Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Hope in Christ Jesus

As our attention turns to the Christmas season, we should be preparing ourselves spiritually for the birth of the Christ child by understanding the meaning and impact of this joyous moment. For Christians around the world, this season reminds us of God’s love for us and His gift of salvation that was manifested in flesh. That gift that blesses us daily provides for our eternal life with our Heavenly Father and frees us from the yoke and chains of sin. 

Because of Jesus, we have a hope that we did not have. Our lives, when we were unsaved, had no hope. We walked in darkness and had nothing to look forward to. We had no assurance of anything after this life. In short, all we had to look forward to is death and nothing else beyond that.

Hope is something that allows us to transcend the things of this world. Let us read what Paul tells the churches in Rome about transcending the physical in chapter 8 of Romans. He tells us, “23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

As Christians, we have a hope that is based not in part to something we already have or possess but in whole in a future glory that we must wait for. The main points from Paul’s excellent summation of this hope are that it is given to those who are saved and have accepted Christ Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord and that we must patiently wait for it to be fulfilled.

When you look at the Old Testament, specifically the Book of Isaiah, God gives the prophet Isaiah the vision and hope and promise of a Messiah. In chapter nine of Isaiah, God tells us of a wonderful event, “6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

Through this “passionate commitment”, God provides a son who not only embodies all of the character attributes of a king, counselor and prince but also that of a ruler who exercises fairness and justice. This prophecy was given to Isaiah 700 years before the birth of Jesus. Many waited so long for the coming of the Messiah. Many asked the same question, “Where is he? How long must we wait?”

Remember what Paul said to the Romans, “we must wait patiently and confidently.” That is part of the hope. We have something to look forward to and that the promise was given to us by God. God does not fail in keeping His promises. We can be confident in that, but we must patiently wait.

It is only through faith that we are able to patiently wait for the things that we have been promised. In Hebrews 11, the author tells us, “1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” We have a blessed assurance knowing, through our faith, that we have the guarantees of the wonderful promise given to us by God.

Think about it in these terms. When you buy an item, most things come with a warranty and a guarantee. The terms of those warranties and guarantees are very clear and precise. We often do not read the terms and conditions closely and only read them when something goes wrong or the product is defective in some way, form or fashion. Some manufacturers and retailers will find some way not to honor their written warranty or guarantee. They will find all sorts of reasons that they are not responsible for the defect and leave you with nothing.

God is not like that. He clearly states what we can expect and what we will receive. There are no questions and we can confidently and most assuredly know that what we hope for will happen. We have nothing to fear or worry about when it comes to the promises of God. We do not have to wonder if He will fulfill His word and give us what He has promised us. 

So, instead of concentrating on the things that we can see, we should, during this season of hope and miracles, focus our attention on those things that we cannot. It is through that action that our hope grows and so does our faith in the Lord. No matter what happens we have the assurance of God’s word and promise. We have the hope and faith to know that what awaits us is truly glorious and that promise came in the form of a small child born to us. 

When we possess that hope and faith in those things that are unseen, we can overcome the trials, troubles and tragedies of this life. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians chapter 4, “18 So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Hope gives us the ability to see beyond the constraints of this world and allows us to fix our eyes on the unseen. By fixing our gaze on those things that cannot be seen, we begin to see the wonder of the season and the miracle of Jesus’ birth. We do not concentrate on the pretty lights, presents and Christmas trees. We see Christmas in an entirely different light. It is a light that pierces the darkness of the world and provides us with a way to that eternal life that God promised us so long, long ago.

Jesus, in John 8, tells the people listening to his voice, “12 I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.
Think about the light. Remember a time when you had no lights in your home during a power failure. It is a scary situation. You stumble around in the dark trying desperately to find a flashlight or a candle. You are afraid that you might bump into a table and break a lamp or something of value. Once you turn on the flashlight or light the candle, there is a sudden feeling of safety and security that fills you. You are happy and you breathe easier knowing that you can move around in your home without bumping into something.

Christmas is always celebrated with lights of some sort. Electrical lights, candles or battery-operated candles are used to bring life into the darkness of a long winter’s night. The light of Jesus is the same way. That gift that we hoped for has come into the world and given us light. It is a light that shows us the way back to the Father and away from the darkness of a sinful world.

During this coming week, I ask you to examine your hope and faith. Are you focused on God or are you concentrating on the trappings of Christmas? Do you see the unseen gift and promise of God or are you looking into a stocking or gift box that may be filled with disappointment? Do you put your trust in God or into a piece of paper that warranties a product of this world?

Put your faith and hope squarely and completely in God and His word, once you do that you can easily see the unseen joy of the season and enjoy the wonderful gift provided to us in the form of a small child who can be so much more in your life. Once the light comes into your life, you can rest assured that you will stand firm in His grace and weather the trials, troubles and tragedies of this world.

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.
~ Numbers 6:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

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