Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Final thoughts on hope

2 final points regarding the Christian hope in the New Testament:

a) We should pray that our hope continues to grow:
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for those who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Eph 1:17-23).

Paul, writing here to Christians, prays that they will know the hope to which they have been called. Any Christian will have some knowledge of that hope, but Paul demonstrates here that this is something that needs to grow in us, through the Spirit. As we meditate on the power exerted in Christ when he was raised from the dead, the ascended glory of Christ, and the headship of Christ, our hope will grow. The more we study Christ, the more our hope will grow.

b) Faith, hope and love are linked:

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). (and the most neglected of these is hope, says David Pawson!).
“But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” (1 Th 5:8).
“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.” (Heb 10:22-24)
“Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Pe 1:21-22).

Faith is a living hope in God’s love. Because God has granted us faith in Him, we have hope in Him, which should result in acts of love towards others.

There are some influential Christian leaders today who are trying to move the hope of the Christian away from the future and back into today’s world. Roger Oakland summarises that rather than being concerned about spending eternity with Jesus, the Emerging Church promotes the Kingdom of God in the here and now.

This is not a message that will provide our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world with much encouragement, or hope in a God who allows such persecution without setting out the promise of eternity, the promises to those who overcome. It is also difficult to see how Stephen, the first Christian martyr, would have had the courage to die for the glory of God without having his heart set in heaven: “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look’, he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’” (Acts 7:55-56), before he was stoned to death. I would counteract the emerging church view with Paul’s statement that “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Cor 15:19).

This attack on the Christian’s hope for the future is surely unbiblical given the study we have undertaken. We must surely study and understand more of what our hope is, through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, for when difficult times come, it is our hope which will enable us to endure.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Heb 6:19).

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