Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Better Hope

“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.”

(Psalm 118:8-9 ESV)

In my last post, we looked at the beginning of 1 Peter, and were reminded about the true source of hope for the believer in Jesus. We found that, through the Lord, we have been born again to a living hope. And this hope is not only for the moment. It’s one the endures for eternity.

This is a great comfort. And the reminder found in the above verses ties right in with this. It’s better to trust in the Lord than in man. It’s better to take refuge in him than in princes.

This is a sin to which we are all prone. As we face difficulties in this world, we tend to place our hope in man. As we’re faced with domestic and international threats, it could be a particular leader or politician in whom we place our trust. We might place our trust in the military. As we’re faced with health struggles, it could be a doctor in whom we place our trust. As we face existential crises, we might put our trust in a particular teacher or religious leader. The examples are endless.

In the current political climate here in the United States, I think we are prone to putting our faith in a particular leader. As a friend and a fellow AFLC pastor, Jason Gudim, recently published: “Our nation’s obsession with political saviors and antichrists is doing much more harm than any single political figure – male or female – has done in America…We are now prone to placing our hopes on a specific and personal political messiah instead of taking the initiative to finding and contributing to a solution.

Many on the left looked to President Obama as their political Messiah. In the same way, many on the right now look to President Trump as the one who will set all things right. In many ways, we’ve become more focused on politics, we’ve placed our hope more in man, than the Lord.

Many have become fearful of a nuclear North Korea. And we must admit that this is a very real threat. One way in which I am guilty is that I’ve placed my trust in our military. I know that we have a military more powerful than any on earth. I know that we have technology that is far more advanced than that of this enemy. And, for this reason, I’ve felt comforted. I’ve believed that we are generally safe from the attacks of this enemy. I’ve done so rather than simply trusting in the Lord as my help and my salvation.

The Lord is the only one in whom we should trust. He alone is to be our refuge. Although he can use princes, and although he can use military might, it’s he alone who can provide for us salvation.

The question each of us must ponder is this: In what ways have we trusted in man rather than the Lord? In what ways have we trusted in princes rather than the Lord? We must then repent, ask the Lord to forgive us for Christ’s sake, and ask him to turn our hearts toward him and him alone.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Source of Our Hope

“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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

(1Peter 1:3-5 ESV)

Hope is essential in this life.  As we live in a world of sin, as we live in a world suffering the consequences of sin, we need hope. Without it, life suddenly feels futile. We swiftly begin feeling discouraged and desperate.

As we live our life in this world, we place our hope in various places. We place our hope in wealth and possessions. We place our hope in man, whether it be a loved one, a physician, or a political leader.  We place our hope in various religions and philosophical systems.

However, all of these sources of hope are only temporary.  They are fleeting and futile. Even if they sustain us in the short-term, they end up disappointing us. They disappoint us because none of them can deliver us from sin. None of them can deliver us from suffering and death.  None of them can truly save us.

This is where the gospel steps in.  Peter, in the above passage, tells us that God has caused us to be born again to a living hope. In other words, it’s not simply a passing wish. It’s not merely a temporary source of confidence. It’s something that is true and enduring. And he’s done this through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. 

His resurrection fills us with hope because it assures us that the penalty of our sin has truly been paid. It fills us with hope because it assures us that the power death has been defeated.  And, in this way, it enables us to confidently trust in the promises of God.

It fills us with the hope of an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. In other words, it’s eternal, and it isn’t stained or corrupted by sin. It’s the hope of a never-ending existence in the presence of God. It’s the hope of an existence free from death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).

It’s also secure.  It’s not something that can be taken from us.  It cannot be taken from us by man, or by the enemy of our souls. It cannot be taken because, as Peter tells us, it’s kept in heaven for us. It’s kept in heaven for we who are guarded by faith for salvation, which will be revealed in the last time.

The question that we must ask ourselves, as we’re continually confronted with sin and the suffering that flows from it, is this: What is the source of our hope? Are we continuing to place our hope in the temporary and the powerless?  Or are we placing our hope in the only true source of salvation?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Repeating the Mistakes of the Past

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

(Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

October 31st of this year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It was 500 years ago, on this day, that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. He did so to open up debate on some abuses that were taking place within the Catholic Church.

One of the main abuses he protested was the selling of indulgences. It was taught that, because of the faithfulness of the apostles and the saints, there was a storehouse of grace available to the people. And they were able to access this grace through the purchase of an indulgence.

The people paid money to receive an indulgence for themselves or for a loved one. And, in this way, it was taught that their time in purgatory would be lessened. A particular phrase, circulating at the time, provoked Luther. It said: “When the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”

As we read this today, it sounds like an interesting tidbit from history. However, it hardly seems applicable to us today. After all, most of us realize that the concept of purgatory is not found in the Bible. We’re also very familiar with the teaching of Scripture, seen above, which assures us that salvation is a free gift, a gift of grace, given to us by God.

We are not saved by the things that we do. And this is true not only of us. It’s true also of the apostles. This tells us that there is no storehouse of grace earned by them or by anyone that is available to us.

It also tells us that grace cannot be purchased. The only grace that is available to us is that which is received through faith in Christ. It is a gift of God, given to us. And, for this reason, we have no cause to boast in ourselves.

However, even though most of us possess this knowledge, we are often guilty of the same abuse protested by Luther. Even if we can explain the gospel accurately, we continue to think that we’ll be saved by our own actions. We tend to think that God’s grace is available to us by the things we do.

We sometimes think that we’ll be saved by the actions of others. Perhaps we realize that our actions are not enough. But we look to our parents, who were godly examples and who did all that they could to raise us in faith. We look to our grandmother, who’s prayed for us from the day we were born. And we think that, because of their faith, because of their efforts to pass the faith on to us, we’ll be saved.

We must understand, from the Word of God, that no one is good. We must understand that no one will be saved because of the things they have done. And, in the same way, we must understand that the efforts of others are unable to accomplish our salvation.

Salvation is found in Christ alone. We receive his salvation through grace alone. And we receive his grace through faith alone.