Faithlife Sermons

HOPE

These Three Remain  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  23:25
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Christian hope is more than a band aid to get us to an eternal afterlife, it is a hope that shows up in our lives with purpose and direction for who we are and what we do

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Today we are looking at the second of three items that come to us from what the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 Paul makes a connection between faith, hope, and love. He tells us that there is a connection between these three qualities that all work together in the life of a Christian. Today we take a closer look at what the Bible means by Christian hope. And what we are starting to see as Paul explains these three characteristics of faith, hope, and love is the way in which these three interact with one another. We saw last week in looking at Christian faith that what we have and experience as the Christian faith given to us is highlighted and strengthened when faith is joined and held together with the qualities of hope and love. Or maybe in other words, our understanding of faith is what it is because of the hope and love which go along with faith.
Romans five where we were introduced to the chain of what we have received and experience through faith
In order to dig in and understand what we mean by hope and being people who have hope, I want us today to return to the book of Romans. Several weeks ago I preached a message from Romans five. In chapter five of Romans, Paul begins a long section on the way in which we, as followers of Jesus, persevere in the faith. Remember, it is Romans five where we were introduced to the chain of what we have received and experience through faith. In chapter five Paul writes,
Romans 5:2–5 NIV
2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
It was a chain that started with glory and then worked to hope. Chapter eight is the conclusion of this long section of teaching in Romans; and it closes the chain by again returning to the theme of hope and working backward again to the expression of glory.
Romans 8:18–30 NIV
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
confuse hope with wish or desire
There are many things we could say about hope. It can be a difficult characteristic to pin down because it can mean so many different things to different people. Sometimes—in fact, I think, many times—people confuse hope with wish or desire. I can say that I hope Major League Baseball starts up again soon so I can watch the Colorado Rockies play. That’s a hope that I have. But when I say I hope for that, what I really mean is that I wish for it to happen. It is an expression of a desire that I have. And, honestly, it is a wish and desire that is completely out of my hands. Pretty much nothing I do can make it happen or stop it from happening. And it does not really impact or change my life in any way, except for the amount of time I would then waste in front of a television watching baseball. But think about it, the overall direction and meaning of my life is not altered or impacted by the lack of Colorado Rockies baseball games. It is a wish or desire that does not really change anything significant. Can that type of desire, then, qualify as hope?
what do we mean when we say Christians have hope?
When we say that, as Christians, we have hope, what do we mean by that? Certainly, Christian hope must be more than an expression of a wish or desire. Certainly, Christian hope ought to have a meaningful impact upon my life. Christian hope ought to be something that effects the meaning and purpose of my life, of who I am and why I have life in the first place and where it is my life is going. I admit, my hope for Colorado Rockies baseball cannot ever give any of that to me. It cannot give meaning and purpose to who I am. It cannot steer the direction of my life and where it is my life is going. No. Christian hope is something entirely deeper and more significant than a simple wish or desire. Consider with me what the Bible is telling us about that here in the book of Romans.

The object of our hope

Hope is never a blind thing. It does not grasp aimlessly into nothingness. No. There is an object of our Christian hope. It is a hope that is anchored in and centered around very particular parameters. It should almost go without mention that Christian hope has very much to do with Christ. But we can say more about that. How is it that Christ is the object of our hope as those who strive to follow God?
hope that begins and connects with creation
This is interesting the way Paul dives into this topic here in Romans eight. His launching point is the creation itself. Look at what he does here. Paul does not begin a discussion of Christian hope with Christ and then work backwards to us and to our world. No. He starts with our world and then moves forward in a way that lays the groundwork for hope. It reinforces that Christ has brought hope to us and to our world by himself becoming part of our world.
reminder that our hope does not begin with Jesus bringing us to be with him, it begins with Jesus bringing himself to be with us
But let us not forget where this whole discussion in Romans 5-8 began. Paul is writing to a group of believers in Rome who are experiencing some tremendous struggle and suffering. He wants to make sure that this presentation of Christian hope does not simply gloss over or slide right past the struggles and sufferings of this world. This is key. We should take a good lesson from Paul here. The Bible is affirming that our hope can never be in denial of the realities of a sinful and broken world. Christian hope is never meant to be a band aid that covers over and hides the scars of our broken and fallen world. For certain, any hope that denies the struggle and suffering of a world broken by sin is a hope that is empty and useless. Because unless that hope can reach down and meet us exactly where we are, it offers little comfort. And, after all, isn’t it the point of the gospel to show us that Jesus did, in fact, reach down to meet us exactly where we are?
what is it about the gospel of Jesus lands a very real and powerful hope right here and right now into the lives that we are experiencing today?
Now then, let’s get particular and be specific. What about the gospel of Christ gives us real and true hope? Not a disconnected and ineffectual hope that only points past our struggling world to some distant afterlife. What is it about the gospel of Jesus lands a very real and powerful hope right here and right now into the lives that we are experiencing today?

Providence

To answer that question, we need to talk about a very particular teaching of Christianity: something we call providence. It is what we understand to be God’s providence that gives our hope an anchor and foundation right here and right now in this world today. Listen to what the Heidelberg Catechism has to say about providence in Q27 and Q28.
Q27 Providence is “the almighty and ever present power of God by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty— all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.”
Q27 Providence is “the almighty and ever present power of God by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty— all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.”
Q28 “We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing in creation will separate us from his love. For all creatures are so completely in God’s hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.”
Q28 “We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing in creation will separate us from his love. For all creatures are so completely in God’s hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.”
There is affirmation in these words that God is active even now in every aspect of his created world. Nothing is beyond his care and his grasp. And look at Paul’s application of that in these words from Romans eight.
Romans 8:18–23 NIV
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
Providence, then, is what grounds our hope in a certain assurance that—good or bad, prosperity or struggle—God’s redeeming and restoring power to make all things new can never be stopped. God’s reach into our broken and shattered world has the power to hold any and every situation and circumstance in a way that keeps our world and our lives on track with his redeeming purposes. No evil is ever too strong to overpower God’s plan. Or maybe to peek just a few verses ahead in Romans eight and borrow Paul’s words,
Romans 8:38–39 NIV
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That’s what the providence of God looks like as the object of our Christian hope.

The evidence of our hope

something tangible and real about this hope that shows up into our lives
Let’s move on. As assuredly that Christ is the object of our hope, we also see in this passage that there is evidence of our hope. There is something tangible and real about this hope that shows up into our lives. It is a hope that is visible within us and to those around us.
hope that turns into action
Think of it this way. Christian hope is a hope that has action behind it. It is not just a hope that we hold onto in our heads or upon our hearts. This is a hope that does something; we act in hope and because of this hope.
Christmas cookies
When my kids were younger, they would go to bed on Christmas Eve hoping that there would be presents in their Christmas stockings when they woke up in the morning. They did not necessarily know exactly what those presents would be, but they had a pretty sure and solid hope that something would be there in the morning. And because of this hope, they would take some action around it. They would insist on leaving a small plate of cookies for Santa next to the mantle where the stockings were placed. Their eager expectation of what was coming was solid enough that they would pursue and take on some of these patterns and actions centered around this hope for presents in their stockings. It was a hope that showed as something visible in what they were doing because they were so sure that what they were hoping for was absolutely going to happen. It was the evidence of the hope they have.
Look again at what Paul says in verses 28-29,
Romans 8:28–29 NIV
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
being conformed to the image of Jesus
You and I who follow Jesus have been predestined by God for what? To be conformed to the image of his Son. This is where hope shows up in action. This is what gives evidence to the hope we carry. It is the evidence that you and I are on this journey of discipleship in which we are being molded and shaped and formed more-and-more into the disciples that Jesus called us to be. It is the evidence that our lives gradually move closer-and-closer to resembling and reflecting the image of Christ himself in us.
God works this evidence of hope in our lives through good times and through bad times
This is certainly a process that takes a significant amount of hope. Do you see what this passage is saying? “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Do not forget that the overall tone of these chapters in Romans is a discussion about sufferings and trials and struggles. That’s a pretty bold statement for Paul to be dropping into the middle of this. Romans 8:28 is one of those verses in the Bible which is often quoted and greatly misunderstood and incorrectly applied. It is not Paul’s intent in this passage to cover over and dismiss the struggles and sufferings of others. Paul is not trying to take all the evil and brokenness of this world and somehow twist it around and relabel it as something good. There is nothing good about evil. There is nothing good about sin. But for those who have faced trials and setbacks there is comfort in these words which remind us of a hope that extends to us with such power and force that no amount of evil can ever break us apart from the loving hand of our God who has saved us and called us and redeemed us to be his very own.
Let me get to the point. Christian hope does not only show up in the wins, but it also shows up in the losses. Christian hope does not only bear evidence in the blessings and prosperity, but it also bears evidence in the struggles and trials. Christian hope is not so fragile and fickle that it shatters apart on the stormy waves of our broken and sinful world, but it remains the constant beam of light illuminating our path forward and guiding our steps.

The direction of our hope

Where, then, does this hope point us toward? What is the direction of our hope? Paul closes this section of Romans eight by echoing the chain of what we have received and experience through faith that was first introduced all the way back in Romans five. Now here in Romans 8:30 he closes it this way,
Romans 8:30 NIV
30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
hope that we have is a hope that points in the direction of glory
The hope that we have is a hope that points in the direction of glory. It is for this reason that Paul was able to make that statement way back in chapter five about taking glory in the sufferings of his friends in Rome. Not because Paul is some kind of vengeful or spiteful person, but because Paul sees a hope that points to glory, that is able to hold secure all who are in Christ Jesus no matter what trials and struggles may come.
glory: Hebrew cavod = heavy, weighty
A word about the idea of glory as we read it in the Bible. Glory comes from the Old Testament Hebrew word cavod. It refers to the incomparable majesty of God. It has the same Hebrew root that means heavy or weighty. This is not only weighty in the sense of being big and having a lot of pounds. But sometimes we also use weighty to refer to something that is so insurmountable and so compelling that it forces us to take notice and to act. For example, there are weighty reasons why our church has remained closed to the public during the current COVID-19 outbreak. 90,000 people have died in this country in just the last two months from this disease. That’s a weighty statistic that has compelled us to act, that could not be ignored, that has steered and our decisions and actions as an entire society.
the cavod glory of God is something into which we are grafted by Christ through faith
The cavod glory of God is described in this same kind of way. The very presence and existence of God is something which cannot be ignored. His power is so compelling that it forces us to take notice and to respond and to act. The cavod glory of God cannot be circumvented or removed or pushed aside. And this is the attribute of God to which our hope as Christians points forward. This cavod glory of God is something into which we are grafted by Christ through faith. It holds us and our lives with an unshakable power. That is the direction in which our hope moves.
As certainly as Christ has been glorified by the Father, we too who are held secure in the love of God are also being conformed into the image of Christ and are also being glorified. We are glorified by God in a way that shows the whole world the hope which keeps our faith secure in his love.
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