to do.  Thus, just as love is a decision, so Hope is a decision too. 

Hope always has a future thing for which it is waiting.  So the decision here is not even about deciding to feel.  Rather it is the decision to keep waiting for that promised grace that is to be revealed at the second coming of Jesus.  The object of our hope can change because of difficulties and trials in life.  We can give up and even place our hopes on other things (perhaps even things that are not godly).  That is the decision we have to make every day in the midst of tough times.  Will I keep hoping in the grace I will receive at Christ’s coming, or will I hope for something “realistic.”  Though we are daily receiving grace from God, it is still only a portion of the fuller grace that has been promised.  There is a wonderful day ahead of us where our status as children of God will be not just revealed, but we will also receive immortal bodies that are not tainted by the sin nature.  Peter commands them to not give up that hope.  The challenge is not just to fully hope in that grace as if we had a “hope-ometer” that needs to be pegged at 100% all the time.  Rather the picture is that of a finish line or a goal.  If we are going to obtain the grace then we need to keep our hope pinned on it until we reach it.

So how can we not lose hope in God’s amazing promise in the light of this world’s trials and reminders that we are not there yet?  This is where the phrases, girding up the loins of the mind, and being sober come into play.

Girding up the loins, or waist, of your mind is a strange phrase.  It is a picture of first century clothing.  The robes they wore would have a tie or belt that kept them held shut.  If you were going outside you would tie your robe shut.  Or if you were going to do some physical labor you might even need to hike up the robe and tie it off in a way that would not encumber your feet and legs.  When this is used of the mind it is clear that a mental issue is involved.  It speaks of preparation.  What mental preparations do I need to make so that I will not be tripped up and restricted in this challenge to hope to the end?  First I need to recognize that my own desires can pull me away from it.  Also, the schemes of our enemy, satan, are focused on aiding this.  Mentally I need to be aware of those things that would keep me from the grace God has for me and prepare for them.

The phrase “be sober” also points to preparation.  However, the issue is different.  In the first I need to make preparations.  In the other, I need to refrain from things that could affect my ability to hope adversely.  Think of how alcohol affects a person in the natural state.  It causes people to lose their inhibitions and self control.  It causes people to lose their awareness of things around them.  It can even eventually lead to losing consciousness and death.  Though the believer should stay away from drunkenness, Peter is speaking spiritually and mentally here.  We need to be sober in the sense that we are not “drunk” from drinking in the lusts of our flesh.  Those who live to please their flesh, will become spiritually drunk.  They will begin to lose inhibitions and eventually any control on their fleshly appetites.  This will lead to a loss of awareness of their true spiritual condition.  They will think everything is alright.  But to any sober minded person they will be clearly out of control.  Eventually a loss of spiritual consciousness can occur.  This is where a person is unable to receive any stimuli from the Lord, whether through the cautions of others, injunctions in the Scriptures, or the pressings of the Holy Spirit.  Such a person will lose sight of the hope and degenerate into only hoping for the “next fix” for their fleshly appetites.   Let’s face it.  Satan uses the love of our flesh for the desire of this world to get us spiritually drunk.  This tactic is quite effective on those who are not mentally prepared.

We Must Be Holy

The next two verses focus on how we need to be a reflection of the one we are following.  If God’s promised grace at the coming of Jesus is what we are hoping FOR, then Jesus himself is what we are IN or ON.  We can have hope for the future because of the one on whom our hopes are placed.  There is a relationship between faith and hope.  Whatever you are putting your faith in will affect what your hope is.  Yet Peter is more focused on how the enemy derails our faith and hope.  Satan uses the impure desires of our flesh for the things of this world.  Ife we are to truly follow Jesus then it will involve a focus on being holy.  So what does that mean?

The simplest understanding of holy is the idea that something has been set apart for a divine purpose.  It is not to be used for ordinary purposes even though it may be very ordinary.  It is not the inherent quality of the thing but the fact that it has been set apart that makes it holy.  If you have put your faith in Jesus then through him God has decreed that you are for His holy purposes.  In the Bible we see Belshazzar of Babylon using the holy cups and bowls of the temple for a drunken party.  This angers God and he loses his kingdom.  However, when it comes to people, we are not inanimate objects.  We can make choices to be involved in purposes that are contrary to God’s purposes.  We don’t pursue holiness as if we could attain it.  Rather we cooperate with the holiness that God has given to us in Jesus.  We can either walk in harmony with that holiness or we can fight against it.

This is why Peter gives the analogy of an obedient child.  A child doesn’t always understand why mom and dad won’t let it do whatever its little heart desires.  It has a choice.  Obedience is not a matter of becoming a son or daughter.  It is a matter of cooperating with the reality that I belong to God because I AM his child.  If we please ourselves then Satan will succeed in getting our hopes pinned on the lusts of this world and eventually robbing us of our heavenly inheritance.  Are you about your father’s business?  Or are you in the business of pleasing your flesh?

When Scripture says, “be holy for I am holy,” it is reminding us of our nature.  We were created to reflect God.  God is holy therefore our lives should reflect that holiness.   This is not out of some puritanical prudishness.  But rather out of protection against the spiritual unconsciousness that results in the life of those who pursue the lusts of the flesh.  Those are the things we pursued in our former ignorance, before we knew Jesus and God’s love for us.  But now that we know what he has done for us and is bringing us to we need to watch our lives guardedly and keep our hopes fixed on Jesus who brings the completion of God’s grace with him.  Maranatha!

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