By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
(Shabbat, 6th August, 2011)
Hope is a great motivator. It is a powerful force in life inspiring and driving decisions, career choices and activities to which people commit themselves. People go to school in expectation of landing a good job after acquiring higher education. People trade in hopes of making money to take care of their needs and to live comfortably. Farmers sow in expectation of a bountiful harvest and therefore greater monetary returns. As the Psalmist put it poetically, "He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him" (Ps. 126:6 ESV). The list goes on.
Now, what motivates you as a believer? What is your hope? Will you be prepared to make any and every sacrifice to stay faithful to your Christian calling and faith? Ephesians 4:4 says we have been called to "one hope" of our Christian calling. So you must know WHY you are a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter tell us: "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear"(1 Pet. 3:15).
So what is your hope in Christ? What will make you follow Christ faithfully to the end? In Col 1:21-23 the Apostle Paul says that even though we were formerly alienated from God and enemies in our minds towards Him because of our wicked deeds, we have been reconciled to God in the body of Christ by His death so that He might "present us holy and blameless and irreproachable before Him" but on this condition–"if we continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister".
What is this "hope of the gospel" from which we must never move away if we will continue to be "holy, blameless and irreproachable" before Him? And what is its relationship to perseverance in the faith in which we must be "grounded" and "settled" (steadfast)?
The hope is not a solitary hope. Earlier Paul, commending the faith of the Colossians, talks about the hope laid up for them in heaven (Col. 1:3-6). That hope is not founded on a single promise of God, but on all the promises of God that has been given to the believer. What are some of these promises?
Here’s a select few:
· Hope of the Spirit (John 14:16; Acts 2:38-39).
· Hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2; 1 John 2:25).
· Hope of Resurrection (1 Thess. 4:13-17; Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:19-23).
· Hope of His blessed return (Titus 2:13).
· Hope of the Kingdom (Heb. 12:28; Matt. 19:28).
· Hope of a blissful eternity in heaven (John 14:1-3; Rev. 21:1-7).
· Hope of His likeness (1 John 3:1-2; 1 Cor. 15:49; Php. 3:20-21; 2 Cor. 3:18).
In these same promises we find hope, we also find motivation to persevere in the faith in steadfast holiness and obedience. We read in 2 Cor. 7:1: "Having therefore these promises [of God in 1 Cor. 6:16-18], dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God". So then the promises of God to the believer should both inspire hope and a pure faith.
In 1 Pet 1, the Apostle Peter elaborates on the connection between the two; that is, the Christian hope to which we have been ‘born’ and the proper way to respond to it.
First, the Apostle characterizes this hope as an undying hope, to wit "a living hope" to which the Father has begotten us again in accordance with His mercy by means of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (v. 3).
Don’t fear that the hope in which you have put your trust will ever fail; it’s guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ! In so far as the Resurrection is a reality, so is your hope in Him. In 1 Cor. 15, the Apostle Paul argues that if Christ has not been resurrected, then our faith is vain, and we are yet in our sins, given that "Christ was raised for our justification" (1 Cor. 15:17; Rom. 4:25).
Having established that our Christian hope is living and sure, the Apostle goes on to describe the hope as "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (v. 4).
An indestructible inheritance with an unfading glory! What treasure is comparable to our Christian hope, our imperishable inheritance in heaven? Devote yourself fully to the service of this treasure which does not depreciate in value nor susceptible to theft (Matt. 6:19-21). Nothing you lose in this life for the sake of this inheritance comes close in comparison (Heb. 10:34; Mark 10:29-30). This hope is eternal life, even "the crown of life" (Titus 1:2; Jam. 1:12).
The Apostle now touches on the condition in which we inherit the hope, the imperishable inheritance reserved in heaven for us: We await the manifestation of the hope while "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (v. 5).
God has not left us to wait for the hope in our own strength. God has given us His Spirit "as the guarantee of all that He has in store for us" (2 Cor. 5:5; 1:22 GNB). Our bit is to have continual faith in Him. Gal.5:5 says, "we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith".
What then should be our emotional response to this guaranteed "hope of righteousness"? We are to "rejoice greatly" (KJV) even if God wills it (hence ‘need be’) that we are "grieved by various trials" (ESV v. 6).
The waiting period will not be sweetened with honey throughout. God will allow trials to come your way, but still "rejoice in hope" (Rom. 12:12) when they come. "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; [because] we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17-18). The apostle Peter wrote in the 5th chapter of his book: "the God of all grace, who called you unto His eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have suffered a little while, shall himself perfect, establish, strengthen you" (1 Pet. 5:10).
The outcome of the trial of our faith, which should be deemed much more valuable than perishable gold refined in fire, is "praise and honour and glory" at Christ’s second coming (v. 7).
The message is that even if perishable gold is "tried with fire" to bring out the glitter, how much more our priceless faith which is imperishable (in its effects of spiritual blessings)? We will necessarily undergo trials in order to sparkle much more gloriously at our Lord’s return.
Your present trial of faith is therefore for your ultimate good. So don’t despair if your family or friends despise you for your Christian principles. Don’t feel bad if, as a Christian lady, your peers ridicule you as old-fashioned because you dress decently and modestly. That’s a small price to pay for the unimaginable glory prepared for you. The Apostle Paul wrote: "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18).
The ‘joy ahead’ was what motivated the Lord Jesus all the way to the cross, "despising the shame" (Heb. 12:2). But, of course, that was not the main reason–He loved us dearly (John 15:13)! And so must we (I John 4:19).
Hence, in addition to the ‘joy ahead’, the real motivation should be because we love the Lord Jesus, even though we have not yet seen Him physically with our eyes. Yea, we believe in Him though we have not seen Him "and [yet] rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory" as evidence of our attainment of salvation, the goal of our faith (vv. 8-9).
Because of the salvation you have obtained in Christ, you ought to love Him deeply and rejoice in loving Him "with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory"! Be beside yourself with joy then; your salvation is secure in Christ, "the Author and Finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:2). Don’t let the devil or any circumstance dampen your joy in the Lord. Love Him and rejoice in Him at all times (Php. 4:4). That shows you believe and know that you have truly been saved!
This salvation, in which we must exult with joy as an expression of our love for Christ, is no mean one. It comes to us with such unprecedented grace and glory that the prophets of old "inquired and searched diligently"… "what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify" its fulfillment. But it turned out, they only prophesied for our benefit. This benefit consists in the spiritual blessings that accompany the Holy Spirit-empowered preaching of the gospel, "things the angels desire to look into" (vv. 11-12).
You haven’t even begun to appreciate the salvation you have received in Jesus. It’s absolutely mind-blowing! Because of your spiritual union with Christ, you have been given authority to tread over all the power of the devil, and he can’t do you a thing (Luke 10:19). Your destiny is to be clothed with the very Glory of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 3:1-2). The glorious New Testament era of great grace the prophets foresaw is here with you, and the angels in heaven are in wonderment as to the great grace bestowed on you as a result (Eph.3:12). You are most blessed!
For this reason, "gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (v. 13). Here, the Apostle Peter says that although we are under great grace, we await an even greater grace at the return of Christ and so we must prepare our minds for action with sobriety, while hoping to the end.
Does your mind often wander from the things of Christ? If yes, you are not alone. In this "present evil age", distractions are all too many. From the worries of everyday life to an overkill of media entertainment transmitted through a plethora of media outlets and platforms, we are bombarded with all sorts of diversions. But do remember that you are not of this world (John 17:16) but spiritually united with Christ. Therefore "Set your minds on things that are above [where Christ is seated on the right hand of God in heaven], not on things that are on earth" (Col. 3:1-2 ESV). However, this is not guaranteed to come naturally; it will take some personal effort. You need to have a sober and ready mind.
The next three verses show us how: Do not be conformed to your former lusts, but live holy lives as "obedient children" in resemblance to God (vv. 14-16).
Do you realize the power and blessing of holiness? To be holy is to be like God. Don’t trivialize the call to holiness. Especially if you acknowledge God as your Father and Judge. Know that He deserves to be feared–and that throughout your temporary stay on this earth (v.17). "knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (v.18-19 MKJV).
Beloved, be holy out of reverence for God to show that you value the perfect and precious blood of Christ that has brought you redemption (see Eph. 1:7). Praise Him and love Him with all your heart for this priceless gift of His blood. His sacrifice by which He shed His blood was not an afterthought; He was "foreordained before the foundation of the world" but was revealed in "these last times" just for you (v. 20; cp Isa. 9:6). Just so you might hope and believe in God through Him–just so He might be the Author and Agency of our faith in God "who raised Him up from the dead and gave Him glory" (v.21). Who but the perfect God could demonstrate such selfless love?
The end-result of it all–the perseverance, the joyful expectancy, and the holy living–is a purified life achieved through obedience with the power of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of that purified life is to "love one another with a pure heart fervently" (v 22) to show that you have been born again not by perishable seed but by the imperishable seed of the Word of God, "which lives and abides forever" (v. 23). Without regeneration by the Word, the human condition is not a rosy one. The glory of unregenerate man is like that of the grass which withers and drops off (v 24).
Come to think of it–without the regenerative power of the Word, you really have no reason to boast beyond the glory of the flower! As King Solomon put it, life without God is “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; vanity of vanities, all is vanity" (Eccl. 1:2). We read in Jeremiah chapter 9: "Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD" (vv. 23-24).
It’s the Word of God makes all the difference: It endures forever. "This is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (v. 25). Halleluiah! The life-giving Word is not far away or unknown; it’s the gospel preached to you! This word is the hope from you must not move away; it’s the "anchor of your soul" (Heb. 6:18-19). Hold on to it to the end. Never give up! It’s not over until it’s over. We will only come to "share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end" (Heb. 3:14 ESV).
To hope thus, from the beginning to the end, requires patience. This is because "we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it" (Rom. 8:24-25; cp Heb. 10:36). Then leave the rest to "the God of Hope": "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" (Rom. 15:13 ESV).
God who has begun a good work in you will complete it (Php. 1:6). As hope in His awesome promises motivates you to trust and to love Him at all times, He will empower you even more to hope till the revelation of the glorious grace to be unveiled at the return of the Messiah! Amen!