I was so immensely blessed to speak to a lovely group of women at my church yesterday. Because I am incredibly long winded, I didn’t get to really dive into the topic of HOPE as I “hoped” (hahah). So, as promised, here is the transcript of the full lesson for your reading pleasure. May it bring you into a closer understanding of who you are IN CHRIST and may that bring you HOPE in every circumstance!
We all have a stories! We all have things in our lives that cause pain, distress, and uncertainty. In fact, There isn’t one person in the Bible that doesn’t have a story – precisely the reason that God so graciously put them in there.
So how do we move forward? How do we “press On” and “run the race with endurance” as Paul so eagerly encourages us? Or Persevere to the end as dear grandpa John says. What is perseverance anyway?
Perseverance: in Greek literally means, “to patiently endure difficulties without giving up.”
We know we can’t persevere on our own accord, we need HOPE! Not just any HOPE we need to hope in Christ! This is where we begin and end. So let’s cover ourselves in Christ for the next few moments and walk in His ever present light.
We are going to anchor ourselves in one verse, and see how this one essential verse can cover the whole of our lives. This verse is found in Revelations. If you haven’t spent much time in Revelations I would highly recommend it. Here we find such wealth in the “who” of God and the “why” to life that everyone is so eager to know. God was gracious to give us the answers if we truly want to know it.
Revelation was written by the apostle John after he was exiled to the aisle of Patmos.
- the conditions he was under – brutal and violent – not island living; not a lush garden with servants and abundance of food -bleak and barren land
- He was old – in his 90s when written.
- He was alone – not surrounded by the children or grandchildren or friends.
Yet HE HOPED IN CHRIST. For God declared to him the past, the present, and the future hope.
So let’s look at Rev. 1:8
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who [a]is to come, the Almighty.”
Who is God talking about here – THE I AM ?
-John 8:58 CHRIST says, “TRULY TRULY I SAY TO YOU, BEFORE ABRAHAM I AM.”
So Christ tells us that HE is the I AM. SO here in Rev. 1:8 we are talking about Christ. Christ who was, who is, who is to come.
The beauty about this passage is that we can take this and pour HOPE into our past, our present and our future.
First, let’s look at our past:
- Redemption over our past. If you believe in Him your sins are forgiven, you don’t have to have a “scary” or tumultuous past like mine to appreciate the fact that you can look back on your sins and know for certain that they are washed in the blood of Christ and experience the full joy that brings.
“He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who [a]fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who [b]fear Him.”
1John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”
Acts 3:19, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
2 Cor. 5:17. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Ephesians 1:7, “In Him we have redemption” …in Greek, “redemption” here is talking about from slavery…”through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”
Isaiah proclaimed a Messiah – one who would take our place. We see this as a FREE and covered promise of God FULFILLED. We have true hope and joy in that we are made new!
Not only this – do we have amazing forgiveness – but Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2 to look back on who we were before forgiveness, LEST WE FORGET AND BECOME BOASTFUL in ourselves.
But this is also for another purpose – people are so big to say forget the past but it serves such a purpose:
-WE REMEMBER WHO WE ARE – TAKE JOY IN GOD’S work of salvation and
-look to HOW GOD’S PROMISES HAVE BEEN KEPT IN OUR LIVES.
1 Cor. 1:9 tells us GOD IS FAITHFUL and we see that as we look back on each and every day.
I look back at times like this, along with times from my past:
-the horror of my first two years of college
-my unredeemed marriage
-my son’s health
-my daughter’s health
-the death of my father-in-law
And I know the things that took place and the small moments within them, as well as, the ultimate outcomes they lead to were not coincidental. There are so many moments I can look back and visibly see God’s HAND at work!
Look at the Old Testament- they knew and trusted in the FACT that GOD IS A PROMISE KEEPER -the died knowing that the Messiah would come and it was counted to them as righteousness. This gives us hope as we look at our next point.
Rev. 1:8 not only tells us Christ is the one who was, but the one WHO IS!
God didn’t just keep His promises, He continues to keep His promises. ALL THINGS PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE work for our GOOD and HIS GLORY. They are all working toward His end GOAL !
SO what does Christ IS mean for us today?
Romans reminds us that Christ intercedes for us – every second of every day. When God looks at us He sees His son, not us.
This has been the biggest truth of my life. When I first became a believer, I tried to paint myself into what I should look like; to perform, to embody perfection, to prove my belief or that I had become a Christian. Yet, I felt hopeless knowing I could never be more than filthy rags. I knew I could never “work” my way to perfection, even though I felt like that’s what everyone expected of me. BUT IT WAS NOT WHAT GOD EXPECTED OF ME.
NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME. – THROUGH NOTHING WE HAVE DONE- could you imagine if it actually relied on us? That’s what the law of the Old Testament was for- to show us we can’t do it.
JESUS PAID IT ALL!
Matthew 7 says we will know believers by THEIR FRUIT, but we’ve taken that to MEAN THAT’S HOW THEY BECOME CHRISTIANS.
We know people by their fruit because it is the HOLY SPIRIT that provides the fruit – NOT US. This truth has been twisted to make us into judges. WE ARE PEOPLE who are NOW SCARED to not look a certain way!! This has caused great disfunction in relationships and the church as we expect too much out of people. Not giving God the ability to mold and mature believers, to allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives and through them.
WE need to go back to Remembering WE ARE FREE, FULLY FORGIVEN in CHRIST. IT is HIS HOLY SPIRIT who works THROUGH US. ALL GOOD THINGS WE DO ARE HIS!
WE CANT REDUCE OUR RELATIONSHIP with GOD to mere works/actions.
GOD made a us NEW CREATION IN CHRIST. We are from that day forward JUSTIFIED through faith. The sanctification begins.
Take Two things away from this:
- We are made perfect in Christ. Christ intercedes for us daily. God sees HIS SON – fully clean before Him.
- Each thing we go through (as James also reminds us) is for our sanctification and our relationship with God. Our molding into His Likeness – God promised us He would not just see us as His Son but make us like HIM- The former is done and now He is working on the latter.
We have hope TODAY IN CHRIST because we can mess up and be ok. We will not lose our salvation. Our actions are a manifestation of what the SPIRIT is doing in our lives as our relationship with Christ grows stronger!
We take hope in all that is happening as God is working and molding our sanctification and to HIS END GOAL.
ACTS 14:22, “THROUGH MANY TRIALS WE MUST ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD.”
Let’s look at Galatians. – 2:6-16:
“6 But from those who [a]were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God [b]shows no partiality)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. 7 But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel [c]to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been [d]to the circumcised 8 (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship [e]to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), 9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, [f]James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right [g]hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he [h]stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from [i]James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing [j]the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not [k]straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? [l]
15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of [m]the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of [n]the Law; since by the works of [o]the Law no [p]flesh will be justified. 17 But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be!”
I LOVE this chapter!! Paul is so calm and completely thwarted by the presence of the Jewish leaders. He knows his godly mission and nothing will keep him from it. He knows the law is abolished! He knows that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Yet, we see Peter freaking out about the jewish leaders being present – immediately moving away from what he should be doing, afraid of what it will look like to others. And not only does he give up what God called him to do, but he drags Barnabas away with him as well into his hypocrisy.
I always love Paul – because he is like AM I SUPPOSED TO BE IMPRESSED? WHY SHOULD I CHANGE WHO I AM BECAUSE they WILL JUDGE ME? This reminds us of Christ right? He didn’t perform for the Pharisees. He did the will of GOD. Paul here is more concerned about being God’s hands and feet and being true to HIM!!
Whereas we tend to follow PETER- the performance…the look of it.
This is why Galatians reminds us WHO WE ARE – IN CHRIST. FORGIVEN – past present and future.
We can RELEASE THE WEIGHT we carry and trust God for our lives, our sanctification, our plans, our trials.
Sounds dumb to say we can trust God doesn’t it? I mean of course we can. It’s ourselves we can’t trust. I think that is why God reminds us in JOB of WHO HE IS and WHO WE ARE!
We need to remember to walk in the SPIRIT and NOT in our emotions.
CS LEWIS talks about this is his book PROBLEM WITH PAIN – fear is our biggest motivator and contributor to our mistrust in GOD and our lives.
If we surround ourselves in FEAR we are laying aside the love and trust of the ONE THING WE CAN actually rely on. – THE ONE PROVEN THING IN OUR LIFE!
TAKE EVERY THOUGHT CAPTIVE! 2 Cor. 10:5
This leads me to my final point:
CHRIST THE ONE TO COME – OUR FUTURE HOPE!
“13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”
As I mentioned before, our faithful forefathers died trusting in the Messiah – the promise of God that they died trusting would come.
HOW MUCH MORE SHOULD WE HOLD FAST TO GOD’S PROMISES seeing the fulfillment of the Messiah!
How often do we look at the OT and laugh at those who walked with God, saw Him in tangible ways and still mistrusted or doubted or failed. We scoff and YET WE DO THE SAME THING even though we have the full fulfillment of God’s OT promises!
O YEA OF LITTLE FAITH!!! Has God not shown HIMSELF TRUSTWORTHY??? I am sure if those apostles or if the Israelites of the wandering dessert could see us today they would be like, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME – we would never doubt if we had all of that! I mean they have the indwelling of the HOLY SPIRIT- DEATH DONE- NO LAW!”
God promises us that our justification is finished and our sanctification will be complete in Him upon our time entry into Heaven. OUR FUTURE HOME IS OUR PROMISE KEPT! We can trust in it.
GOD HAS PROMISED A PLACE FOR US – a new heaven and a new earth without disease, fear, or trial. WE are working towards this goal!
Revelations 2:17, “17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’”
& 3:21, “21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
THE CURRENT SUFFERINGS OF THE DAY ARE NOT TO BE COMPARED WITH THE PROMISE TO COME!
Therefore these sufferings should bring forth a dependence and a longing for God and a hope in our future home. We keep focused on the goal – the goal of NONE SHALL PERISH, BEING HIS HANDS AND FEET, and the reward of an eternity with Him.
We look at the guilt of yesterday, the sins of today, and the trials of tomorrow and we have HOPE. CHRIST WHO WAS, WHO IS, AND WHO IS TO COME- we press on towards the goal, running the race with endurance, bearing with one another, using our gifts, becoming more like Christ as HE BRINGS FORTH US INTO HIS COMPLETED WORK! Amen
“28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us [a]show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; 29 for our God is a consuming fire.”