Advent #1: Hope
In the midst of many distractions pushed on us by our circumstances, media, and the politicians, we need a message of hope. What is hope you ask? Many understand hope as a desire of something to come that is uncertain, yet the Bible declares the hope that God provides as a promise of something to come that is certain (Romans 8:24-25). What makes it hope is that (1) this promise is sure and can be counted on, (2) God brings about relief from that which torments us, (3) the knowledge gives us confidence to fulfill God’s will for us today.
In the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead brought hope, as God promised that all people would be resurrected to new bodies one day, and to judgment. In Acts 24:15, Paul relates the hope he has in God’s promise of resurrection of the just to reward, and the unjust to punishment. The just he is talking about here are the ‘righteous,’ or those who genuinely believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The unjust are the ‘unrighteous,’ or those who continue to oppose God, living in their sin. Paul instructs the Thessalonians of this hope (1 Thess. 4:13), telling them that we do not need to grieve for loved ones who have died, because we will see them again one day (if they have genuinely believed). This resurrection, for those who truly believe, is for eternal life (Titus 1:1-2), a promise given by God right from the start of Creation.
When we become a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, God begins a work in us to make us righteous in His eyes, according to His standards. This is not something we can do on our own, but is a process we must submit to. Christ made this possible by His sacrifice on the cross, declaring us righteous before God (since His sacrifice paid the penalty for our sins), but also sending the Holy Spirit to work in us (fighting against the sin nature, and striving to grow our new nature in Christ). God promises that He will accomplish this process in you (Galatians 5:5).
In Paul’s letter to the Romans (chapter 5), he tells his audience that the hope of the believers is that God will be glorified in their lives and good deeds, as they live in obedience. This is what we are to live for, and the work that the Holy Spirit does in our lives makes this possible. Since it is God who works in us, by His Holy Spirit, we can be confident that the work will be completed one day, and that it will enable us to glorify God (Ephesians 1) today, even as you progress in your growth. In fact, Christ in you (displayed in your life to others) is glory for God (Colossians 1:27).
King of Kings
We all decry corruption, especially in government, and the decline of just rule in our country. The one thing that helps us endure is the hope in God’s promise that one day Jesus Christ will rule the earth as King of Kings, with a perfect government that will never end. This is not just for the nation of Israel, but for the whole world (Romans 15:12)! We can count on God to bring justice and equity, fair treatment and grace, to a world that is suffering without it.
Results of Hope
The hope that God provides, through Jesus Christ, enables us to live confidently today.
(1) We are able to rejoice despite (and in the midst of) trials and suffering, looking to the promise at the end of relief and reward (Romans 12:12).
(2) We are able to be encouraged that ‘this too shall pass,’ and comfort is on the way (Romans 15:4; 2 Corinthians 1:7).
(3) We are able to ‘abound’ today, knowing the power and protection of God are at our disposal, and also knowing that God’s plans always succeed (Romans 15:13).
(4) We are able to courageously accomplish God’s will for us (Philippians 1:20), sharing the gospel of God’s love with all we come in contact with.
Paul tells the Corinthians (1 Cor. 13:1) that the top three characters of God that He wants to develop in us are FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE. All three must be tied together; you cannot have one without the others. So, when we have genuine faith and demonstrate God’s love, then we have a sure hope, that is like an anchor for the soul (Hebrews 6:19). When Jesus was born as a baby in a manger, He brought hope because the beginning of God’s promises (the climax of the Bible) was coming true. God became flesh, Immanuel, to live among us and to give us that hope. Christ’s birth is a living hope that God keeps His promises. Christ’s life is a living hope that God cares about us, and all of our struggles. Christ’s death is a living hope that our greatest problem (sin) is solved. Christ’s resurrection is a living hope that our relationship with God is restored, and that one day we will also be resurrected physically, just as we are now resurrected to new spiritual life.
How do we get this hope? The writer of Hebrews tells us that it comes when we (1) draw near to God (7:19), and hold fast to your faith (10:23). Drawing near to God is getting to know Him through a personal relationship, and submitting to Him as our perfect Heavenly Father. Holding fast to your faith is not allowing anything to distract you from trusting God fully (100%), and seeking to submit to His working in your life to make you more like Christ in character.
Praise God for the hope we have in Jesus Christ, and let that hope affect how you live!