THE ABOUNDING JOY OF NEW TESTAMENT HOPE #2

Series: THE ABOUNDING JOY OF NEW TESTAMENT HOPE
September 22, 2019 | Don Horban
References: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17Hebrews 10:23-251 Peter 3:15Ephesians 2:12
Topics: New TestamentGraceChurchHopeScripturesEncouragement

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THE ABOUNDING JOY OF NEW TESTAMENT HOPE #2


THE SOURCES OF HOPE: The Grace of God, The Body of Christ, The Encouragement of the Scriptures

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 - “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. [14] To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. [15] So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. [16] Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, [17] comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”

Hebrews 10:23-25 - Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. [24] And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, [25] not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Last week we took some time to study the nature of hope in general, and Biblical hope in particular. We found that the crucial difference between the two was this: we normally use the word “hope” to express desire. Hope means we cross our fingers. Biblical hope, on the other hand, is described as a certain, confident expectation based on the faithfulness of Father God.

Then we closed that message looking at just how important hope is. We saw how hope fuels both faith and holiness. In fact, my hope is to be something outstandingly noticeable to those yet outside the faith: 1 Peter 3:15 - “....but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you....”

This is a shocking verse. Peter identifies the light of my witness not to my knowledge or even my holiness. He says people will be drawn to Christ through what they see me hoping for in my day to day life.

I’ve always noticed the responsibility I have as a Christian to be ready to give this verbal defence when asked about the hope I have as a believer. What I hadn’t found as shocking as I should have was the obvious fact that I should expect people to approach me and ask about the reason for my hope in the first place. People would question me because they would notice me thinking about something different from what they were concentrating on. They would be shocked by my longings.

In other words, if people notice anything about me as a Christian, it should be my hope. And they should find it so amazing that they can’t keep themselves from approaching me and asking me about it. Their curiosity will force them to push past their natural shyness about approaching someone they hardly know. So strong is the appeal of the hope they see in my life. That’s an absolutely incredible verse of Scripture.

Obviously, hope is vitally important in the Christian walk. In fact, in future studies we’re going to look in detail at the fruit of hope - the things that result from keeping our hope strong and bright. Things like joy, perseverance, purity, righteousness, confidence in prayer, etc.

Today we’re going to focus, not on the fruit of hope, but rather, the source of hope. If hope is anywhere near as important as the Bible says it is, the natural question is “Where does hope come from and how can I get more of it?”

The three sources of hope are the grace of God, the encouragement of believers in the local church, and the indwelling Word of God. We’ll look at the first two this morning:

1) HOPE FROM THE GRACE OF GOD

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 - “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. [14] To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. [15] So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. [16] Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, [17] comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”

Notice those words, “good hope through [or by] grace”(16). That’s where hope comes from. It comes from God’s grace. More specifically, it comes from noticing and contemplating our experience of grace in Christ Jesus. In other words, there are implications to grace that I must work through in my thinking.

I must tell myself things like this: If there’s no grace, there’s no hope. If my salvation depends on anything other than grace, there’s no hope. There are many systems and religions designed to somehow reach God in this world. All of them have good teachings in them. All have high moral aspirations and codes of moral conduct.

Remind yourself of this. Religions can all give instruction. That’s fine as it goes. But hope doesn’t come from instruction. Hope comes from grace through Christ Jesus. Only Jesus Christ can give hope. That’s because Jesus is God’s only offer of gracious redemption for people who are still sinners. Jesus pardons sinners. He came and He died for the ungodly.

This is not complicated. It only requires humility to receive it and thoughtfulness to appreciate it. If I get what I deserve, there’s no hope. If I get what Jesus has won on His cross, if Jesus really died for the ungodly, if grace is really free and amazing, then Paul is right when he says Jesus gives us “good hope through grace.”

That’s why the symbol of justice is a balance - a set of scales. And that’s why the symbol of Christianity is a cross. It’s the greatest symbol of hope for sinful people. Paul says there is this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:2). I take that to mean that I live in God’s grace every day. It’s grace that enables me to stand. Or, to look at it through the other end of the telescope, the moment anything takes the place of grace in my experience with God, I fall. I can’t stand anywhere else.

Now grace should do many things in my life. It should make me thankful. It should make me holy. I would never want to do anything to make light of the precious blood of my Redeemer. Grace should make me forgiving of others. I don’t just receive grace. I extend grace.

But as much as any of those things, grace makes me hopeful. Hopeful because, not only did my salvation not originate with my good deeds and merit, it is not sustained by my good deeds and merit. We stand because of God’s grace. Our future is secure because of God’s grace. Heaven is certain because of God’s grace.

My own efforts are a shaky foundation, but God’s grace is unending in its scope and victory and power to those who trust in Jesus Christ.

If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord, you are eternally without hope. And you need to know that. The Bible says so - Ephesians 2:12 - “....remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

Paul writes to this church - the redeemed. And it’s not just that we’re told we were without hope. That’s not all there is in that text. The point is we’re told, now that we have hope in Christ, that we are to remember that when we were without Christ we were without hope.

Think about this. I need to actually make a forced recall that I was without hope apart from Christ. I must activate this kind of thinking. And someone like I needs to do this because I don’t have an outwardly horrendous past. My upbringing was nothing but Christian as far back as I can remember. No crimes. No adultery. No theft. No drunkenness. My life didn’t appear hopeless.

But it was. It’s simply too easy to forget this. And we’re to remember it because we are to force ourselves in this study of two contrasting states - hopeless and hopeful. We have all freely been given hope. And the hope comes only from the fact that we didn’t earn God’s grace. Hope comes first of all from experiencing and then remembering the mighty flow of divine grace in Christ Jesus.

2) HOPE COMES FROM THE ENCOURAGEMENT FROM BELIEVERS IN THE LOCAL CHURCH, THE BODY OF CHRIST ON EARTH

Hebrews 10:23-25 - “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. [24] And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, [25] not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

I hope I can make you see how tightly this is linked to the previous point about hope coming from remembering the freeness of grace in Christ Jesus. We’re not moving from grace to legalism when we talk about gathering together in the local church, the body of Christ. It’s not as though we’re moving away from grace to religious rules.

The reason I have to say this is there’s a whole movement afoot telling Christians Jesus came to save them from religion and just make them free from any kind of corporate religious discipline. And there’s a sense in which that is true and a sense in which it is dishonest and spiritually destructive.

It is true in the sense that religion can’t save anyone. It is true in the sense that religion can be a deadly enemy to spiritual life, as it was in the case of the Pharisees and Sadducees with whom Jesus almost never saw eye to eye.

Religion, practised apart from the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit can only do one of two things. If you practice it well it leads to human pride and loveless condemnation to others who don’t do as well. And if you practice it poorly it can only lead to despair and hopelessness. Religion itself has little hope to give to bad people.

So certainly Jesus came to deliver us from the power of human religious systems. That much is an important truth to remember. But there’s another sense in which that tired, old line - “Jesus never came to start a religion. And you don’t have to be religious to go to heaven” - there’s a sense in which it is about the most naive thing Christians still latch on to. Undisciplined Christians frequently use that old line - “Jesus came to save me from religion” - as a cloak of spirituality to mask their spiritual laziness.

Let me explain. The first point of this teaching was hope is the product of grace received through Christ Jesus. Then I labored to show the importance, not only of receiving grace, but remembering that we have received grace - Ephesians 2:12 - “....remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Remember the difference grace makes. Remember your life, no matter how dark and desperate things get, has been eternally graced, and that changes everything.

But life is so dished out in this fallen world that we don’t always remember we have hope through grace. Life burries hope as surely as winter snow burries your flowers. Life sometimes buries hope.

Well, what will we do? How will hope be sustained? I can pray. I can read my Bible. But there’s a problem. When my faith is tired and my hope is weak, I bring a very dull mind to the Word and a very cold heart to my times of private prayer. That’s the whole point. I don’t want to study and I don’t want to pray. Self-motivation gets sluggish, even for the very strongest of us.

But God has a plan. He wants to link us up with those who aren’t going through the dark time we’re facing - who are not sluggish right at this moment. But they have been there before, perhaps when we ourselves were flying higher spiritually. And God wants to infuse confidence and hope into my heart through their faith and their hope and their testimony. He wants to pump His Word into my heart from someone else - someone who may feel more passionate about it at this moment than I do. And this is exactly the thinking behind the instruction of the Holy Spirit in our Hebrews text:

Hebrews 10:23-25 - “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. [24] And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, [25] not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

First, hope must be held on to. “Hold fast the confession of our hope....”(23). It is not automatically self-sustaining. Don’t let it slip out of your grasp. This we’ve already considered in this teaching.

Second, sustaining hope is a corporate rather than an individual pursuit. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near”(24-25).

Note well the repetition of “one another” and “together.” One of the classic ways of “thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought” is simply ignoring our need for mutual encouragement.

And third, the need for the local church will increase with the passing of time, not decrease. “....not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near(10:25).

People will get increasingly busy. We will find the number of family commitments expanding. Increasing financial pressures will require more incomes and more late evenings. The schools and the hockey leagues and the music lessons will demand more and more parental supervision.

So what are we to do to keep spiritual hope alive? How do we not crowd out eternal hope with a million competing momentary concerns? The Bible answer isn’t well loved anymore. You do it with increased, deep involvement in the church. You fight the tendency to “neglect” meeting together. And you do it, quite simply, by not neglecting meeting together”(25).

And then the writer adds, “....as is the habit of some”(25). He doesn’t say who these “some” are, but we know they are people - church people - who used to gather more often than they do now. Probably because they were increasingly busy. And the writer says if I’m to keep hope alive in my heart I must resist the influence and pull of Christians who don’t make church the priority they used to make it. In other words, these people are making a bigger blunder than they know. Don’t follow their pattern.

Don’t allow hope-stealing habits to creep into your soul unnoticed. Hope has roots. Anchor it in relishing grace. Sustain it with the body of Christ.

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