Hope for the Individual

Posted: November 8, 2010 in Uncategorized


A cultural historian  wrote, “The heart of any cohesive culture is its hope…hope is the way we overcome the lurking suspicion that all of our getting and spending amounts to nothing more than fidgeting while waiting for death.”  Pretty depressing, huh?

 I learned from longtime hospital chaplain Andrew Lester that everyone lives a story and emotional problems come when our story is disturbed, especially when our imagined future is threatened because it kills our hope.
A future of pleasure rather than pain constitutes hope and people simply cannot live without hope.  It may be shallow (next week I’m going to go see Daniel Tosh in Cincy!) but we will create something because we need it and the harder it is to create a future we look forward to, the more depressed it is we become.
Well, what does the Bible have to say about hope?  Let’s look at 1 Peter 1:3-13,
 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. 13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Notice that Peter connects hope with being born again (1 Peter 1:3). 
But what does being “born again” mean? It’s one of those phrases that Christians use and assume that everyone understands.
The most famous passage about being born again is in John 3:1-21. 
 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

As Tim Keller points out, Nicodemus is “religious” (he attends church every week, says ‘amen!’, etc.)  and “moral”(doesn’t drink, smoke, cuss or watch R-rated movies) and still must be born again.   So, Christianity is not attending church, saying “churchy” things and keeping the rules.  It something much deeper and ultimately beyond our control.
Jesus speaks of casting pearls before swine (Matt. 7:6)…why
You can show a priceless pearl to a pig and it may sniff it but it will just continue to munch garbage and wallow in filth.   This is what a lot of “Christians” do.  They hear the ‘Gospel’ and they may fear hell but they essentially go about their lives as if nothing has changed.
I spent many years myself like this.  I knew “the gospel” but didn’t truly know it.  I hear the information about the Gospel, I attended church, I begged for my life after being diagnosed with cancer, I attended seminary (even graduated at the top of my class), I pastored churches and I wasn’t born again!
It wasn’t until a fateful day on a highway in West Virginia (apparently God really dwells everywhere!) that God spoke to me powerfully and the Gospel came crashing down on me that I was truly born again and my hope became the promises of God instead of an imagined and finite future of my own making. 
The Old Testament is filled with examples of God making promises and keeping them despite the wickedness of the people.  It is the God who makes and keeps promises that a person who is born again can place their trust.
If your hope is rooted in your circumstances then you can lose it but if it is rooted in God and His future promises then anything, even suffering, can only drive you closer to that hope. A doctor can walk in and announce that you have stage 4 cancer and you still have everything.  That is a hope worth having.
What do you see when you hear the Gospel?  Does it change you? Does it change what you hope for? Or do you sniff it and continue with what you are doing?  Have you been born again?  Or have you just been “religious” and “moral”?
It is no wonder that Jesus chose the image of being born.  Again, as Tim Keller points out, a baby doesn’t choose to be born and he or she doesn’t do the work.  A baby is born out of the work and suffering of another…and so are we.
Jesus paid the penalty for all of our sins on the cross, he lived a perfect life in order to give it to us so that we are judged by his life instead of our own and he rose again in order to vindicate all of his claims and to demonstrate the resurrection that awaits all of those who have been born again.
So, what do you see when you look at the pearl of great price? Is it everything? Has it changed you?

What do you do if it hasn’t?
Keep looking at it until it changes you…until God’s future becomes yours and you know true hope.
So may it be.
  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow. It just all makes sense. Depression, as I told you Wednesday night, Matt, is something that I have been struggling with. “Why?” That’s been a question that’s been roaming through my head. “God, I love you, I’m serving you. I’m trying here. So why?” I found an answer this morning. Hope. I knew I was lacking it, however, how much I was lacking it, I did not. My future is just this big unknown, void of true hope. I feel like I have been waiting for some enlightenment from God to just plop down a billboard in the middle of my road giving me instructions on what he wants me to do next and how to do that. I’ve known that’s not how it works, that we just have to pursue God and his will trusting him, but it has been impossible for me to truly do that, because of my lack of hope. So thank you, Matt, for being a vessel of Christ’s to be used to reveal truth. God did not intend to just give me a future, but a hope and a future, Jer. 29:11, and until now I’ve always overlooked that crucial hope part. My prayer is that God would shine down his glory, in my life, the lives of those around me, and the world, and that hope would be overflowing in all of them. I’m very much so looking forward to the rest of your sermon series and I’m glad that Revolution is a church that is not void of hope.

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