Advent: Hope

Hope: a feeling of anxious expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Webster’s definition of hope is: a wish… Now I “hope” your definition of hope is not just a wish. But what I “hope” for more than that, is that this morning you can begin to understand just what it is exactly that you should be “hoping” in.

Paul says: but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, (Rom. 5:3-5)

The author of Hebrews says: Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, (Heb. 10:23)

Peter says that we have been: born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3c)

But what is that hope? What are you hoping for? What do you put your hope in? What kind of hope will never disappoint you? These are questions worth answering, and answer we must if we are to get to the root of our hopelessness here on earth, as humans.

In the book of Lamentations in the Old Testament, we here from the prophet Jeremiah, who is seemingly hopeless, as Israel has completely disobeyed God, they have forgotten who/what there hope is, and have placed their hope in things that have been created by the God, who Himself is our hope.

Turn your Bible to Lamentations 3 with me, and we will pick up at the point where God is giving Israel what He said He would give them, if indeed they turn to themselves or other false gods for their hope:

Lamentations 3:1-20: 1 I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; 2 he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; 3 surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long. 4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away; he has broken my bones; 5 he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; 6 he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago. 7 He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has made my chains heavy; 8 though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; 9 he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones; he has made my paths crooked. 10 He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding; 11 he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate; 12 he bent his bow and set me as a target for his arrow. 13 He drove into my kidneys the arrows of his quiver; 14 I have become the laughingstock of all peoples, the object of their taunts all day long. 15 He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood. 16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; 17 my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; 18 so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” 19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! 20 My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.

Now if you are a human, you can relate to Jeremiah on one level or at many levels. Some of you this morning told yourself, or you told God, “You keep jacking with me” or “You are tormenting me and won’t let me out of the fog” or “I’ve been crying for help and you are not answering” or “You are blocking all that I want to do” or “You just want to destroy me and find joy in doing it” or “I have forgotten what happiness is”. Whatever it is, we have all been there and have all felt the pressure of life choking us out, causing us grief, and our hopelessness is relentless at times.

We know what it feels like to have our desire and expectation shattered, left with no hope. For this reason, we are in great need of a Rescuer. This is the very reason why the Israelites of that day were anticipating the advent (the coming) of the Messiah, their Rescuer. The cry of the Israelites and the cry of Israel is no different than the cry of the rich, the discontented, the over-indulgent, selfish, greedy, consuming, materialistic, perverse culture we live in today.

We, like sheep that have all been led astray, are in desperate need of a great Rescuer, for we are getting what we deserve for our neglect of God. No one is good, not even one. This is why when we speak of the advent (coming) of the Messiah, it is good news. The advent of the Messiah is only good news if the reason for His coming is vital for us. And the condition we are in is deadly, left to our own devices, we are without hope, and will not make it.

Awww, the advent of a Rescuer! That is good news! Just who is this Rescuer. What is He going to do? Offer? The hope of mankind kind rests in who the Rescuer is and what He is going to do. Jeremiah doesn’t stop where we left off in Lamentations, he keeps going. He is about to share with us the hope He is holding on to because God has told him of Himself, and what He (God) is going to do based on His own goodness. Listen to the words of Jeremiah:

Lamentations 3:21-26: 21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” 25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. 26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

He recalls to mind the stedfast love of God that never relents. He remembers that the mercies of this great and glorious God will never be exhausted. They are new every morning. He is faithful and He Himself, the Lord, is his portion….Since God Himself is His portion, and God has steadfast love (‘hesed’) towards him, and He never lies and He is all powerful, then it is clear to Jeremiah that the only reasonable hope that he has been given is to hope in God. Why? Because God’s stedfast love will bring hope. And who or what was that hope for Israel? I’m glad you asked!

We learn from many passages throughout Scripture who this hope is for the Israelites, but Paul gives us a very clear picture of our hope and why our hope came to us:
1 Timothy 1:15: The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Christ came to save sinners, the ones who were under God’s wrath. The ones who neglect God, who are His enemies, who are detestable in His sight…. that kind of sinner; which Scripture tells us is everyone (Rom. 3:23). Jesus is the Rescuer of not just Israel, but for the whole world, if indeed we place our hope in Him! Paul states this same truth with more details in Romans 5:

Romans 5:6-8: 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

While we were still weak, ungodly, unrighteous sinners, Christ died for you so that the hopelessness you are living in would turn to everlasting hope. Christ’s death and resurrection secures for us a reconciled relationship to God, the one who exacts payments for the sins done against Him. Jesus paid it all for you to be reconciled to God!

And this same Jesus has promised us that He will not only reconcile us to God through His perfect life, death and resurrection, but He will also come back in the last days and make all things new, including our bodies. He will re-unite our saved souls with new glorified bodies that can dwell in the presence of God forever.

The first appearing of Jesus saved us from the penalty and the power of sin, but the second appearing of Jesus will save us from the presence of Satan, sin and, death! Paul continues a few chapters later in Romans and says this:

Romans 8:20-25: 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

If you have seen what you hope for, then it is no longer hope. But to hope for something you have not seen is hope. We are eagerly awaiting the coming of Jesus (the second advent), which is our hope of glory (being with the Lord and sharing in His beautiful glory). Believer, you were saved for this very hope…to be adopted by God as a son or daughter and to receive your redeemed (glorified) body that can dwell with the Lord forever!

Hebrews 9:27-28: Just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

The author of Hebrews clearly states that the saving work of Christ began with His first coming when he became sin for us on the cross; and this work will be completed at His second coming when he saves us from the final wrath of God and gives us rest in His glorious kingdom. If you take away the second coming, then salvation is torn in half. And half salvation is no salvation at all! He came. He will come again. We hope in that!

Piper: The center of Christianity is the coming of the Son of God into the world as a real man to destroy the works of the devil and create a new people for his own glory. The very heart of our faith is that He did this by obeying the law of God, dying for the sins of His people, rising victoriously over death, ascending to God’s right hand with all His enemies under his feet. The second coming of Christ is the completion of His saving work. If you take it away, the whole fabric of His saving work unravels.

He came to conquer! He will conquer! He will not be denied the fruit of His sufferings. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. He made it. He redeemed it. He will have it. He has not evaporated into some never-to-be-touched-again realm of the spirit. He is reigning at the Father’s right hand until the time for the restoration of all things. This is our hope…which we have not yet seen as Paul said in Romans 8!

We also read in Romans 8:23, that we have the firstfruits of the Spirit. The firstfruits is Jesus, who died and then was resurrected in order to be the firstfruits (first of many who will conquer death) of many who believe in Him so that those who have faith in Him will receive the fruit of what He has accomplished. And the end result for all who put their hope in Christ will be this:

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev. 21:1-5)

Oh what a glorious hope we have in the second appearing of Jesus! This book was written to a bunch of suffering Christians who are dying by the sword, by burning at the stake, by beasts, and gladiators, etc… They needed to hear what their hope is, and hope they were given. The early church held onto this and died while singing hymns, and psalms and praying for their enemy. How can this be? Rev. 21 is why!

This was their living hope: 1 Peter 1:3: 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…

This living hope propelled the early church into revival. They lived differently because of this living hope! They died differently! They spoke and sacrificed differently. Tertullian (a church father) said that the blood of the martyrs was the seed (of growth) for the church.

Believer: This is your hope in Christ. This is why Jesus is coming again. This is why we eagerly await His coming. A new heaven and a new earth coming down to us. Not some pie in the sky, but a whole new world where all the pain and loss and misery and brokenness of this world is gone! Christ will reign and will make all things new and we will be with Him in the same way He was with His disciples after the resurrection.

Unbeliever: This can be your hope today, through faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Do you believe that Jesus came, He died for the sins of many, and rose again. If you can say “Yes, I believe that!”, then your hope is also the new heaven and new earth!

Closing:
Do you eagerly await Christ’s coming? If you come up short in answering this question, there are three possible explanations. From the least to the most serious:

1) You may have trusted Christ as your Savior and Lord but you have not yet been well taught about the second coming, and ignorance hinders the eager expectation of your heart and your prayers.

2) You may have trusted Christ as Savior and Lord; you may know in your head the truth of his second coming; but you have grown cold and distant and have not felt for some time that Christ is precious and that seeing him would be the fulfillment of all your longings.

3) You may have never submitted to Christ as Lord and trusted him as Savior and may stand in desperate need of redemption.

Believer: Your hope is in the redemption of your body, and that hope is meant to give you hope in this life of pain and suffering to bring great glory to our great God.

Unbeliever: Your hope today is that in your sin and hopelessness, Jesus died for you so that you could experience the hope of glory! Would you surrender to Jesus today? Would you confess your hopelessness before the Lord and ask Him to be your hope? “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Hebrews 4:7

God loves you. God has done everything to take away your sin. God has done everything to reconcile you to Himself. Jesus took care of everything and now we are called to trust in His work, not yours.

Read Matthew 24:30-31:

30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Let’s Pray!

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