So when you hear the word “Hope” what do you think of? To me, hope means looking towards something. “I hope I find a job soon.” “I hope I get everything done I need to get done today.” I hope we’ll have enough money to retire.” “ I hope the pastor is not long-winded today” We all hope for different things, at different times in our lives. So what are you hoping for this Christmas season? When I was a child, I know I was always hoping to get that one special gift at Christmas. How many people, not only children are hoping to get that special present under the tree this year. How many people don’t realize that the most precious gift of all, has been given to us a long time ago, in a manger, in Bethlehem. Now the Jewish people had been hoping for the Messiah to come to their world. Most Jewish people are still “hoping” for the Messiah to come. So are they hoping in vain? Do we ever hope for something that we really don’t think can happen, but we are going to hold out hope for what some would call a miracle. Jesus has already paid the price for us, by going to the cross. When Jesus died on that cross, what kind of hope did his followers have? What kind of hope do you think Peter had, Peter who had declared to Jesus, Jesus yes, “you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”. Matthew 16:16 What do you think he was hoping for? Is this all just a bad dream, we’ll wake up and Jesus will still be here with us. What do you think his mother Mary was hoping for as she watched the son she gave birth to, that an angel foretold her would be the son of God, die on the cross. What was she hoping for at that moment. It really can make you think, what would I have done if I was there. What would I have been hoping for?
I think everyone needs hope, if you have ever been around a person who has lost their hope, you know that person can be in serious trouble, mentally and physically….. I pray you haven’t had the experience of being without hope. It is a scary place to be. Yet why do some people lose hope? In my opinion, the main reason people lose hope, is that they have never accepted Jesus into their hearts. Or if they did, then for whatever the reason, somehow living in this broken world, they forgot about that precious gift that came into the world to save them, Jesus. With everything going on around us, if we don’t keep Jesus centered in our life, in our hearts, we start to lose focus on what is important, and when that happens we begin to lose hope, the hope of being who we were created to be, our hope in the Kingdom of God. See that should be our ultimate hope, that some day we will be raised to new life. Yet until that day we need to keep our hope alive doing whatever task God has given us to do, today, in God’s Kingdom. See God is multidimensional he is not confined to our dimension. He Was, He Is, and He Shall Be…….. So while living out our hope in today’s world, we also should place our trust and hope in the day that Jesus comes back to redeem his people. His people, like me and like you. YES YOU!
Jesus was asked by his disciples about how will they know when the end times are coming. This scripture is part of Jesus response to that question. Luke 21:25-29
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
So is that something we hope for? Jesus’s triumphant return. That is the ultimate climax of God’s creation. That is the ultimate destination for creation. It should be our ultimate hope, a new heaven and a new earth when Jesus returns. The necessity of Jesus returning to Earth for the final battle of all creation is a basic premise of our Christian faith. Just as Christ defeated sin and death in his resurrection, he must return to claim the ultimate victory over sin and death in this broken world. Is that something we are hoping for? Why should we, as followers of Jesus, living in today’s reality, even care about the end times, or what theologians call eschatology? After all didn’t Jesus give clear warnings about the futility of anyone knowing, or trying to figure out when he will return. Mark 13:32 “No one knows about the day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” The resurrected Jesus gives another warning, Acts 1-7 “It is not for you to know the times or dates, the Father has set by his own authority.” Hope! I think hope is the answer to the question of why we, as Christians should care about eschatology. What happens when Jesus returns, and who is saved are questions that have been debated for almost 2,000 years. The timing of when this happens, I believe, should not be a dominate concern for us as Christians. What should be paramount is taking the hope of this new heaven, out into the broken world of today, “It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions,and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:12-13 That hope is has always been a foundation of God’s plan of salvation for the world .” I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Isiah 46:10 In his book, Surprised by Hope, NT Wright gives his thoughts on God’s ultimate plan:
God’s design was to rule creation in life-giving wisdom through his image-bearing human creatures. But this was always a promise for the future, a promise that one day the true human being, the image of God himself, God’s incarnate son, would come to lead the human race into their true identity. Meanwhile, the creation was subjected to futility, to transient and decay, until the time when God’s children are glorified, and what happened to Jesus at Easter, happens to all Jesus’s people.
So if we are to rely on God’s infinite love for all his creation to ultimately save our souls, what good does it do us attempting to model our lives after Jesus? Grace is always the answer to our salvation, no matter when it is given. We can do nothing to ensure our salvation. It rest’s entirely in God’s hands. This hope we have, that ultimately a loving God cares enough about each individual to give them eternal life, needs to be expressed daily in the lives we live. “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” John 3:21 Even though we are saved by Grace and not works, each person will be judged according to their works. That is the catch twenty-two of Christianity. Let’s listen to the thoughts of A.W. Tozer on this subject:
Does this mean that the redeemed man has no responsibility to God for his conduct? Does it mean that now that he is clothed with the righteousness of Christ he will never be called to account for his deeds? God forbid! How could the moral governor of that universe release a segment of that universe from the moral law of deeds and consequences and hope to uphold the order of the world?
Clearly it does matter what we as Christian’s do! “You see that a person is justified by what he does, and not by faith alone.” “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” Both these verses from the book of James, echo what should be apparent to those seeking to follow Jesus. Christianity in today’s society must include a large dose of doing! These good works, should grow out of the Hope we carry in our hearts, for that glorious day when Christ returns. The good news of the Gospel must be taken out into our world, by our actions and our words. Ultimately we will be judged on what we accomplish. Romans 2:6 “God will give to each person according to what he has done.” I pray that when the new heaven and new earth arrives I will have been a beacon of hope for my earthly domain. Revelation 21:1 “Then I saw a new heaven and new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”
So if this is God’s ultimate plan, and we are Jesus’s people, we need to carry this hope with us at all times. Because it is this Hope, the Hope of the Birth of the Jesus, The Hope of what Jesus did on the Cross, The Hope of the Resurrection on Easter Morning, The Hope of Jesus returning, All this hope, we need to not only carry with us, but with this much Hope it should overflow from our souls, so those who don’t know this hope, this Hope in Jesus will see it in us.
1 John 3:3
“All who have this hope in him purify themselves,just as he is pure.”