What does the church have to offer the world? What is our hope as Christians?
Hope is the thing we have to offer the world in the gospel. We live in an age of plenty, one of the first generations to have leisure time and the money to be able to decide what to do with it, to speak of retail therapy and club memberships and expect them to be normal. Even in a time of recession we have more than our grandparents, we are historically secure as a society, we are living longer, receiving better medical care and so on.
And yet there is a curious disconnect between those facts and the hopelessness many people feel. More people are on anti-depressants in the UK than voted in last years X Factor Final. Every year in the UK more than 13 million working days are lost to stress, depression and anxiety. And nearly twice as many people die by suicide than in road traffic accidents. They are sobering statistics and show how many view life as dissatisfying and even hopeless.
As always there is a danger than Christians rather than standing out in society follows the trends in society, and if God’s people lose their hope then what chance is there for society. If believers lose their hope then we will be dissatisfied, anxious, loss our assurance and increasingly apathetic to faith and the world around us.
This series aims to remind us and to explore what our hope is, its roots, its security and to look at the impact it should have on us and through us on the world around us.
Someone has said “Hope is listening to the music of the future, faith is dancing to that music in the present.”
As God’s people living in a world without hope we need to be confident in our hope and living to its music now, as we hold out hope to world without it.
We are going to begin by exploring Romans 5:1-11, where Paul highlights the blessings that are ours through justification by faith. The first is peace with God which bookends these verses and leads us to be confident that we can approach God and the other is hope which we are going to focus on tonight.
In Romans 1-3 Paul has shown how there is no-one righteous either because or a refusal to recognise God or because of a failure to keep the law, in v21-22 of Romans 3 we have one of the greatest ‘Buts’ in the Bible “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known...This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” In chapter 4 Paul goes on to explored that righteousness and how it was given to us “He was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification.” Justification is God’s declaration that he views us by faith in Jesus death and punishment for our sins and resurrection as his perfect children. To be justified is a statement about our legal standing – we are declared right with God, and this justification brings relationship with God by grace and hope not just for the future but for this life now.
1. A Hope to boast in(1-2)(2b)Paul exhorts the Roman Christians to boast in what “in the hope of the glory of God.” But what does that mean and what will it look like?
(1-2)Give us a clear explanation of what justification by faith brings. It brings a change of status: “we have peace with God through Jesus Christ” sin is dealt with, the cause of conflict and opposition between us and God and God and us is paid for in Jesus, the wages of our sin is paid for in Jesus death and now we enter a new relationship with God. Not an uneasy truce but a new relational reality marked not by absence of conflict but by a unity, love, friendship and shared purpose and goal.
Secondly the justified through faith “have access by faith into this grace in which we now stand”. God views us by grace and we stand before God in grace. When we come to God he does not see guilty, sin sick and stained rebels but obedient sons, which means we can confidently come to him by faith in Jesus.
The third is “the hope of the glory of God.”
Imagine a wedding, at the rehearsal the bride expresses a hope it will not rain. What is that hope based on? How certain is it to happen? Not very it is a wish with nothing to back it up.
But what about the bridegroom who expresses the hope that his bride turns up? What is his hope based on? Relationship, it is confident, it builds on everything he knows about her and them.The hope we have is like the second it is based on God’s character, what he has done for us in the past which means we trust his word about the future. It is a hope that is concrete and confident in future expectation, because it is based on what Jesus has done for us in justifying us by faith. You see that here because Paul says we can boast in this hope. He means that we can exult in it, glory in it because it is certain, because it doesn’t depend on what we do but on what God has done in Jesus, who he has revealed himself to be.
We can boast in it because we know it is certain. But there is more to it than just that. Boasting is more than just a confidence it is an excited expectation, it is something that because we know it is happening we are looking forward to. **But what is it we excitedly and expectantly look forward to? “the glory of God.”But what does that means?
a. Seeing God in all his glory
In the bible we catch glimpses of God in his glory; Moses as he comes down from Mount Sinai, Isaiah as he has his vision of God in ch6, Habakkuk in ch3, Daniel in his vision in ch7, Jesus at his transfiguration, John in his revelation. But they are mere glimpses, and majestic as they are the words used to describe them are trying to convey what the heavens and earth cannot contain – the glory of God. But one day because we are justified by faith we will see God in all his glory – face to face. With no veil, no barrier, no need for God to hide it, or need for us to cower away from it. We look forward to seeing God face to face, knowing him and being known by him.
b. Changed to share in God’s glory
But there is even more to it! In order to do that our hope is that we are changed, that we are glorified too, made fit to stand before God in all his glory. (Rom 8:30)”And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified, and those he justified he also glorified.”
Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...” It is one of the most earth shattering consequences of the fall, we can’t be with God! But Paul is saying this is overturned in Jesus; justified by faith we will be glorified so we can partake in and see God’s glory.
Isn’t that something to be excited about? To hope for? To live in excited expectation of? And it depends not on us but on what Jesus has done for is. It brings us assurance, this is our certain hope because of Jesus. We can boast in it, live confidently in the light of it, dance to it because it is our certain future.
2. A hope to live by (3-11)We need to grasp the treasures that are our because of Jesus death and resurrection for us because hope has significant implications for how we live now.
The implications are seen in (3-11). Our hope changes the way we view the present and live in it. It liberates us to glory in our sufferings(3), not because we are masochists, or because we can keep a stiff upper lip, but because we know that it is not pointless, that suffering is not hopeless. Suffering produces perseverance which produces character which produces hope. Suffering weans us from loving the world and putting our hope in the world and is used by God to enable us increasingly to boast in the hope of the glory of God. It makes us long for our glorious future where God rules and reigns. And as we fix our hopes less on the world our faith is proved and tested, and we are refined and fitted for our glorious future.
(5)And that hope will not disappoint us as we suffer, because God has given us his Spirit who dwells in us reminding us of God’s love for us now, shown to us in Jesus death for us when we were God’s enemies. And if God loved us like that then and secured our future by faith he will not be doing any less now.
Our hope is not just escaping God’s wrath by the skin of our teeth, it is not creeping as quietly as possible into heaven by the back door, it is not just being saved, and it is not just future. Our hope is a present reality dependent on what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, it is relationship with God enjoyed now, it is access to God confident that we stand in grace, it is the knowledge of a glorious future to which the Spirit testifies and works in the present as he points to God’s love. It is a hope that we expectantly and excited wait for as God readies us for it through suffering.
Our faith is certain, our future is glorious, and it has implications for now.
“Hope is listening to the music of the future, faith is dancing to that music in the present.”