New Beginnings

Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Have you heard of the new app that can accurately predict your future for 2019?  Haha…no such app exists, but if it did, I suppose it would be super popular.  The truth is that God alone knows what lies in our futures.  A lot of people make New Year’s resolutions, hoping to change the trajectory of their lives, but most resolutions go unfulfilled.  Is there anything or anyone who can work to change things for the better?

The gospel of Mark, chronologically the first of the New Testament books, speaks of a beginning—a beginning of direct relevance to each of us.  The Old Testament likewise introduced itself, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  It was all “very good” (Genesis 1:31).  But very good turned very bad when sin entered in.  That cataclysmic event unleashed a contagion of sin that has affected all of Adam’s progeny.

Mark’s introduction speaks to the “the beginning of the gospel.”  Gospel means “good news”.  The very first words written in the New Testament era were of the good news regarding Jesus.  So, the book speaks to the good news regarding a particular person, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  Each word in the descriptive title bears much meaning.  He is “Jesus,” meaning “Jehovah saves” (Cf. Matthew 1:21).  He is the “Christ,” meaning “Anointed One.”  The genealogy of Matthew testifies to His exclusive right, by birth, to fill that prophesied role (Cf. Matthew 1:1-17; 2 Samuel 7:12-13).  He is also “the Son of God.”  Each gospel emphasizes a particular aspect of Jesus’ identify: Matthew—Jesus as King; Mark—Jesus as Servant; Luke—Jesus as perfect man; John—Jesus as the Son of God; but through He be a servant, Mark makes it clear from the very first verse that this Servant, Jesus, is none other than the Only Begotten Son of God.

So, Mark’s gospel speaks of the good news regarding this Savior Messiah, the Son of God.  And what is this good news?  It is the good news of His life—a life unlike any other before or after.  Though all have sinned, Jesus never sinned.  It is the good news of Jesus’ miraculous intervention in the lives of many, each miracle testifying to His true identity, as the Son of God (Cf. John 20:30-31; Acts 2:22).  It is the good news of One who lived a perfect live and did all that God had purposed for Him to do.  It is the good news of His death.  A particular death, in the predetermined plan of God, for which He was born.  A death to which He voluntarily subjected Himself.  To what end?  The Apostle Paul well-articulated the answer when he said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).  The gospel account speaks to the good news of His resurrection.  He died, but then rose from the dead, conquering sin and death and the devil himself.  Mark’s gospel speaks of how Jesus, the Divine Rescuer, came into the world to restore that which was lost in the fall, providing a way to transform sin rebels into worshippers.

In a world filled with bad news of every sort, there is an unchanging and unassailable message of hope availed to all.  Jesus, the Divine Rescuer, not only intervened for humanity and changed the course of history, He intervenes for good in the lives of people to this very day.  He is the best friend any of us could ever have.  In our good and bad, our today and tomorrows, there is One who forgives and loves and who promises to never forsake those who belong to Him.  Jesus saves and Jesus changes lives.  Have you trusted in Him for salvation? “Life is short, Death is sure, Sin the cause, Christ the cure.”

God Among Us

John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw His glory.”

INTRODUCTION

As a child I much anticipated Christmas day. But I was excited about Christmas for all the wrong reasons. What is the true meaning of Christmas? Who is the baby Jesus? Why was He born? Why do we celebrate this day called Christmas?

Each gospel gives us a different perspective (vantage point) with regards to the birth of Christ. Matthew speaks to us of the birth of the King and the wise men came to pay homage to Him. Mark speaks of Jesus as a Servant and therefore gives us no account of the details of Jesus’ birth. Luke speaks of Jesus as a perfect man and gives us the account of the shepherds who were privileged to see the newborn babe. John speaks of Jesus as the Divine Son of God so, like Mark, it doesn’t give us the details of Jesus’ birth. But instead it records one of the most profound of statements regarding the truth of the incarnation. We find it in verse 14. In this verse we read of the Deity, Humanity, and Glory of the person of Jesus Christ.

MESSAGE

I. His Divinity

1. “The word became flesh.”
2. The “word” (Greek “logos”) = “the personal manifestation, not of a part of the divine nature, but of the whole manifestation.” As used of Jesus it speaks to the revelation of God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ (1:18).
3. Important truths about Him are revealed to us in John 1:1-3:

  • He is eternal (1:1).
  • He is a distinct person from the Father but one with Him (1:1).
  • He is very God (1:1). Indeed, the entirety of the book of John was written for the express purpose of communicating this important truth (20:30-31). His miracles testified to His true identity. In His “I Am” statements He declared Himself to be the Divine Son of God. All that He said and did authenticated His Divine identity.
    He is the creator of all things (1:3). This same truth is affirmed in Colossians chapter 1 and Hebrews chapter 1. In fact, in Colossians chapter 1 it tells us that all things were created by Him, through Him, and for Him.
  • He is the source of all spiritual life and light (1:4). This theme is also reiterated throughout the gospel of John. He is the bread of life. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the resurrection and the life. Life comes by believing in Him. He is the sole means by which we can receive eternal and abundant life.

4. This is the starting point and the foundation for a correct understanding of the meaning of Christmas. Who is the baby Jesus? Where did He come from? What is His identity? A part of the answer to that question is that He is the eternal Son of God. You cannot understand the true meaning of Christmas without laying hold of this important truth.

  • John 17:4-5, “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. And now glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”
  • 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”
  • Philippians 2:6-7, “Although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself.”

“Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown
When Thou camest to earth for me.

II. His Humanity

1. “The Word became flesh”
2. KJV, “The Word was made flesh.”
3. Here we enter into a matter of great mystery, a truth that stretches the limitations of our finite minds. Jesus is fully God and fully man.

  • Martin Luther, “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.
  • 1 Timothy 3:15, “And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit…”

4. “Flesh” here represents the fullness of human nature. He was made a man. How did it happen?

  • Matthew 1:20, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”
  • Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
  • The baby Jesus, the Divine Son of God, born as a man—fully God and fully man—was given the name “Immanuel.” Matt. 1:23, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us.’”

5. “He dwelt among us.” The Greek term means literally “tabernacled.” It reminds us of the OT tabernacle. It was symbolic and prototypical of the Lord Jesus. It was the dwelling place of the Shekinah Glory. It radiated from that place. It moved from place to place with the Jews. In becoming flesh God Himself came to earth and dwelt among men. God’s glory radiated from His person, just like the Shekinah Glory in the OT tabernacle.
6. This is at the heart of the Christmas message. That God would enter into the darkness of this world. That He would so humble Himself and stoop so low in love to save us. Behold the wonder of it all. Think of it. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords so humbled Himself that He was willing to enter into this sin darkened world:

  • He was born in humble circumstances and had a manger for a feeding trough.
  • He had earthly parents and willingly subjected Himself to them.
  • He observed the Laws that He Himself had written.
  • He hungered, thirsted, experienced pain, wept, became weary—as a man He experienced all that we experience as humans.
  • As a man He was subjected to hatred and enmity and abuse by those He Himself had created.

”From heavn’s You came, helpless Babe,
Enter’d our world, Your glory veiled;
Not to be served, but to serve,
And give Your life that we might live.
This is our God, the Servant King!”

7. This truth begs the question “Why?” Why was the Word made to be flesh? What was God’s purpose in it all?

  • He was made a man that He might save sinners. 1 Tim. 1:15, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Jesus cares.
  • He was made a man that He might sympathize with us. Heb. 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus knows.
  • He was made a man that He might be an example to us. 1 John 2:6, “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” We are repeated exhorted to follow the example of Jesus. To imitate Him. To have the mind of Christ. To walk in love just as He loved. To forgive just as He forgave. To follow “in His steps.” Fix your eyes on Jesus.

III. His Glory

1. “We beheld His glory.”
2. We saw Him and were witness to His glory.
3. What is the meaning of His “glory?” His nature. His character. But also His manifest glory as in His transfiguration. Peter wrote of that experience: “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16).
4. In his manhood Jesus remained the Divine Son of God, but His true nature was veiled in His humanity and humility.

“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.”

5. What is John saying? We beheld His glory which authenticated His identity as the Divine Son of God. We beheld His glory in His character—full of grace and truth. We beheld His glory in His miracles. We beheld His glory in His transfiguration when His garments became radiant and exceeding white. We beheld His glory in His willing death on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, and His ascension into heaven. John beheld His glory when Jesus appeared to Him on the isle of Patmos. John beheld His glory and in beholding his life was swallowed up in Christ. Jesus Christ saved him and transformed him. Such was John’s love for the glorious Lord Jesus that he gave his life to the preaching of the gospel of Christ. He willingly suffered persecution for the sake of that message. Nothing in all of God’s creation is more beautiful than the person of Jesus Christ. He is altogether deserving of our hearts affection, our life’s devotion, and our hope and earnest anticipation in His return.
6. What has any of this to do with you and me? The Christmas message is a message that speaks to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not just a babe in the manger, He is a glorious Savior and Lord.

  • Behold His glory. He has shared in the Father’s glory from all eternity (John 17:5).
  • Behold His glory. What happens when a person is saved? Their eyes are opened to the glory (the beauty) of the person of Jesus Christ. 2 Cor. 4:6, “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
  • Behold His glory. It is the work of the Spirit of God to ongoingly reveal the glory of the Lord Jesus to those who have trusted in Jesus. He is at work in that ministry. 2 Cor. 3:18, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
  • Behold His glory. There will come a day when Jesus will return. In His first coming He came as a babe in a manger. He came in humility. He came to serve. He came to die—to give His life a ransom for sins. He is coming again. Not as a babe in manger, but as a King to reign. And in His coming He will be revealed to us in all His glory. 2 Thess. 1:10, He will be “marveled at among all who have believed.” We shall behold Him:

“The sky shall unfold, preparing His entrance;
The stars shall applaud Him with thunders of praise.
The sweet light of His eyes shall enhance those awaiting;
And we shall behold Him then face to face.
And we shall behold Him,
We shall behold Him
Face to face in all of His glory.
O we shall behold Him,
We shall behold Him, Face to face,
Our Savior and Lord.”

CONCLUSION

1. So here we have the message of Christmas. The divine Son of God became man that He might die on a cross and rise again to save lost sinners and transform rebels into worshippers. That we might one day behold Him in all of His glory and spend all of eternity in His presence in a place where righteousness dwells.
2. Even now He would have us to behold His glory. The Holy Spirit has a ministry of opening our eyes to the glory of the person and work of Christ. I have a prayer request for myself and for every one of us this Christmas. It is a prayer that the Holy Spirit might open our eyes that we might awestruck and captivated by the glory of the person of Jesus Christ.
3. No one can fully appreciated the meaning of Christmas until they have trusted in Jesus for salvation. Have you trusted in Him?

  • We are all born sinners.
  • In sin we are deserving of death.
  • We have spoken this morning of the great lengths God has gone to accomplish your salvation. He gave His Son—what more could He do?
  • Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ and His finished work on the cross. Won’t you trust in Him this day?

The Big Storm

It has ever since been to as the Great Coastal Gale of 2007.  It was a big storm; the biggest in my experience of living on the North Oregon Coast.  It packed winds in excess of 100 mph.  In fact, a gust of 127 mph was recorded not too many miles south of here in Bay City.  The storm also brought heavy rains and produced widespread record flooding.  But it was the wind that folks remember.  Not only was it strong, it went on and on for hours and caused a lot of destruction.  Officials estimate that the storm downed some 3500 acres of timber.  Around the county, blue tarps soon covered many roofs.  As a result of downed trees and flooding, the storm blocked all road access to the North Coast for a couple of days.  Both landline and cellular phone services were out.  Power was gone for days and in some places weeks.

The winds began in earnest on a Sunday morning when we were at church.  As the wind began to roar, the metal roofing of the church began to rattle, and the building groaned and shook.  The lights flickered and then went out.  The after-church fellowship time was cancelled.  As soon as some downed wires were moved from across the road, folks hastily made their way home.  The wind steadily increased through the afternoon, but it was that night that I remember.  Power was out.  My daughter Claire was unable to sleep.  She and I stood a frightful watch in our candle-lit living room, listening to a ghastly choir of noises.  Branches and limbs crashing into the house accompanied the steady roar of the wind.  The loud cracks and thuds of falling trees accentuated the fearful cacophony.  Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep that night.  By morning light, we gauged the damage.  A dozen or so hemlocks had crashed to the ground and crisscrossed our pond like fallen matchsticks.

On Monday, Jason, my friend and neighbor, and I carefully navigated storm debris and made our way to the church so that we could survey the damage.  The first thing we noticed was the grey metal roofing scattered across the field to the north of the church building.  It was everywhere.  We drove around the side of the church and were taken aback by what we saw.  There was debris littered across the property.  The pole barn had collapsed and spilled out some of its contents.  The storm had blown off a portion of the roof of the church building.  Pieces of lumber were hanging and swinging in the wind.  We saw enough to know that the needed repairs were beyond our abilities.  We were insured.  I’d find a roofing contractor.  We’d soon get things taken care of.  So, I thought.  But I had no idea as to the severity of the damage.

There was no phone service for a couple of days, so it was impossible to contact anyone.  I supposed that as soon as I could I’d call Helligso Construction since I was familiar with the company and knew the family.  I had that thought in my mind as Jason and I headed to City Lumber to see about buying some generators.  Without power, it would be necessary to power our refrigerators and freezers.  We parked and entered through the front of the store and as we were walking in, guess who was walking out!  None other than Larry Helligso, owner of Helligso Construction.  “Larry, did you hear what happened to our church building?” I asked.  I went on to explain the situation and asked if they could help.  He said that he would be glad to come and check it out.  They came the next day.  They were on site for the next 10 months.

The church moved to the nearby elementary school for the next several weeks.  Then the Building Codes Department gave us the okay to meet in the smaller undamaged portion of our building.  We met in a 50 by 50 ft. room that we commonly refer to as the “play room.”  With little amenities and far away bathrooms, it made for an austere setting.  But it was cozy, and folks came to appreciate the intimacy of fellowship in that environment.  I began a study through the book of Nehemiah.  And we prayed for God to guide and direct the rebuilding efforts.

As the weeks passed, we learned more of the extent of the damage to the building.  Though there was some uncertainty as to the extent, the building had been “racked” (tilted slightly northward because of the wind).  The steeple was definitely visibly tilted.  A gaping hole in the roof had caused water damage to the kitchen, library, and downstairs bathrooms.  The tall north sanctuary wall had buckled and would need to be rebuilt.  The storm revealed certain structural deficiencies that would need to be resolved before we could reoccupy the facility.  Some of these deficiencies could only be corrected by removing sheetrock and/or siding.

The big question in the early days of the repair efforts was what the Building Codes Department would require us to do with respect to meeting the building codes requirements that had been put in effect since the time when the building had been built.  We had plenty of insurance to cover the cost of the general repairs.  But our policy had a $100,000 limit to what is called “Building Code Upgrades.”  That amount could have been easily exceeded and multiplied depending upon what we would be required to do.

We hit an impasse in the repair efforts.  There were too many entities involved in the decision making: the church, the insurance company, the insurance adjuster, two engineering firms, the general contractor, and the Building Codes Department.  There were varying opinions as to what needed to be done and we couldn’t go forward with the repairs until someone made a decision that everyone else would be willing to abide by.  But I was preaching through the book of Nehemiah.  Nehemiah led the wall re-building project in Jerusalem.  He faced many obstacles.  But he trusted God and prayed.  We prayed too.

I was in my office when they came.  There were three of them.  Three building code officials.  Two were from Clatsop County.  The other one, from out of town, was obviously in charge.  I led them on a tour of the building.  As we walked from room to room, one of the local officials pointed out the particular issues that needed to be addressed.  And the one in charge gave instructions as to what would be required in each case.  We were on the platform in the sanctuary when he asked me, “So I suppose, Pastor, that you are preaching through the book of Nehemiah?”  “How did he know?” I thought.  And then, wondered “Why would he care?”  I responded that yes, in fact, we were.  A bigger surprise was forthcoming when we came to the end of the tour.  The one in charge suggested to the others that they go outside and examine the big barn that was under construction next door.  He turned to me, put his arm around my shoulder, stepped out of his official role, and asked, “Pastor, would it be okay if I prayed for you?”  So, he prayed for us.  He prayed that God would superintend our rebuilding efforts and bless our church in the process.  I was obviously surprised and thankful for God’s intervention.  From that day forward, the rebuilding proceeded according to plan.

The blessings that ensued as a result of the remodeling of our building are too numerous to recall or list.  But these are some of them.  When I came to the church in 1990, the building, though constructed in the early 1970s, had never been finished.  We had a list of projects to be done 100 items long!  But when the church celebrated its 50th anniversary in October of 2008, after the rebuilding effort, it was finally finished!  God used a storm to finish our building!  The steeple had leaked for years.  On rainy days, we would set up buckets on the platform to collect the rain falling from the ceiling.  But the rebuilding resolved that matter.  No more leaks!  For years, being next to a dairy, we had had a problem with flies entering our building in the fall.  During the reconstruction, it was discovered that there was a wide gap at the top of the west wall of the sanctuary where it met the roof where the flies would enter.  That problem was resolved.  No more flies!  The rooms of the building that had suffered water damage from the rain were all completely remodeled.  We were blessed with a new kitchen, bathrooms, and library.  We’ve made much use of the kitchen ever since.  And now use it weekly in providing for a free Sunday School breakfast.  The sanctuary was completely remodeled with new carpet, windows, and paint.  To strengthen the building, foundation ties, load bearing walls, and horizontal blocking were added.  The roof itself was strengthened.  A new metal roof was installed over the entire building.  In exchanging Hardiplank siding for the original hard-to-get-and-expensive redwood cedar siding, we gained “credits” that were applied to other improvements.  We were able to pave the east end parking lot.  The pole barn collapsed in the storm.  It was old, and decaying and we had planned to tear it down anyway.  But insurance paid us $5000 for it and paid to clean up the mess.  The parsonage roof needed replacement.  It had the maximum three layers of composite shingles.  It would have been a big project for us.  But it had lost some shingles in the storm, so insurance paid to do the reroofing from the plywood up.  There were many more things that were fixed or redone or improved.  In the end, the cost of the repairs exceeded $900,000.  We paid only the $500 deductible.

When Jason and I first saw the building on the day after the storm, it was a mess.  We had no idea at that time how God would use that storm to bless us.  But as I’ve said ever since, “The storm was the best thing that ever happened to our building!”  Storms happen.  Storms in life happen too.  They are an unavoidable aspect of life on this sin-cursed planet.  But we serve a God who is able to bring blessings out of them.  The before and after pictures of the building speak to the radical transformation that ensued through the process.  The result was “far more abundantly” beyond what we would have imagined (Cf. Ephesians 3:20).  God is even now at work to do such a thing in the lives of His children.  They come to Him by faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross.  By grace He saves and works to transform rebel sinners into loving worshipers who are ultimately conformed to the very image of His Son.  The trials of life have a role in the process (Cf. Romans 5:3-5, 8:28-30; James 1:2-4).  It’s sometimes difficult to ascertain God’s purpose in the trials that we face.  But we can trust the One who sent His Son to die for us (Cf. Romans 8:32).  It’s hard now for us to imagine what we will be when He works to “transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).  But it’s important to remember, amidst the storms of life, that He will finish the work that He’s started (Cf. Philippians 1:6).  He does such things “to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:14).  Praise God for the big storm!

 

the Epiphany of God

Titus 3:4:7

INTRODUCTION

Have you ever had an epiphany?

If so, in what way?

Webster’s defines “epiphany” this way: “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.”

And we read of many such occasions in the Bible—Moses, Isaiah, Daniel, Elijah, the Apostle John—these are examples of those who experienced some kind of epiphany when it comes to an unveiling of some aspect of God.

The writer of this epistle, the Apostle Paul, is a man who knew something about epiphanies.  He had one we read about in Acts chapter 9, when Jesus appeared to him when he was on the road to Damascus.  And on that occasion, he was saved, and his life was completely turned around.  And then we read of another epiphany in 2 Corinthians 12:4, in which Paul speaks of how he was caught up into paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.

And our passage speaks of an “epiphany.”  In fact, the term translated “appeared” in Titus 3:4 is the Greek “epiphaino.”  It means to shine upon, or to become visible or known, or to appear.  The same Greek term is used in Titus 2:11 and again in 2:13.

And as Paul is writing to Titus, who has been called to a church planting ministry in Crete, he instructs him on matters relating to the organization and order of these churches.  But as he comes to the end of this epistle, he speaks to Titus of these matters related to the gospel.  He speaks of the appearing of the grace of God.  And He speaks to him of the appearing of the kindness of God and His love for mankind.  And we should note, that this appearing, this epiphany, is above every other appearing in importance and relevance.  It is the preeminent of all epiphanies because it represents to us the truth about who God is and what He has done.

And then there are those Christmas epiphanies.  When God through an angel revealed His intent to Joseph and Mary that she would give birth to a baby who was to be named Jesus, though she herself was a virgin.  And there was that epiphany to the shepherds who again through an angel were told of the birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord.  And they went and saw the baby Jesus.  And then there were the Wise Men from the east who followed the star to where the Child was.  And when they saw Him they fell down and worshipped Him.  And then there were Anna and Simeon too.  And these all were privileged to have a special role in His appearing.

But His appearing was to have world-wide implications, from the beginning.  John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father.”  And John 1:18, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

So, Christmas is the ultimate of epiphanies.  Both in a local sense to a limited and specific group of chosen people, but then ultimately having historical and worldwide implications.  There has never been any appearing, in all of the history of man, of more significance than the appearing of Jesus Christ.  This is the most glorious of all appearings!   We even date our calendars to it.  And all of the Bible either looks forward or back to this incredible event, when Jesus came to this earth to be born to die for sins.

This is the epiphany of Jesus.  Encompassing His birth, death, resurrection, and return.  Note how this passage in its context speaks to both (Titus 2:11 and 3:4 vs. Titus 3:13; and Hebrews 10:26 and 10:28).  It is the epiphany that is represented to us in the gospel—that matter of first importance, which is the glorious gospel of the blessed God, and which is also the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.  This gospel message of which the church holds stewardship in this present dispensation, even as the church from the beginning has been called to bear witness of Jesus.

But it is important not just for historical or theological reasons, it is important because of what it means to each one of us personally.  The message and meaning of this epiphany has personal implications for each one of us.  There is a personal message from God to you and to me.

So, we’ll be looking at that today.  We want to consider what this epiphany of God means to you and me personally…

MESSAGE

I. A DIVINE REVELATION OF GOD’S GREAT LOVE

Kindness.  Defined = usefulness, gentleness, goodness…goodness of heart.  “Kindness is not an apathetic response to sin, but a deliberate act to bring the sinner back to God.” What makes this kindness of God so remarkable is in the understanding of who we are.  If you back up to verse 3, we read of the condition of mankind in sin.  And Romans 3 tells us that we are all sinners.  And Romans 6 says that we are enemies of God.  And Colossians 1:21 speaks to man being hostile towards God.  And yet God, on the other hand, is good and kind towards man.  Luke 6:35, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”  Now Christmas is an epiphany of this truth to humanity.  And the cross further manifests this truth about God.  How incredible the kindness of God towards lost sinners!  When we look to the cross and the mocking crowd and the insults hurled upon Jesus, how amazed we ought to be at the kindness of God that worked to send Jesus here to be born and die for our sins!

Love (philanthorpia).  Philanthropist.  It is the combination of two words which then mean literally “loving man.”  Typically, when we think of a philanthropist, we think of someone who gives or acts to the betterment of his fellow man. In John 3:16 we read of how God so loved the world, but there the word agape is used.  Here it is a different word which speaks to God’s tender affection for mankind.  His loving concern.  God’s uninfluenced and unearned friendly disposition towards man.  Like that which we see after the fall, when God is seeking out Adam, and called out “Where are you?”  And He could off written off rebellious mankind all together, but He did not.  And even though the lost person be a child of wrath deserving of God’s judgment, God has shown kindness to all and desires all men to be saved in His love for mankind.  Jesus birth was an epiphany to all of God’s love for mankind.  Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Grace (Titus 2:11).  Unmerited favor.  Grace = God giving to us that which we don’t deserve.  If I work for someone and they give me a wage, that’s me getting what I’ve merited.  If they simply giving a gift because of their goodness and generosity, that’s grace.  If I’m their enemy, yet they still reach out to me and give me a gift—that’s more akin to God’s grace as it is revealed to us in salvation.  God is a God of grace.  He is rich in grace.  Ephesians 2:7 speaks of the “surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us.”  One of the best descriptions of the grace of God bestowed on us is found in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”  Undeserved blessings bestowed on us by God through Christ.  This truth about God was revealed to us in Jesus.  John 1:16, “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.”  When Jesus appeared the grace of God appeared.  His birth was an epiphany to the world of the surpassing riches of the grace of God.

Mercy. (Titus 3:5).  According to Vine’s, mercy is “the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet that need on the part of the one who shows it.”  A great example of the mercy is that of the Good Samaritan who saw the beaten man and felt pity for him.  He bound up his wounds and took him to the inn and paid that he might be cared for.  But when it comes to God and man mercy is God not giving to us what we do deserve.  We deserve judgment.  We deserve condemnation for our sins.  But the repentant sinner receives mercy from God instead.

Now these attributes of God are all revealed to us in this epiphany of Jesus.  When Jesus came into the World, when Immanuel—God with us—became flesh and dwelt among us, the true nature of God was made evident.

And this epiphany reveals a truth to us that we otherwise could not understand—that our Creator God is a God who is full of kindness, love, grace and mercy.  In Luke 15 we read how Jesus was hanging around tax collectors and sinners.  And the religious leaders were chiding him for it.  And he responded by telling a series of parables.  And one of them was the parable of the prodigal son.  The prodigal son took his share of his father’s inheritance and headed out into the world.  And he spent it all on lose living and even on prostitutes.  And when a famine came into the land he was impoverished.  He ended up with a job feeding pigs and was himself longing to eat what the pigs ate.  But then he came to his senses.  And the question in his mind was what might he find when he endeavored to return to his father?

And so it is for lost sinners.  In their Adam-born sinful rebellion they too live according to the lusts of the flesh and find themselves powerless to change.  They too bring dishonor to their heavenly Father.  And they, like Adam, are prone to hide in the darkness, for fear of His wrath and judgment.

But what happened to the repentant prodigal?  What did he find once he came to his senses and made his way back?  He found kindness and tender affection, for even when he was a long way off the father was looking for him.  And when the father saw the son, he embraced him, and felt compassion for him.  And he showed mercy towards him, though the son had dishonored the father, the father did not deal with him according to what he deserved.  And he found grace, for the father gladly bestowed on him unexpected blessings…he clothed him, and sandaled his feet, and killed the fatted calf and prepared a feast and a celebration.  And this was all true because of the good-hearted nature of that father.  And God is like that.  The father explained his thinking to the elder son, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive, he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:32).

It isn’t too many chapters that we read of how Jesus was a guest to Zaccheus, a tax-collector.  And the religious leaders were again grumbling against Jesus.  But Jesus explained the matter this way, and we should rejoice in this truth for it is the reason for this epiphany of God— “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

II. A DIVINE REMEDY FOR MAN’S SIN PROBLEM

The depth and breadth of the problem: Titus 3:3; Romans 3:23; Romans 5:12; Romans 6:23

BUT GOD…: Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 2:1-4; Colossians 1:21-22

John Piper, “But God.” These two words are overflowing with gospel. For sinners like you and me who were lost and completely unable to save ourselves from our dead-set rebellion against God, there may not be two more hopeful words that we could utter.

Once we were dead to any real love for God at all, buried under the compounding and disorienting blindness of our sins (Ephesians 2:1), but God. Once we were deceived by our own lust for glory and self-determination; once we were unknowingly led by the pied piper called “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), but God. Once we lived enslaved to the passions of our flesh, being driven and tossed between the impulsive waves of our flesh and mind (Ephesians 2:3), but God. Once we were God’s enemies (Romans 5:10), hating him (Romans 1:30), children of his wrath. But God.

But God being rich in mercy, but God showing his incomprehensible “love for us in that while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8) he said to us God-dead, God-ignoring, God-rivaling, God-hating, dry-boned children of wrath: “live” (Ezekiel 37:5)! Live to true beauty, live to true glory, live to true hope, live to true pleasure, live to true joy! Live to God (Galatians 2:19) and live forever (John 6:58)!

And he did so by taking our God-deadening, God-ignoring, God-rivaling, God-hating, God-wrath inducing sin and placing it on his Son

Salvation not by works, but by grace through faith

Ephesians 2:8-9

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness:

Example of Nicodemus. John 3.

Example of Paul. Philippians 3.

III. A DIVINE RESULT IN OUR SALVATION

Justification. To declare righteous.  How did this justification come about?  Being sinners by birth, we have all violated God’s righteous standards.  But Jesus came and bore the burden of our sins.  And it’s as if we were in God’s divine courtroom.  And we are guilty.  And we are deserving of death, eternal destruction.  And there is no argument that we can make.  And we have no excuse.  And we are helpless to do anything to rectify the situation.  But then Jesus steps in.  He takes the punishment that we deserve, He dies once for all for sins and declares “It is finished.”  And in Him the certificate of debt Colossians 1:14 is cancelled out.  God stamps paid in full and cancels it out.  And we are declared righteous with the very righteousness of Him in whom we have believed.  It is what is spoken of in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  And having believed, and being declared righteous, you know stand in this secure place, as it says in Romans 5:1, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  And this is all made possible by the epiphany of God in revealing Himself in Jesus who came into this world to save sinners.

Regeneration.  Means a “new birth.”  According to Vine’s it represents “the communication of a new life.”  We speak of it as being born again.  And we are born again by a work of the Spirit (John 3:5) and of the Word (1 Peter 1:23).

Renewal.  Literally “to make new.”  It is speaking here of the continued operation of the Holy Spirit in us, in leading, teaching, empowering, transforming, in doing all that He does so that we might be transformed into Christ’s image.

Outpouring of the Spirit

A future hope

CONCLUSION

What this means for our world.  This appearing stands as the basis for the sole message of hope for lost sinners.  And they need to have their own personal epiphany.  And they can have that.  2 Corinthians 4:3-6

What this means for you and me.  We’ve had our own epiphany.  It may not have been as dramatic as that of the Apostle Paul, but at some point of time in your past God intervened and revealed the truth to you.  And this God who has shown such kindness and love and grace and mercy in sending His Son is now your Heavenly Father.  And by the Spirit you cry out Abba, Father.  And He deals with you day by day according to His great love and mercy.  And you can rest in that.  You can rejoice in that.  You can live in hopeful anticipation of a future epiphany of God, in that.

What this means for those whom we love.  This is the message of Christmas.  Of this appearing of the kindness and love and grace of God.  Of God’s true nature being unveiled to us in Jesus and being demonstrated in preeminent fashion in His willing sacrifice.  And you and I have been called to bear witness of this epiphany of God.  We’ve been called to spread the word.  The shepherds who experienced their own personal epiphany when they saw the angel and then saw the babe, were glad to share what they had seen with others still.  And so, should we.  We’ve been called to bear witness of this love for mankind revealed to us in Jesus, who died for sins and rose from the dead!

 

My Hope is in the Lord

A Certain Hope in Uncertain Days: 30 Days of Hope-filled Focus

Day 16: My Hope is in the Lord

“My Hope is in the Lord” is one of my favorite hymns because in its clear presentation of the gospel message it focuses on the solid foundation of the believer’s hope.

Verse 1 of the hymn goes as follows: “My hope is in the Lord, who gave Himself for me and paid the price for all my sins on Calvary.”  Then there’s the chorus: “For me, He died, for me He lives and everlasting light and life He freely gives.”

This first verse speaks to the sure foundation of hope that we have in Jesus through His saving work on the cross.  He “gave Himself for me” echoes what the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 2:20. He died “once for all” for sin, paying the “price for all my sins on Calvary” (1 Peter 3:18).  The gospel message, “Jesus died for sin and rose from the dead,” and its promise of “light and life” represents a true, abiding, and unassailable message of hope to all who believe (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

Verse 2, “No merit of my own, His anger to suppress; My only hope is found In Jesus’ righteousness.”

If you were to ask people, most would say that people make their way to heaven by being and doing good.  The religious cults all teach such doctrines.  But the Bible makes it clear that no one can be saved that way.  Saul of Tarsus had an impressive religious resume.  He had an outstanding religious pedigree, an unrivaled religious passion, a superior religious position, and an exemplary religious practice (Philippians 3:4-6).   But he counted all such religious assets to be rubbish and cast them aside in order that he might gain Christ “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of (his) own…but that which comes through faith in Christ (Philippians 3:8-9; Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; John 1:12-13).

Verse 3, “And now for me He stands, before the Father’s throne.  He shows His wounded hands, And names me as His own.”

Biblical hope is a present tense certainty regarding an unseen, future, reality.  Its foundation lies in the person and promises of God.  But in the here and now there are things that work against hope, even attempting to extinguish it altogether (i. e.  trials and troubles, enemies and obstacles, missteps and failures, etc.).   In that context the message of verse 3 is especially helpful.  There is One who intercedes for us.  The One who died and rose again, is “at the right hand of God” and is “interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).  To intercede is “to plead to someone regarding the needs of someone else.”  Jesus does that for us, but he pleads for us not on the basis of our innocence or relative goodness, but instead on the basis of His purchase of us by His blood.  We belong to Him.  He is the “Shepherd and Overseer of (our) souls” (1 Peter 2:25).  Since we’ve been declared righteous in Jesus, no one can condemn us, and nothing can work to separate us from His love.

Verse 4, “His grace has planned it all, ‘Tis mine but to believe; And recognize His work of love and Christ receive.”

What is grace?  The general answer given is “unmerited favor.”  According to that definition it is God giving to us what we don’t deserve.  That’s a clinical and theologically correct definition to a term, in speaking of the nature of God, that transcends our capacity to fully comprehend.  But it helps perhaps, to break that definition down into its two parts.  There is the unmerited side.  What do we deserve?  Because of sin we are all born into this world deserving—and destined to receive—condemnation (Cf. Romans 3:23, 6:23; Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 1:21).  But then there is the “favor” side of the equation.  What have we received?  Ephesians 1:3 sums it up this way, “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”  When it comes to salvation, its all about grace.  From beginning to end, its all by grace.  The Apostle Paul asked the question “What do you have that you did not receive” (1 Corinthians 4:7) and then stated of his own experience “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10).  Were it not for grace there could be no hope.  But despite our sin, our grace-filled Savior has worked to save us.  Not only has He saved us, through His poverty He has made us to be rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).  Any spiritual advantage I’ve ever possessed, I’ve possessed not by my doing—because I somehow deserve it or have earned it–but because God has given it to me.  And God is a giving God (Cf. James 1:13).  Because God is rich in grace and mercy, I can remain ever hopeful amidst the troubles and trials of life.

Hope for the Helpless

A Certain Hope in Uncertain Days: 30 Days of Hope-filled Focus

Day 15: Hope for the Helpless

The leper (Matthew 8:1-4) likely didn’t know the crazy men (Matthew 8:28-34), but he’s been perpetually “bound-together” with them as bookends to a chapter which speaks to the miracle working power of the Lord Jesus.  In that sense and in another they shared much in common.

I’ve been lonely.  You’ve likely experienced loneliness too.  But it’s hard to imagine what must have been the lonely and hopeless experience of these three needy souls.  The kin of Adam all bear the tragic consequences of sin, these seemingly bore more than their fair share.

Disfigured by leprous sores and scars the diseased leper was deemed unclean.  Others were prohibited from any direct contact with him.  “Unclean, Unclean” he would warn lest any might come too close.  He had said it so often it had become his identity—how he thought of himself.  Forsaken by family and friends, he was a lonely man.  A discard of human society.  Parents warned their children to stay away from him.  How long had it been since he experienced the hug of his mother or embrace of his friend?  The affectionate or caring touch of another was but a distant memory.  He was a man without hope, utterly alone and rejected.  But then Jesus came.  By faith the leper made his way to Him.  Disregarding earthly protocol, he bowed down to Jesus.  Confidently he proclaimed, “Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean” (Matthew 8:2).  And you know what Jesus did?  He did what no one else would dare do–what the leper had not experienced in months, maybe years.  “He stretched out His hand and touched him” (Matthew 8:3).  “Be cleansed” He said.  And the leper was cleansed.  One can only imagine the happy reunion that was the result with the leper was made whole and restored to his family and friends.

The demon possessed men lived in the tombs, far away from everyone else.  They were so violent that nobody else could pass by that way.  Their naked bodies bore the bruises and scars of self-afflicted wounds.  Though often bound with shackles and chains, with demonic power they would tear the chains from them and break the shackles into pieces.  The fearful neighbors could hear them crying out constantly “day and night,” their devil-inspired shrieks instilling fear in their hearts.  They were all alone.  Two men deemed too crazy and too dangerous to associate with.  Rejected and relegated to the place where dead men dwelt.  Lonely and helpless and hopeless men.  But then Jesus came.  The two men “met Him as they were coming out of the tombs” (Matthew 8:28).  The demons spoke.  “Begone” Jesus replied!  And with a word the men were delivered of their demons and made right of mind (Mark 5:15).  One can only imagine the happy reunion that was the result when the demon-possessed men were restored to their family and friends.

The Savior of all hung there on a cross.  The Only Begotten of God despised and rejected.  Conspired against and unfairly tried he was declared guilty and condemned to die.  His friends forsook Him.  His created mocked Him.  A cacophony of voices filled the air with insults and abuse.  Humanity declared Him unwelcome.  The loneliness of that experience is hard to fathom, but it was worse even than that.  The burden of the ugly sin of the lost and lonely sons of Adam was put upon Him.  He who had never sinned, was made to be sin.  And for a moment of time the eternal and perfect fellowship between the Father and the Son was severed.  The pain and agony and loneliness of that event transcends all human understanding.  He cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  But the grave could not hold Him, He rose from the dead triumphing over sin and death and the devil.

He was made to be sin that we might be made righteous in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).  He was made to be lonely in sin that He might rescue the lonely from sin.  In Him there is hope for all of Adam’s kin.  He was not afraid to reach out and touch a leper.  He was powerful enough to subdue the demons.  He cares.  He is able.  He alone is able to rescue the lost and lonely.

Defending Hope

A Certain Hope in Uncertain Days: 30 Days of Hope-filled Focus

Day 14: Defending Hope

1 Peter 3:15, “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

The term translated “defense” in this verse is the Greek apologia which means literally “to talk one’s self off of.”  It was used in the Greek law courts of an attorney who talked his client off from a charge made against him.  The word can also refer to an informal explanation or defense of one’s position and in that sense describes an answer given to the skeptical or derisive inquiries of ill-disposed opponents.  That is the sense of the term’s use in this context.  The same term was used by the Apostle Paul in reference to his address before his Jewish opponents in which he shared his testimony in defending himself (Cf. Acts 22:1).  Christian Apologetics, that field of theology which endeavors to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, derives its name from this term.

Peter’s readers were suffering as a direct result of their faith in Christ.  Their faith was tested as they endured suspicion, derision, accusations and threats.  But in place of fear (Cf. 1 Peter 3:14) they were exhorted in their hearts to “honor Christ the Lord as holy” (1 Peter 3:15).  The antidote for fear is wholehearted submission to the Lord Jesus.  The believer in Christ is to always be ready to make a defense.

The need for a defense regarding one’s faith arises because of the inquisitiveness of unbelievers with respect to a believer’s hope.  The verse presupposes both that a believer possesses such a hope and that his or her hope is visibly evident.  The unbeliever is left to wonder why such a hope exists and how and why it is maintained, especially when there is no apparent earthly reason for its existence.

With respect to our witness before the lost we possess a hope that they do not have.  The unbeliever is one “having no hope and without God in the world” (Cf. Ephesians 2:12).  Life in this trouble-filled world is characterized by much despair.  Who hasn’t had a hope or dream shattered?  The prospect of pending death casts a shadow over all of lost humanity (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13).

But the believer in Christ possesses a living hope that is firmly rooted in the undeniable truth of Christ’s resurrection from the dead (Cf. 1 Peter 1:3).  What is the believer’s reason for hope?  The Risen Savior, the One who has conquered sin and death, resides within his heart (Cf. 1 Peter 1:8-9).  Hope translates the Greek elpis which speaks to the confident expectation regarding some future thing.  Contrary to the common usage of its English counterpart it includes no element of doubt.  We are exhorted to “set (our) hope fully on the grace that will be brought to (us) at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).  Our hope is to be fully invested in the sure promise of Christ’s pending return (i.e. “the blessed hope;” Titus 2:13).

We are to be people of hope, and in distinctive fashion, because we serve a Risen and Returning Savior. Much in this life is not guaranteed to us. “God hath not promised skies always blue, flower-strewn pathways all our lives through; God hath not promised sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain. But God hath promised strength for the day, rest for the labor, light for the way, grace for the trials, help from above, unfailing sympathy, undying love.”  Christ has promised to return for us and in that pending reality we have good reason to be of good cheer.  With that promise Christ reassured his troubled disciples (Cf. John 14:1-4).  The believing community is likewise repeatedly exhorted to encourage one another in this very same truth (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:18; Hebrews 10:25).  In the Risen and Returning Savior we have good reason to be ever hopeful.

As lights shining amidst the darkness, God’s children are called to be people of hope in this despairing world.  But to be hopeful Christians we need to be heavenly-minded Christians.  If we are to maintain a credible witness before the lost, there is likely a need for less complaining about our circumstances in the “here and now” and more attention to given to the glory that awaits us in the “there and then” (Cf. Colossians 3:14; Philippians 3:19b-21).  God would have us to be people full of hope (Cf. Romans 15:13).  Amy Carmichael put it this way, “Make us thy mountaineers, we would not linger on the lower slope, fill us afresh with hope, O God of hope.”

 

The Believer’s Hope

A Certain Hope in Uncertain Days: 30 Days of Hope-filled Focus

Day 13: The Believer’s Hope

1 Tim. 4:10, “Because we have fixed our hope on the living God.”

INTRODUCTION

  • “Hope” in the New Testament is almost always from the Greek word “elpis” (Noun) or “elpizo” (Verb). The term refers to a “favorable and confident expectation.” The term, unlike our English counterpart, connotes no degree of uncertainty.
  • The following survey of various usages reveals that which should be the object of the believer’s hope:

SURVEY OF NT OCCURENCES OF THE WORD “HOPE”

What our hope is not in…

  • The hope of the believer is radically different than that of the unbeliever:

o Eph. 2:12, “Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world.”

o 1 Thess. 4:13, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.”

o 1 Pet. 3:15, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

  • In this life only:

o 1 Cor. 15:19, “If we had hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”

  • In the uncertainty of possessions:

o 1 Tim. 6:17, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”

What our hope is in…

  • The gospel, salvation:

o Col. 1:23, “If indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard.”

o 1 Thess. 5:8, “But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.”

  • God, Christ:

o 2 Cor. 1:10, “He on whom we have set our hope.”

o Eph. 1:12, “We who were the first to hope in Christ.”

o 1 Thess. 1:3, “Constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”

o 1 Tim. 1:1, “Christ Jesus, who is our hope.”

o 1 Tim. 4:10, “Because we have our hope fixed on the living God.”

o 1 Tim. 5:5, “Now she who is a widow indeed, and who has been left alone has fixed her hope on God.”

o 1 Pet. 1:21, “Your faith and your hope are in God.”

  • Eternal life:

o Tit. 1:2, “In the hope of eternal life.”

  • Heaven:

o Col. 1:5, “Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.”

o Heb. 6:19-20, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

o Heb. 11:1, 14-16, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country not their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one.”

  • Our inheritance:

o Tit. 3:7, “Having been justified by His grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

o 1 Pet. 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

  • Christ’s return:

o Tit. 2:13, “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”

o Phil. 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

o 1 Pet. 1:13, “Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

o 1 John 3:2-3, “Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

  • Culmination of God’s transforming work:

o Rom. 5:2-5, “We exult in the hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us.”

o Rom. 8:20-25, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for [our] adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”

o Col. 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

o Phil. 3:19-21, “…whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”

  • Reunion of fellow believers in the presence of Christ:

o 1 Thess. 2:19-20, “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.”

ADJECTIVES USED TO DESCRIBE THIS HOPE

  • 2 Thess. 2:15, “Who has…given us good hope by grace.”
  • Heb. 7:19, “There is a bringing in of a better hope.”
  • Tit. 2:13, “The blessed hope.”
  • 1 Pet. 1:3, “A living hope.”

THREE-FOLD PERSPECTIVE OF HOPE IN CHRIST

Three different prepositions are used to describe the relationship of our hope with regards to Christ. The following has been gleaned from the Vine’s Expository Dictionary (p.311-312):

  • The preposition eisis rendered “in” in 1 Pet. 3:5, “who hoped in God.” The “hope” referred to here is directed to and centered in the person of God.
  • The preposition epiis typically rendered “on” or “upon.” E.g. Rom. 15:12, “Upon Him shall nations hope” (YLT). The “hope” referred to here expresses the ground upon which hope rests.
  • The preposition enis rendered “in” or “within.” E.g. 1 Cor. 15:19, “we have hoped in Christ.” According to Vine’s “the preposition expresses that Christ is not simply the ground upon whom, but the sphere and element in whom, the hope is placed.” The form of the verb (perfect participle with the verb to be, lit., “are having hoped”) stresses the character of those who “hope,” more than the action; “hope” characterizes them, showing what sort of persons they are.”

Christ is the sole basis of our hope in every respect. Our hope is in Him (in His person). Our hope rests upon Him (in His work). Our hope is for Him (in His return). Our hope is Him (that we might be in His presence).

FIX YOUR HOPE

Four times in the NT the term “fix” or “fixed” is used to describe how we are to hope in the certain hope that has been established for us as believers:

  • 1 Tim. 4:10, “Because we have fixed our hope on the living God.” The words “fixed your hope” translate the Greek “elpizo” (perfect, active, indicative).
  • 1 Tim. 5:5, “Now she who is a widow indeed, and who has been left alone has fixed her hope on God.” The words “fixed her hope” translate the Greek “elpizo” (perfect, active, indicative).
  • 1 Tim. 6:17, “Instruct those who are rich…not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty or riches, but on God.” The words “fix their hope” translate the Greek “elpizo” (perfect, active, infinitive).
  • 1 Pet. 1:13, “Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The words “fix your hope” translate the Greek “elpizo” (aorist, active, imperative).

The believer is one who has already fixed his hope on the living God. In view of this, he is to take care lest he mistakenly fix his hope on earthly possessions. Ultimately, his hope is to be fixed completely on the grace to be brought to him at the revelation of Christ.

 

A Great Messenger of Hope

A Certain Hope in Uncertain Days: 30 Days of Hope-filled Focus

Day 12: A Great Messenger of Hope

I love Christian biographies.  One of my favorites is that of George Whitefield.  From his dramatic conversion to his final day on earth, his life speaks to how God can work in miraculous fashion to save a man from the depths of despair and then use him in an unexpected and amazing way.  Here’s the story…

Book Review: “George Whitefield, God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century,” by Arnold A. Dallimore

This is a wonderful easy-reading biography of one of the most influential Pastors in the 1700s–a man who played a large role in the Great Awakening that transformed the American colonies.

The life of George Whitefield was anything but typical. While at Oxford and attending “The Holy Club” under the influence John Wesley, Whitefield was convinced by a book that he was not born again. Fearful of being eternally lost he determined to find his way. Over a period of months, he fasted, prayed, and humbled himself before God. His studies and his health suffered. He became so weak that a physician confined him to bed for seven weeks. When there was nothing else that he could do, God revealed Himself in grace and granted to Whitefield that which he could not earn. He was born again.

Having first preached some in England, in December of 1737 Whitefield boarded a vessel bound for Georgia to preach the gospel. His visit to Georgia impressed upon him the need to provide for an Orphan house for the numerous orphans of settlers who had died. He returned to England to secure a charter and money for that purpose. His efforts to minister to the orphans continued for the rest of his life.

Because of the nature of his preaching Whitefield was shut out of many churches in England. His preaching was unique, from that found in many of the established churches, in that he spoke of the need to be born again through faith in Christ. He spoke plainly and simply such that the common people could understand. He possessed a voice of unusual clarity. Through the influence of another man he began “Open Air” meetings. During one period he was holding 30 some meetings a week. These meetings drew huge crowds. It was not unusual for him to speak to six or seven thousand and on some occasion’s tens of thousands. On one occasion following his return to America, Benjamin Franklin–a friend of Whitefield’s–measured the distance at which Whitefield’s voice could be heard, and stated, “I computed he might well be heard by more than thirty thousand.”

Though he had been influenced much by John Wesley, doctrinal divisions worked to separate the two. Whitefield favored Predestination, Wesley opposed it and even preached a sermon against Whitefield’s view. Wesley’s evangelistic work was sometimes accompanied by “convulsion-like attacks,” Whitefield expressed his dislike of that. Wesley began to declare his doctrine of “Christian Perfection,” Whitefield argued against it. He summed up his attitude in saying, “Every grace that is in the blessed Jesus is to be transplanted into our hearts; we are to be delivered by the power of sin but not from the indwelling and being of sin in this life. HEREAFTER we are to be preserved blameless, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.”

In 1740 Whitefield again visited America. He preached repeatedly throughout the thirteen colonies. This period, the Great Awakening, was undoubtedly the richest time of spiritual blessing in the nation’s history. His presence was not without controversy. He wrote a letter condemning the harsh treatment of slaves. In those days it was frequently asked, “Does the Negro have a soul?” and Whitefield gave the first widely heard positive reply that the black man was basically no different than the white man. Notably, his preaching to the blacks also led to the creation of the “Negro Spiritual.” These matters combined with his supposed “un-Anglican” actions led an Anglican leader to attempt to expel him from the ministry.

Whitefield and other Pastors in England determined to take the gospel message to the “Mobs.” These were the “wildest and most brutal of men” unreached by the “Religious Societies” of the day. The Mob responded to preaching of the gospel with fists and clubs and beating of Pastors, but still the ministers of the gospel returned. Whitefield himself experienced some of that kind of treatment. The efforts of Whitefield and others bore fruit over time as many ultimately trusted in Christ for salvation.

He continued his ministry in England, Scotland, and America with fruitfulness. He literally preached himself to death. On one occasion he was warned by a doctor to allow himself a period of rest. His reply? “I intend to preach till I drop.” On September 29, 1770 Whitefield preached a final sermon. It was given with such clearness and eloquence that many hearers stated it was the greatest sermon they had ever heard from him. It was from the text, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith.” One gentleman wrote of the occasion, “Mr. Whitefield rose and stood erect, and his appearance alone was a powerful sermon. He remained several minutes unable to speak, and then said, “I will wait for the gracious assistance of God…” “I go,” he cried, “I go to a rest prepared; my sun has arisen and by aid from Heaven has given light to many. It is now about to set–no, it is about to rise to the zenith of eternal glory. Many may outlive me on earth, but they cannot outlive me in Heaven. Oh thought divine! I shall soon be in a world where time, age, pain, and sorrow are unknown. My body fails, my spirit expands. How willingly would I live to preach Christ! But I die to be with Him!” George Whitefield died the next morning.

George Whitefield preached some 30,000 sermons. He preached to the poor and uneducated and to English aristocrats and American statesmen. He was considered in his day to be “the most brilliant and popular preacher the modern world has ever known.” You will be encouraged and inspired by this book.

 

Hope for the Hopeless

A Certain Hope in Uncertain Days: 30 Days of Hope-filled Focus

Day 11: Hope for the Hopeless

Romans 5:3-5, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Ernest Gordon was one of many British soldiers captured by the Japanese in the battle for Singapore in WW2.  Ultimately, he and thousands of other captives were taken to Banpong, Thailand.  The Japanese command forced these prisoners into hard—sunrise to sunset—labor in building a 258-mile railway to further the Japanese war effort.  They were mistreated and tortured, fed little, and given no medical attention.  Work was not going fast enough, so workers were beaten.  Many died as a result of torture, beatings, and disease.

Gordon was not a Christian, but during his captivity he saw things that caused him to consider Christ.  One such occasion was when a soldier was determined to save his best friend when he became ill.  He gave up all his own rations, without telling of his sacrifice, for the benefit of his friend.  His sick friend recovered.  He himself later died of starvation.

On another occasion, at the end of a day’s work, a guard declared that a shovel was missing.  In a fit of uncontrollable rage, he yelled, “All die!  All die!”  Just as the guard was to begin shooting the captives, a man stepped forward.  “I did it,” he said.  The Japanese guard slammed the stock of his rifle onto the captive’s head.  The captive sank to the ground, dead.  When the shovels were counted afterwards, they were all there.  The guard had been mistaken.  The captive laid down his life for the sake of the others.

These acts of sacrificial love caused some of the prisoners to think.  One of the captives was a Christian, but Gordon argued against his faith.  He couldn’t understand how God could allow the death of 20 men a day to such ill-treatment.  “Why doesn’t God so something?” he asked.

Another incident spoke again to Gordon’s heart.  Frequently as the prisoners made their way through the local Thai villages, they would come across yellow-robe Buddhist priests.  The philosophy of these priests was non-attachment to the world.  If a prisoner dropped at the side of the road, and was obviously dying, they would purpose to ignore him.  They demonstrated no concern for the plight of the captives.  One day the captives passed through a village where the people, at risk to themselves, gave them food and medicine.  Upon inquiry, it was discovered that the village had been evangelized to Christ through the work of a missionary.  Gordon was forced to again question the ultimate source of such love.

These three instances, amongst others, ultimately were used by God to draw Gordon into a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus.  Other prisoners trusted in Christ as well.  The prisoners began to hold worship services.  They prayed.  They created a Bible-lending library.  They shared their faith with others.  On Christmas day 1943, over 2000 men attended a service.  Though captive in a camp, Jesus worked to set them free to worship–their captivity was transformed by numerous acts of faith and sacrifice.

Years following his rescue and release, Ernest Gordon wrote his great spiritual classic, “Miracle on the River Kwai.”  The book includes this quote, “I know the depths to which men could sink and the heights to which they could rise.  I could speak from the experience of despair, but also of hope; of hatred, but also of love; of man without God, but also of man sustained by God.  God in Christ has shared man’s suffering…even that experience which seems to defeat us all, namely, death.”  The book ends with this sentence, “He comes into our Death House to lead us through it.”

The activity of sacrificial love by the Spirit-led believer flows ultimately from the One who died on Calvary (Cf. 1 John 4:19; Romans 5:5).  Its presence in one’s life gives testimony to the Risen Christ and the greater love He has demonstrated in laying down His life for us (Cf. John 3:16; 1 John 3:16).  That we might replicate His self-sacrificial manner is a mysterious and wonderful work of His grace.  Apart from Him we can do no such thing (Cf. John 15:5), but by His gracious presence His love can indeed flow through us.  What loving word or deed, in obedience, does God have planned for you and me to express this day?  May it be done with a finger pointing towards Calvary!