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More Hope

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- More-Hope
note: this post is a slightly edited version of the devotional shared at Redeemer's quarterly member's meeting on April 26th.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).

I praise the Lord for the encouragement that the
Future Hope series was for so many. As the preacher I had the added benefit of getting to spend a lot more time in the preparation of those messages than the forty minutes or so it took to preach each one. But together we spent a lot of time thinking about the future, a full ten weeks in fact. And what we were doing was not prognosticating about debatable issues, but really entrenching ourselves against despair. We were shoring up our hope, doubling down even in the face of discouragements. Now here is a question for you - "was that worth our time?". Is such a focus on future hope justified? Should we give such attention to that theme in Scripture? The more I reflect on this, the more I am convinced that this was good and right to do. Hope is essential. The Christian should always have hope – we should never despair, never truly lose heart, never fail to see something coming that we can give thanks for, and that we can count on. 

Recently I was thinking about this whole idea of hope and its connection to faith – especially as we go from the one series on hope to a short one on Habakkuk. Habakkuk carries with it that great verse at the peak of the book – "the righteous shall live by his faith" (2:4). It is very much a book about faith. And when you try to think of the difference between faith and hope you realize that it is very slight. And so I was thinking, am I just droning on and on about the same thing? It seems that whatever I try to preach, all I keep doing is pointing God's people to look up and consider the grace of God – both past, present and future – and all I can encourage them to do is to hope, to have faith, to trust in God, to rejoice in God, to glorify God.

In many ways it feels like I'm saying the same things over and over again. Yet, there is such diversity in the Scriptures, even though the message really does boil down to these simple ideas like faith in Christ and hope in Him. Like a diamond there are different facets – always new angles to see these same great truths.

I began reading The Puritan Hope by Iian Murray, and one of the things I realized right away is that I really should have read this before we did the future hope series! It's a very good book. There were so many good quotes about hope right off the bat – consider this one by Calvin which clarifies the connection between faith and hope. "The word hope I take for faith; and indeed hope is nothing else but the constancy of faith". I wish I could have read that earlier – I sat long, reading and thinking hard to come up with a similar definition of hope – that is, that hope is simply future-focused faith. 

But this quote by the great preacher Charles H. Spurgeon really stuck out to me. Here Spurgeon, preaching from the Psalms, is encouraging Christians not to give way to despair but to have a future hope like David:

"David was not a believer in the theory that the world will grow worse and worse, and that the dispensation will wind up with general darkness, and idolatry. Earth's sun is to go down amid tenfold night if some of our prophetic brethren are to be believed. Not so do we expect, but we look for a day when the dwellers in all lands shall learn righteousness, shall trust the Saviour, shall worship thee alone, O God, 'and shall glorify thy name.' The modern notion has greatly damped the zeal of the church for missions, and the sooner it is shown to be unscriptural the better for the cause of God. It neither consorts with prophecy, honours God, nor inspires the church with ardour. Far hence it be driven." Here, Spurgeon reminds us again to live with hope, to have an optimistic view of the future. And I believe we still need to hear that message.

The more I read, the more I realize that this joyful, hopeful, faith-filled tone is exactly what we need to keep labouring towards. Just consider again 1 Peter 1:3. What have we been born again to? A living hope. Not to stoicism, not to dread, nor doom and gloom. Hopeful Christianity is what we are going for, not chicken-little Christianity, and not Eeyore Christianity. We have a living hope. How did this happen? By God's work of regeneration in us through the Resurrection of Christ. In Peter's phrase, our living hope is sandwiched between regeneration and resurrection. You ask the question, "how did we get this living hope?", and the answer is twofold: because God caused us to be born again, and because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Our hope comes from regeneration and resurrection. And what is the connection between those two? Well, it is simple. Jesus said, "Because I live, you also will live" (John 14:19). Eternal life is in Christ and in the power of His resurrection, and yet that very gift of life is given to us by the Holy Spirit when we are born again. 

And what do these things produce? What does Christ's resurrection bring and what does regeneration bring? Hope. Living hope. Hope that is alive and burning within us. Hope is at the centre of the Christian life. We are saved by faith alone - and that faith is not only looking to the past work of Christ it is looking with hope to the future, to our future. So hope, hope and more hope! I may be a broken record on this, but I refuse to apologize for it! God has caused us to be born again by such a powerful risen Saviour, how can we do anything other than live with hope?

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Tuesday, 16 July 2024