Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hope From His Promises

Living Right: Part 2

It is not always easy to do the right thing. In fact, it is one of the hardest thing to do in life. The easy way to live is to submit to the pressure, to give in, and not struggle to follow Jesus. Following Jesus is a struggle. It is a struggle because of the false teachings we hear from inside and outside the church. It is a struggle because life doesn’t go the way we planned. It is a struggle because the we get worn down by all the hassles and difficulties of life.

Yesterday we looked at Hebrews 12:1-4 and noticed that the author of that book tells us to look to the faithful of old and to Jesus to discover the encouragement we need to continue our struggle to live the life God created us to live. In 1 John 2:28-3:10 I think the apostle John helps us understand how we can keep our eyes on Jesus. John tells us we can keep our eyes on Jesus by focusing on two areas of His life.

The first area of Jesus’ life we must focus on are His promises:
28 Even now, little children, abide in him. Then, when he appears, we will have confidence and will not turn away from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you also know that everyone who practices righteousness has been born from God.

1 See what kind of love the Father has given us in letting us be called God's children! Yet that is what we are. For this reason the world does not recognize us, because it did not recognize him either.

2 Dear friends, we are now God's children, but what we will be like has not been revealed yet. We know that when Christ is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him as he is. 3 And everyone who has this hope based on him keeps himself pure, just as he is pure. (1 John 2:28-3:3, ISV)

John apparently takes Jesus at His word when Jesus promised to return. In John 14:1-4 we read Jesus’ promise:
1 "Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 There are many dwelling places in my Father's house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you. 3 And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too. 4 And you know the way where I am going." (NET)

What is the purpose of this promise? Jesus makes this promise in order to give His disciples hope. “Don’t let your hearts be distressed...” Hang in there, don’t grow weary and lose heart, I am coming back, Jesus is telling us. It is a word of encouragement that we need.

In 1 John 2:3-27 the Apostle warns his readers to be on guard against antichrists and false teachings. They needed to remain connected to Jesus, the true source of life. We know we are connected to Jesus when we obey Him (vv. 3-6), when we love (vv.7-14), and when we seek truth (vv.15-27). John wants these people to remain in Jesus.

Then John writes, “continue in him...” Translation: “Life is hard, don’t give up, because Jesus is coming back, and we want to be confident on that day.” Without this hope that Jesus is coming back to make everything right, then it is next to impossible to continue in him, and the trials of life will makes us want to throw in the towel.

Our confidence doesn’t come from our good behavior, but from our trust in Jesus. Remember that is what remaining in Jesus is all about: obeying His teachings, loving His creation, and believing His truth. Faith allows us to come to know the One has made the promise, and as we begin to know Him we discover that we can trust Him.

Not only can we be certain that Jesus is coming back, but John gives us an equally impressive claim: we are Children of God! Not that we will be, but that we are. In the language of the apostle Paul we have been adopted into the family of God, He has chosen us as His children. In the language of Jesus we are the prodigal son returning home. God wants to lavish His love on us, but we have to go back to Him in order to experience that love.

As children of God we are experiencing the lavish love of God through the transformation of our lives. And just as all of us have stories about our lives being opposed by Satan, I am certain we all have stories about how God has made a difference in our lives as we have followed Jesus.

We have seen evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and we know that we are not the same people we were last year, let alone 5 or 10 years ago. Yet John makes another startling claim, what we will be has not yet been made known. But when he appears, we shall be like him...Wow. God isn’t finished with us. While we can see evidences of transformation in our lives, that transformation isn’t complete. It won’t be complete until Jesus makes His triumphant return.

When we live out this hope, this trust that Jesus will keep His promise and return, then, John writes, we purify ourselves. I think this is a verse we have difficulty with because it seems to say that it is our good works that purify us, and we have been taught that we are saved by grace through faith and not by good works.

Just as our faith is demonstrated through our actions, our hope is demonstrated through what we do as well. We show that we have hope in the return of Jesus because we take the necessary steps to clean up our lives and to struggle against temptation and overcome sin. We show that we have hope when we continue to prayer for our brother to know come to know Jesus, even though he has demonstrated hostility to the idea in the past. Hope gives us a new perspective on life.

“College football fans knew the late Woody Hayes as a fierce competitor whose passion for winning once led him to slug an opposing player who intercepted an Ohio State pass. But when columnist Bob Greene interviewed him just before his final illness and asked if anything was as important as winning, Woody said yes. ‘The important thing is not always to win. The important thing is always to hope.’

“Hope kept Red McDaniel going in his Vietnamese imprisonment. For him to abandon hope, he wrote, was to abandon survival itself and with it his sense of self and all his personhood. The Jews at Auschwitz and Treblinka lived in daily horror and fear of dying, even as they saw other Jews die. Still, they never lost hope that they personally would survive. ‘Where there is life, hope must never be relinquished,’ one said.” (Speakers Sourcebook of New Illustrations, p. 104).

Even though our lives are being opposed as Satan seeks to steal, kill, and destroy our lives, we can have hope because of Jesus’ promise to return and make everything right. We know Jesus can be counted on because God promised a Savior, and at just the right time Jesus appeared. The promise of Jesus first coming provides us with the necessary evidence to trust the promise of His second coming.

The promises of Jesus provide us with the hope we need to live righteous lives.

  • Point to Ponder: The promises of Jesus provide us with the hope we need to live righteous lives.
  • Passage to Remember: 1 John 2:28-3:3
  • Question to Consider: How is hope made a difference in your life?


Carmen said...

You asked how hope has made a difference in my life. Hope is the driving force behind my determination. Have you ever wanted something so badly that you've kept it in front of you for years, yet it always seemed out of reach? I have. It was hope of attaining the goal that kept me going. Without hope, I would have given up. It has been these earthly struggles that helps me understand the spiritual. Though there are days it would be easy to throw in the towel and do what is easy and accepted, hope keeps me determined to attain the goal of finishing the race and hearing the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant..." Just like life struggles, it's gonna be worth it!

Paul said...

Carmen, thanks for reading and sharing your experience. You are right, without hope we would give up.

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