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Abound in Hope

Advent 2020  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  37:00
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Christ is the source of true hope. Our hope abounds to the extent that we surrender to Him.

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In 1990 David Foster wrote and recorded a song that received little attention. 2 years later Amy Grant included the song on her 2nd Christmas album, then 10 years later Kelly Clarkson performed the song on American Idol and brought it into the mainstream.
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies Well I'm all grown up now And still need help somehow I'm not a child but my heart still can dream
So here's my lifelong wish My grown up Christmas list Not for myself but for a world in need No more lives torn apart That wars would never start And time would heal all hearts And everyone would have a friend And right would always win And love would never end, no This is my grown up Christmas list
Since this romanticized list of wishes and fantasies has been offered by both some who do and some who do not believe that Jesus is Lord, I put this in the category of dreams and wishes, not a prayer.
I’ll give you a peek into the wild terrain of your pastor’s brain. Ann can testify that on Tuesday of this week I was perplexed by the differences between the dream of this song and the confidence of a prayer offered in faith.
If we have different words for a dream and a prayer, what makes them different? Last Sunday we lit the candle of hope and hope is a word that appears 4 times in both the first and last verses of today’s reading. So I found myself ruminating or meditating on the difference between anticipation, wish and hope.
I concluded that we anticipate both positive and negative experiences, a wish is a general desire that a particular circumstance will somehow materialize, but hope is a desire that a particular person will bring about a particular result.
My friend Tim Mackie describes it this way: Hope - YouTube
In Biblical hope we choose to anticipate a person. This person will bring peace (today’s advent theme) both to our current situation and our future reality.
Last Spring we were told that social distance and sanitation would flatten the curve. In the last months we can observe those who dreamed warmer weather would eliminate the Corona virus. During the election cycle we were told to anticipate a vaccine. And now the wish is that widespread wearing of masks will slow the spread.
But none of these equal the hope of Advent, because this season we choose to place confidence in a person who brings peace to our anxiety.
Join me in today’s reading of Romans 15:4-13.
Romans 15:4–13 ESV:2016
4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” 10 And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” 11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” 12 And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Transition: In today’s passage I find that Hope that listens to the past and looks to the future changes our present.

Hope Springs from History (vv.4-7)

God’s Promises provide Instruction (v.4a)

1. Since our current perspective is shaped by a person who has proven Himself to be both good and great, we have reason to be hopeful.
A Peanuts cartoon pictured Lucy and Linus looking out the window at a steady downpour of rain. “Boy,” said Lucy, “look at it rain. What if it floods the whole world?”
“It will never do that.” Linus replied confidently. “In the ninth chapter of Genesis, God promised Noah that would never happen again, and the sign of the promise is the rainbow.”
“You’ve taken a great load off my mind,” said Lucy with a relieved smile.
“Sound theology,” pontificated Linus, “has a way of doing that!”[i]
2. This is the type of instruction that v.4 describes.

God’s Promises provide Endurance (v.4b)

1. When we trust God to be faithful to His Word we can keep on when others would give up.
In his autobiography, William Allen White related the story of a boyhood playmate, Temple Friend, who was kidnapped by the Indians when he was quite young. Ironically, Temple’s grandfather was a missionary to the Indians. The Lord’s servant persisted in believing his grandson was alive. He continued to love and serve the church. He never allowed Indian conduct to sour his spirit. When visiting an Indian village, the old man would line up the boys who would be about the age of his missing grandson, and whisper, “Temple, Temple,” quietly in the ear of each boy, so as not to excite them or the community. He followed this procedure day in and day out.
Finally, he found about twelve boys the age of his grandson in one district—all eight to ten years old—and he started the same procedure. At the middle of the line a little boy’s face lighted up, and he responded, “Me Temple!”[ii]
Transition: God’s Word instructs us to have hope and this hope provides endurance when others would give up. It is also true that…

God’s Promises provide Encouragement (v.4c)

Winter Sports began this week and many of us are adjusting to Sports without fans. How important are fans to the overall sports experience? I’m sure the officials are finding it quite different to call a game without parents in the stands.
1. The encouragement of the Scriptures serves like fans in the stands to encourage us.
Acts 7:55 notes that Jesus was “standing on the right hand of God” as Stephen’s enemies stoned him to death. Why was He standing?
Let us suppose you are a football fan. The score is tied with less than a minute to play. Chase County has the ball on the opponent’s one yard line. What would you be doing? Sitting down? Reading the player’s names on the program? Idly twiddling your thumbs? No! You would be standing, cheering for the Bulldogs to score!
So Jesus cheers for those, like Stephen, who are faithful unto death.[iii]
Transition: If v.4 describes what happens in each of us individually when we have hope, vv.5-7 detail a prayer for a collective result of our hope.

God’s Promises provide Harmony (vv.5-7)

1. A unified glory – May the hope that I have which gives me instruction, endurance and encouragement also give each of us the faith to trust that God is working the same way in those around us. He is prompting them to do the right thing when it would be easier to give up. He is encouraging them to remain faithful to His promises. And if I have hope that He is at work in you, then I can live in harmony with you as He does His thing.
a. This becomes especially enlightened when we consider the previous chapter in Romans. The Gentiles had one perspective on diet, and the Jews had very different ideas. But the verse before us reminds us to cut each other a little slack as God works in them.
b. I encourage you to go back and read those verses but imagine Paul is talking about that person who disagrees with you about the value of wearing a mask.
2. A unified invitation/welcome
a. The word welcome (2x in v.7) has a meaning that we might miss if we just glance over it.
b. To welcome can be “to acknowledge one’s presence” as in a polite wave or tip of the hat.
c. But welcome in this sense is “to assimilate, to internalize, or receive in”. The word appears 12 times in the NT and at least twice has the idea of taking in food.
d. It overlaps with the idea of communion. When we receive the bread and juice, we make it a part of us.
e. V.7 is a great reminder for us in our current world of racial tension. Our common hope in the Gospel means people of different race and culture can merge as one.
Transition: This unity is magnified in the next 6 verses.

Hope Arouses Praise in ALL Peoples (vv.8-13)

Written in former days (v.4a)

1. It is important to remember that while Paul did not write the most words in our New Testament, he did write more books than any other single author. This human author of early Christian writings was trained in Judaism under the great Pharisee Gamaliel (Acts 22:23).
2. Verses 9-12 quotes Torah (instruction), Nevi’im (prophets), Ketuvim (writings)
3. Paul brilliantly goes to each section of the Hebrew Scriptures to point out that a Universal Gospel was always God’s plan.
a. V.9 quotes 2 Samuel 22:50 (originally 1 book in the “former prophets” (Nevi’im) and Psalm 18:49 from the Ketuvim
b. V.10 quotes Deuteronomy 32:43 from the Torah
c. V.11 quotes Ps 117:1 from the Ketuvim
d. V.12 quotes Isaiah 52:15 from the Latter Prophets in the Nevi’im
Our education system today strives to inform in both the Arts and the Sciences, and our curriculum involves several disciplines. A High School graduate today must demonstrate proficiency in both physical and social sciences as well as visual and performing arts in order to receive that diploma.
4. By going to each section of Jewish education, Paul is showing how God’s plan for all peoples can be found everywhere. If he were alive today Paul would say, “Let me show you how Biology testifies about God, Let me show you how social structures speak about Him, Listen to this artistic expression of God’s glory and stop to behold this depiction of His greatness.”

For [now] I tell you (v.8-9a)

1. God’s truthfulness both confirms the understanding of those who came before and serves us well today that it is reasonable to place our hope in this merciful God who is worthy to receive glory.
2. The testimony of Christ, the claim of the Gospel, demands a decision.
In the social revolution of the 1960’s when the claims of Friedrich Nietzche were being popularized on college campuses. Nietzche claimed “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.” In response to this idea that God is dead, a young man read the New Testament to see what it actually says about Jesus.
Josh McDowell concluded that an honest reading of the Christian Scriptures demands one of 3 conclusions. One can’t read the claims and walk away without drawing a conclusion.
Either Jesus was Lord God as He claimed. He was a deluded Lunatic without any grounding in reality. Or He was an evil Liar who intentionally misled others.
3. Paul writes to the church at Rome that we have more than enough truth to place our Hope in Jesus for our salvation.
4. Not only us, but that we have reason to call all you Gentiles (v.11) to extol him.
5. Our Hope in the 2nd Coming provides great motivation for evangelism among our friends, neighbors and co-workers.

Hope fills us with joy and peace (v.13)

1. Notice that Paul does not say “may God provide you with joy and peace so that you may possess hope”. He uses fill and abound to convey an overflowing measure.
2. Joy and peace are results of believing and believing is a choice to hope.
3. God provides the reason to believe (through kept promises) and the results of that belief are joy and peace which spiral into abounding (greater) hope.
Conclusion:
A song that gets played this time of year speaks of 5 Golden Rings; this morning I call each of us to make 5 Hopeful choices:
1. This Advent choose hope to instruct you in the goodness of God.
2. This Advent choose hope to establish in you endurance for the race you are running.
3. This Advent choose hope to encourage in times of despair.
4. This Advent choose hope that relationships can be restored.
5. This Advent choose hope that others can come to experience and surrender to the king in the manger.
This book is filled with hope from page 1 until the very end. In the beginning God created according to His plan. His plan reached its pinnacle when He created humanity. Even when humanity rebelled, God announced His plan to fix the Fall through the seed of the woman. Ever since the Garden mankind has been fixed on the hope of that descendent who would repair our broken world. Jesus did that spiritually in His first coming, and He will do it completely in His 2nd coming—This gives us reason to hope.
[i] Michael P. Green, ed., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively, Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989).
[ii] G. Curtis Jones, 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1986), 132.
[iii] Herschel H. Hobbs, My Favorite Illustrations (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1990), 93.
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