Monday, 31 August 2009

A continuing & enduring hope, in God alone

a) Whilst our hope needs to continue to the end:
“But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” (Heb 3:6)
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” (Heb 6:10-12)
“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Col 1:22-23)

b) Yet our hope will enable us to endure:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom 5:1-5).
“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Th 1:3).
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Rom 12:12)

These last 2 points need to go together. Yes, we do need to hold onto our hope until the end, but it is because we have hope that we will hold on to it. Again, this is why we need to focus on our hope, for when we think about all that is set out ahead of us, why would we neglect such a great salvation? Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

c) We must not put our hope in anything else other than God:
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Tim 6:17-19).

Having looked at the hope we have in God, there can be no good reason to put our hope in anything other than in God. Yet the temptation always remains to place more faith in what we can see than what we cannot see. We need to heed the words of Paul when he exhorts us to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor 4:18).

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Hope of righteousness and blessed hope

3 more aspects of Christian hope to meditate on, as we continue reading from the New Testament:

a) Our hope is to be finally declared ‘not guilty’ in the presence of God:
“But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Gal 5:5-6).

Although we have already been justified, we have yet to stand before God and receive His proclamation of this truth. Although we have already been justified, our sanctification is an ongoing process worked out through the Spirit. Although we have already been justified, our future glorification has yet to take place, when we will be clothed in robes of righteousness.

b) Our blessed hope is the appearing of Christ Jesus:

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Tit 2:11-14)
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Pe 1:13).
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)

Not only will Christ Jesus appear in glory, we will also be transformed when he appears, what an awesome thought! I think the gospel is pretty much summed up in this verse from Hebrews: “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Heb 9:27-28). Let us continue to watch, wait and pray for our Lord’s appearing, and let us not be deceived as the time draws near.

c) Our faith and knowledge rest on our hope:
“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness – a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Saviour” (Tit 1:1-3). If our faith and knowledge rest on the hope of eternal life, then we must endeavour not to neglect this hope. The more we build up our hope of eternal life, then the more our faith and knowledge will also be built up.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Heavenly hope, eternal life, resurrection

Continuing our study of the Christian hope according to the New Testament, we discover that our hope is stored up for us in heaven, our hope is for eternal life, and it is centred on the hope of the resurrection.

a) Our hope is stored up for us in heaven:
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints – the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you.” (Col 1:3-6).
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pe 1:3-9).

Any Christian suffering persecution for the sake of the Name needs to hear of the hope that is stored up in heaven for them, and be reminded of the return of Jesus Christ. As persecution in this country increases in the future, I am convinced that we will focus much more on these topics, as this is all that will enable us to endure.

b) Our hope is eternal life:
“But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Tit 3:4-7).

The great news about the gospel is that not only are we justified before God, we become heirs too, by virtue of becoming adopted as sons of God, and sharing an inheritance with the Son of God.

c) Our hope is in the resurrection:

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor 15:19-20)
“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (1 Th 4:13-14).

This is the very centrepiece of our hope – that one day, in the twinkling of an eye, these corruptible bodies will be changed to incorruptible, and the dead will rise again. The historical fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead provides us with assurance on this point – if Jesus did not rise from the dead then our faith is pointless. This hope should set us apart from the world when faced with death. To live is Christ, to die is gain.

Monday, 17 August 2009

A better hope, scripture hope, future hope

a) The hope promised in Christ is better than that held out through the law:
“Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 6:17-20)
“The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” (Heb 7:18-19).

The gospel contains great hope, because it gives us absolute confidence to approach God as it is not dependent on ourselves at all, but all on Him. What the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God DID by sending His own Son in the likeness of man to be a sin offering. When the law was given to Moses, it simply revealed to man that he was guilty of breaking the law. It did not offer man help to keep the law, and thus give man the righteousness he needs if he is to stand before a Holy God. God provided the solution needed - by sending His Son to keep the law and fulfil it, there is now One who is perfectly Righteous. When we trust and believe in Him, His very Righteousness is imputed to us, that is, God not only forgives our sin, but sees in us the very Righteousness of His Son. It has all been done by Him, it is finished, it is complete, nothing more can be added to it. We simply need to trust in the great truth that by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy, and live a life of gratitude and obedience in response as we draw near to God with confidence. What greater hope can there be?

b) The Scriptures give us hope:

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4).

We read that on the road to Emmaus, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus explained to two of his disciples what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:27). What an amazing conversation that must have been! Time and time again in Acts we read that Paul went into the synagogues and “he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead” (eg Acts 17:2-3). The testimony of the New Testament seems to be that the Old Testament is full of Christ, and that we should read it in order to find out what is revealed about Christ and God’s redemptive plan for humanity. As we do this, our hope will increase and we will be mightily encouraged to see how this plan has unfolded throughout history, we will be humbled that we should play any part in this plan, and we will be inspired to endure to see how this plan reaches its conclusion in the Day of the Lord.

c) Our hope is in the future:

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Heb 11:1)
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subject to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Rom 8:18-27).

I believe Paul is here speaking about future redemption of both the earth and our bodies, which will take place after the return of Jesus Christ. Creation is groaning because it continues to suffer the curse which God issued after Adam sinned. We ourselves are groaning because even though we have spiritually been born again, we continue to live in mortal bodies which are subject to decay and death, again a result of the curse following the sin of Adam. We also have to daily wage war against our sinful nature, to walk in the Spirit rather than in accordance with the sinful nature. Yet in the future we are assured that our sinful natures will be destroyed, we will receive perfected bodies no longer subject to decay and death, and there will be new heavens and a new earth where all things will be made new. What a wonderful hope this is! Praise God!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

"Without hope" vs "hope in Christ"

a) Before we became Christians, we were without hope:
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (that done in the body by the hands of men) – remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:11-13).

Without hope – what a perilous state to live in. Those who are dead in their transgressions today are without hope. Apart from the grace of God at work in my life I would still be without hope today. Let us pray for those who are without hope today that God would have mercy on them and work His grace into their lives.

b) Now that we are Christians, our hope is in God and Christ Jesus:

“This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labour and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe” (1 Tim 4:9-10)
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope” (1 Tim 1:1)
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:11-12).

What an amazing transformation, to go from being without hope, to being a people who have put our hope in the living God! This transformation can only be achieved by the work of God Himself, it cannot be conjured up by human effort alone. There cannot be a greater dichotomy than travelling from no hope, to hoping in Christ. There is no greater hope than that available in Christ, trusting in who He is, what He has done, and what He will yet do.

c) The Gentiles are included with the Jews in this hope:

“Isaiah says ;The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him’. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:12-13).
“I have become its servant [the gospel] by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:25-27).

It cannot be overstated how important this revelation was, repeated also in Eph 3:6, that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel. The indwelling of Christ in the Gentile believers through the Holy Spirit, providing them with the hope of future glorification, was so hard for the Jewish people to comprehend that when Paul told the crowd in Jerusalem that Jesus had sent him to the Gentiles, they tried to kill him (Acts 22:21-22). Yet we can clearly see how this is the fulfilment of the promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him (see Gal 3:14).

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Hope in the Prophets

Isaiah speaks of a great promise for those whose hope is in the Lord:
“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar like eagles;
They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”
(Isa 40:31).

With our hope set on Yahweh, who reconciled us to Himself whilst we were still His enemies, and who will bring in Justice and Righteousness to earth when Jesus Christ returns , then we will be strengthened, and will be enabled to press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenwards in Christ Jesus.

He makes it clear that the Gentiles are also to be included within His banner of hope:
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says:

‘See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples;
They will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders.
Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers.
They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”
(Isa 49:22-23).

God’s redemptive plan is not only for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but is to be extended to the Gentiles. All who hope in God for salvation will find He is able to meet their expectations, for the perfect sacrifice of Christ is more than sufficient for the purpose.

Following the exile of His people into Babylon, Yahweh promises they will be restored to the land, and that He will give them hope and a future in the land:
“When 70 years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” (Jer 29:10-14).

This verse is often taken out of context and used as if it was talking about all Christians. However, in context it can be seen that it is referring specifically to the people of Israel and their possession of the land promised through the patriarchs. It is so encouraging to those of us who are Gentiles that the promises Yahweh made to the descendants of Abraham continue today and have not been revoked. If He continues to be faithful to the Jewish people, by restoring them to the land even in unbelief, then we can have faith that He will be faithful to the promises made to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jeremiah writing after the exile, in the midst of the disbelief of the people that Jerusalem has been taken by the Babylonians, dares to continue to hope in the Lord, because he knows the Lord is faithful:
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young”
(Lam 3:19-27).
If we can call to mind the character of God through our suffering, His lovingkindness, His compassions, His faithfulness, His goodness, His salvation, this will surely help us to endure. Again, the importance of waiting quietly for the salvation of the Lord is stressed – all in His perfect timing. When we are assured of His character, we will find it easier to wait patiently.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Hope in the Psalms

The Psalms are full of the hope to be found in Yahweh, our Lord God:

a) From our very birth, our hope is in Him: “For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From my birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you.” (Ps 71:5-6). From our birth onwards, we are completely helpless and dependent upon the One who gives us life, who sustains our life, who determines the very days of our life.

b) That same Psalm states the believer’s hope for our whole life: “But as for me, I shall always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long.” (Ps 71:14-15). Our experience of the provision of the Lord throughout our lives and our hope for the future should lead us to speak of who He is and what He has done.

c) Psalm 119 states that our hope is in the word of the Lord:
"May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word(v74)
My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word (v81)
You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word (v114)
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word” (v147)

This is fulfilled specifically in the life of the Christian, for we have indeed put our hope in the Word of the Lord, Jesus Christ Himself. When we meet with other believers, there should be a common rejoicing in that we all share a common hope in Christ. We long for salvation - this is accomplished by Christ. He is our refuge and our shield. We should acknowledge our dependence on Him by calling out to Him in prayer each day.

d) Promises are made to those whose hope is in Yahweh:
i) Yahweh Himself looks on those who hope in Him:
“But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and shield.
In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you”.
(Ps 33:18-22). The hope here concerns this present world, and the ability of the Lord to provide for His people. As Jesus reminds us in the New Testament, we should not worry about we will eat and drink, or what we will wear, instead we should "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33). Another important principle is also taught, that of waiting in hope for the Lord – He will be faithful, we need to trust in Him for His timing, and not turn elsewhere in impatience.

ii) Those who hope in Yahweh are blessed:
“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God,
The Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them –
The Lord, who remains faithful for ever.”
(Ps 146:5-6). We can hope in the Lord, because we know He is utterly faithful to His word and His promises. What more blessed state can there be?

iii) Yahweh delights in those who hope in him:
“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Ps 147:11). It is not a contradiction here to both fear God, and yet hope in Him. Our fear of God, our knowledge of who He is, is the very reason we can hope in Him. For the Christian, the truth that before a Holy Awesome God we are wretched sinners, helpless and in need of a saviour gives our hope much more strength because we know it does not depend upon us and our righteousness, but only upon the righteousness that comes from God, which is therefore certain and sure.

e) Yahweh is our only source of hope: “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; My hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall not be shaken. My salvation and my honour depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Ps 62:5-8). What solid ground is provided for our hope here! With this mighty rock to depend upon, surely our hope will not be shaken. With this mighty rock to depend upon, what folly it is to try to put our hope in anything else.

f) We can exhort ourselves to hope in God: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” (Ps 42:5). Many times we can get caught up in the worries of this life, and become downhearted. If we can only remind ourselves at these times of all the hope stored up for us in Christ Jesus, we will be in a much stronger position to endure these troubles for we know we are awaiting an eternity with Him.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Hope in Job

Hope is the very foundation of our belief as Christians, and our hope in God and in Christ is what gives us the courage to continue in our faith to the end, no matter what may come. The Bible contains the story of Job, a man who suffered exceedingly. His oxen and camels were stolen, his sheep were destroyed by fire, all his servants were killed, all his children were killed when a house collapsed on them, and then he suffered painful sores all over his body. The Bible records for us that Job exclaims in the midst of his suffering “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face” (Job 13:15). No matter what happens, Job intends to seek vindication from God and believes that he will receive it. His hope is anchored in the belief that God is just, and will surely do what is right.

Yet his hope goes beyond the knowledge that his God is just, demonstrated when he proclaims “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27). This is the ultimate hope that all of us who have been saved by grace share – we know our Redeemer lives, one day He will return to stand upon the earth, and we will see Him with our own eyes, whether we are still alive when this happens, or whether we will be resurrected to see it happen.

How amazing that tucked away in the book of Job is such a profound understanding, not only of the nature of God and man (man needs a redeemer, so must need saving from something, ie his sin and the punishment of that sin, and that God is the only One who can fulfil that redemptive purpose), but also of the second coming and the resurrection. If we can only hold onto this truth in the midst of all that this life may throw at us, as Job did, we will be among those who overcome.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

I'm tired of me.
I see where I don't match up to the standards God expects, the standards I expect, the standards my family expects.
The world tries to offer help by lowering the bar of expectations - you're good enough. But that doesn't match with what the Bible teaches, for our God is a Holy God.
Then I see what the Bible does teach – ‘let us fix our eyes on Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:2).

It's not about me, and my achievements or failings. It's all about Him.
He is the author of our faith -
He created it,
He is the source of it,
He initiated it,
He gave Himself for it.
He is the perfecter of our faith -
because of who He is and what He did, today we can come into the presence of God and be acceptable in His sight - because by faith we are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus.
The Bible exhorts us to look up and away from ourselves, and focus on Jesus:
who created all things
for whom all things were created
who is before all things
in whom all things hold together
in whom all things will be reconciled to God (Col 1: 16-20)

the author and perfecter of our faith.’ (Hebrews 12:2)
As we do this, we will find our hope is strengthened, as we realise it is not based on us and our weakness and sinfulness, but on Christ and His strength and perfection.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Why this blog?

1 Peter 3:15 states "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect".

In these days we live in, things can seem hopeless so much of the time. Watching the news we hear of terrorism, loss of life in wars in far-off countries, economic difficulties, global climate change, and if we're not all killed off by swine flu we face years and years of high taxes, an impoverished retirement, not to mention global food shortages as the world population is predicted to outgrow food supply.

And yet....those who have set apart Christ as Lord in their hearts do have hope, and it is at just such a time as this that we should be sharing that hope amongst a world that is without hope.

Hebrews 9:27-28 says "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." The Bible is clear that we will all have to appear before God to give an account of ourselves after we die. The Bible is equally clear that we have all sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God, of the perfect standards of an Awesome, Holy God. We can therefore expect to be declared guilty before Him, and will have to suffer the consequences of our sin - "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

There is, however, some good news! The Bible teaches that "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Because of God’s love, He wanted to provide a way of reconciling man to Himself which satisfied both His justice (in punishing sin) and mercy (in providing a way to forgive the sin). So He sent Jesus, who is fully God and fully man, to live a perfect, sinless life. Jesus then willingly sacrificed Himself by dying on a cross – and it was on the cross that Jesus took on Himself all of our sin, and He suffered the punishment due for that sin – death. God then raised Him from the dead after three days to demonstrate the victory over death, and exalted Him to the right hand of the Father.

Forgiveness for our sins is a free gift available to everyone now, as a result of the death and resurrection of Jesus. But we need to receive that free gift. The Bible teaches that in order to accept this free gift we must:
a) Repent – recognise that we have not lived in obedience to God and that we deserve His judgement, that He has paid the penalty for our sin, and that from now on we will turn away from sin and live for God.
b) Believe – believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord and trust that He will do what He said He would do: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24)
c) Be baptised
d) Receive the Holy Spirit to enable us to live for God.

Having trusted and believed in what Christ has done for us on the cross, we now have a hope for the future, a hope of a life lived with Christ, a hope of eternal life, a hope of resurrection, a hope for the return of Christ to this world, and ultimately the hope for new heavens and a new earth.

That is surely some hope to hold on to!