Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Source of Our Hope

As someone who writes a lot about the moral decline of our country, who continually encourages Christians to get involved in the political process and to get busy and fix things, it would seem like my hope lies with the political process. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a Christian, my hope lies in the Lord - the resurrected Jesus who now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. It would seem that now, during Holy Week as Christians celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, would be the right time to proclaim that hope.

Oh, yes, I encourage Christians to be politically involved. I do so because Jesus did. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us that as Christians we are to be salt and light to this world. Salt preserved food and gave it flavor. Christians should be the ones preserving culture and giving it an appealing winsomeness. Light showed the way. We have been given the truth and need to share it with those around us. Then in Matthew 5:16, Jesus commanded us, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Yes, Christians should be involved with their culture, all to the glory of God.

But what Caesar giveth, Caesar can take away. That's why our hope is not in our own feeble efforts, but in Jesus. We are realists. We know the human heart. "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked," Jeremiah the prophet told us. Paul gave us these discouraging words in 2nd Timothy 3:13, "But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." left to our own devises, we would face a pretty grim future. There is little we can humanly do to change it.

Yet, that is precisely the reason Jesus came to earth. He came to seek and to save the lost. He came to give us new lives. He came so that our sordid lives could be changed. He came on a mission to redeem lost mankind from their sin. That mission would take Him through the cross, and through the tomb, and out the other side in resurrection.

This past Sunday, the sermon I preached to my congregation centered upon Matthew 16:21. The verse says, "From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day." Far from being an accident or the mark of a failed mission, the cross was the very reason He came - He came to become the sacrificial lamb for us. then, to prove the sacrifice was accepted by God, God raised Him bodily from the the tomb and exalted Him with glory. The cross and the resurrection became the pinnacle of all history - the very core of the Gospel message.

But in the saga of Holy Week, we see a pattern - first comes the cross then comes the glory. Which is precisely why Jesus told all of us who are His disciples to take up our crosses daily, to die to self, and to follow Him. Following Christ is difficult; it is a life of struggle. We have been promised trials and persecution. But we have also been promised glory. In Romans 8:18, Paul assured our hearts with these words, "For I consider that the suffering of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

Jesus provided our example. In Hebrews 12:2, It says, "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Far from being a discouragement to us, the cross is our hope. It procured our salvation. And the resurrection gives us the hope of our exaltation some day.

So, our hope is not in the political process. Our hope is in the Lord. Titus 2:13-14 says, "Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works."

It is this hope in the lord that causes us to work diligently for Him. It is not through our efforts that we envision change coming to this culture. It is only as Jesus empowers our efforts, and as He changes hearts one at a time. And we have the hope that someday, He will set everything right. We have the hope that someday He is coming again. All this is tied up in our celebration of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.