Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 12th - Hope

Prayer Requests
Vacation Bible School
Sarah and Tyler Going to China
Pastor Aaron Preaching

Text – 2 Thessalonians 1:3

We’re going to spend an entire lesson today on a word that is not there. We’ve already looked at this verse, twice, actually, but something flew out at me while preparing that we HAVE to look at, because it sums up the WHOLE letter of 2 Thessalonians, and it’s a missing word.

Let’s see if you can see it,

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.

What’s missing? Let’s look at First Thessalonians and First Corinthians;

1 Thessalonians 1:3 Remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 13:13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Faith, _______, and Love. These three are a unit, they’re a trinity of good things; a three legged stool, remove one and the other two fall.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for. If we lose hope, we lose faith, if we lose faith, we lose our justification, if we lose our justification, we lose everything. Have any of you ever heard of anybody being someone afraid of Hebrews 6 and what it seems to say? Hebrews 6 sounds like you might be able to lose your salvation, if you read it wrongly; but of course that is not true, for we trust in the perseverance of the saints, that he who began a good work in you will see it to completion on the Day of Christ.

Hebrews 6 is about how vital hope is to our salvation, and beloved, if we are without hope, then we are without salvation. Hebrews 6 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, because I’m not afraid of it because I know that the author could not possibly be saying that we can lose our salvation, so we see what this passage is trying to teach us.

It’s strange all of the sudden that we’re in Hebrews 6, but it’s so vital for hope, and because of what it says is why Thessalonica was without hope. It begins by instructing teachers not to spend all of their time on salvation. It is wonderful to preach repentance, faith in Christ, the resurrection, eternal judgment; but there is SOOOOOOO much more to the faith. It says that if you’re saved, that you can’t be resaved, so what is the point of then spending all of your time trying to get saints saved. We have a much better hope and infinitely better inheritance in front of us than just being saved.

Don’t get me wrong, salvation is awesome, it is huge, it is worth talking about, but Hebrews 6 says don’t fixate on one thing while ignoring the full richness of our inheritance in Christ.

Hebrews 6:11-12 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

I earnestly desire to see in each of you the full assurance of the hope we have, so that you might serve the church in love, that this faith and patience will lead to the full inheritance of all of the promises that are available in Christ, not just the salvation.

Hebrews 6:18-20 It is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Hope is huge. Where does it come from?

Ephesians 2:12-13 Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

We were without hope without God, but through Jesus Christ shedding his blood, purchasing us in his ransom, we have a full assurance of hope in him.

Hebrews 3:6 Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

Hope does not disappoint.

Romans 8:24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Wouldn’t it be a little weird if I said, “I hope [student in class] comes to class today.” Of course it would be weird, because they’re here, I don’t hope because I see, I know, there is no patience required.

On the other hand, would it be weird if I said, “I hope [regular attender not present] comes to class today.” No, because there is a chance of that happening, but my hope is not perfect.

How about, “I hope Pastor Aaron comes to class today.” This is not really hope, because we know he is preaching right now and has made no obligation to come, and so while it would be nice if he’d stop in and say hi, this hope is small.

On the other hand, if before class I said, “I hope [student in class] comes to class today.” And I had talked to that student and he/she told me they were coming, because I trust them, and their parents, my hope was well founded and I wasn’t the least bit surprised when he/she came into class.

Hebrews 10:19-23 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

When Jesus Christ makes a promise, beloved, you’d better believe it is binding. He has promised to return, to gather his saints to him, to present us holy and blameless and above reproach before his Father. It is a big hope, and Thessalonica didn’t have it, and it wrecked their lives.

Jenny asked why they believed the false letter that said they had missed the rapture. I had to think about it a lot, and I think I have the answer. They were trusting in men rather than God, and Satan has many tricksters, tricks, and schemes to damage the faith of the believer and blind the eyes of the unbeliever.

My guess, and this is largely conjecture, but is founded on verses and also on past experiences, is that Thessalonica was trusting more in men than God. For example, I felt awful after our lesson on dating/purity when I said I wasn’t dating or even kissing another girl until I was pretty sure she was the one I was going to marry, then I went and dated a girl who I realized probably there was no future with, but because of circumstances I skipped some important steps. Beloved, I will do my best to be faithful, honest, and true, but I guarantee I will let you down again as I have in the past; so trust in Jesus, who will never let you down.

So why did Thessalonica trust the letter that was supposedly from Paul that said they’d missed the rapture, even when it was directly contradictory with his first letter, which said that saints would be caught up to meet Christ in the air when he returned?

First hint:

2 Thessalonians 3:2 [Pray] that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.

Second hint:

Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae.

Third hint:

Ephesians 6:21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.

The person that carried a letter was an emissary, an ambassador, a representative of the one who wrote the letter. It was a very important position to deliver a letter, and one that required a high level of trust. Not everybody Paul ever ministered with ended up being completely perfect in their theology, we see this Mark abandoning them, Barnabas temporarily falling in with the works-righteous crowd, Timothy starting out in the circumcision-party, and the fourth hint as to why the church at Thessalonica believed the letter;

2 Timothy 4:10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.

Demas had ministered with Paul for at least two years, and yet he ended up being a false convert. Could there have been a Judas in the mix of Paul’s disciples who delivered a false letter under the guise of being a real disciple? Quite possibly, Demas may have even been the one who delivered both letters to Thessalonica, albeit that is a pretty wild leap.

However it happened, I would bet you that the same person delivered the fake letter as the first letter, and so the church accepted it as being from Paul.

There is a powerful application in this, that me, and your other teachers/preachers who may faithfully bring you the word still shouldn’t be trusted above God. I may preach a rock-solid message one week, then next week I may tell you that in order to go to Heaven, you have to give me $100. The false message doesn’t make the true message false, but the true message also doesn’t make the false message true. Don’t let your guard down, and make sure your hope is in Christ alone.

I was preaching at the Superbowl and had a particularly gifted heckler. He really got me off track and I lost my place in my sermon. I had gotten through that you need to be perfect to go to Heaven, and taken them through some of God’s law to show them they stood condemned before God. At this point, they were without hope. A Christian chimed in from the crowd to get me back on track, he asked, “So you’re telling us we’re without hope?!?!

It was one of my favorite times open air preaching, my response: “Hope? Hope! O blessed hope; there is hope! When we were without hope, without God in the world, we have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Christ paid our fine on the cross, God manifest in the flesh died for us and defeated death! We can be reconciled to him if we will repent and trust in Jesus Christ, that his payment on Calvary’s cross was entirely sufficient to pay our way into Heaven! I implore you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, be reconciled to God! That’s hope!"

One of Dave’s favorite songs is My Hope is Built on Nothing Less by Edward Mote. Two verses of it go,

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteous;
No merit of my own I claim
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, his covenant, his blood
Sustain me in the raging flood;
When all supports are washed away,
He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac, where was his hope and trust? In God and the resurrection. The same with Christ, his hope and trust was in the unfailing promise of God of the resurrection to come. When Thessalonica lost this hope, they lost everything, even their hope and joy in temporal things.

When you would go to Jerusalem on Mt. Zion in the days of David all the way through Christ, you’d have to walk well trodden paths that went through such wonderful sounding places as the “Valley of Death” and other such dangerous and wicked places. Pagans in the area knew that Jews would be making these pilgrimages at certain times, and would set-up for business, selling food, wares, and gods along the path, usually on the hills so that they could be seen. A song that David wrote was specifically designed to be sung when these things were encountered,

Psalm 121:1-2 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

We see this today in many ways; think about Christmas, what are we supposed to be celebrating on Christmas? The birth of Jesus Christ; what do the pagans want us to celebrate? Stuff. On Easter, what should we be celebrating? The resurrection of Jesus Christ; what do the pagan want us to do? Look for eggs.

I lift my eyes unto the stores, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of all this stuff.

2 Corinthians 1:7-10 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

Set your hope on Christ, on his death and resurrection. He is your help and shield, your life and righteousness. He is faithful, he is worthy of your faith and hope, hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into us through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

1 John 2:28-3:3 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Benediction: Now, may the God of hope grant you all joy and peace in believing, that through the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)