Actively bringing about much needed change in our communities and hope to the broken and disheartened.
Well folks, my pastor officially retired from my church March 27th and since then I’ve been the primary source of “pulpit supply.” It’s pretty bizzarre how God has done all this in and through me over the last month, but so far I’ve survived…and maybe even more than that…I’ve grown.
This sermon was the beginning of a series on HOPE, which we just ended this past week. I anticipate getting all 3 of the sermons I preached (one was preached by a missionary friend of mine) up on the blog at some point. I also anticipate getting the audio of each of the churches sermons over the next five or so months up on iTunes over the next couple of weeks. So STAY TUNED. Literally and figuratively.
Please keep in mind that this is a very rough sketch of the 47 minute sermon that was actually preached on Sunday, April 3. This is basically my notes and a few minor thoughts. For a full appreciation, look for the audio to come out soon…ish.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.”
As a church body, Baldwinsville Alliance (otherwise noted as BAC) is in a season of transition. When you transition it is easy to lose focus and direction and so it’s important to get back to the basics. To find your roots and get “re-grounded” so to speak.
God has recently been challenging me to use my brain to analyze and think about what my faith is all about – what my hope is in.
Often times in transition we lose hope:
1. We lose hope for the future
2. We lose hope for the present
3. We can lose hope in each other
4. We can lose hope in God
So it’s important to talk about holding on to hope during this time – but today I would like to talk about a hope in something that trumps all other hope. It’s a hope that I have lost sight of and am now on a journey to rediscover…
It’s the hope that Hebrews 11 is talking about:
“Faith is being sure of what we hope for…”
What do we hope for?
If I were to ask each of you to answer this question individually I bet I would get a bunch of different answers.
But, aren’t we all supposed to be on the same page? Shouldn’t we all have the same answer? Shouldn’t it be really clear EXACTLY what our hope is in?
You see, I get so caught up in trying to live my life like I think God wants me to that I ultimately have forgotten what and who I’m living for.
Do I feel like I was hopeless at some point in my life?
I mean, really hopeless?
or do I just say that I was hopeless because I know that’s what the Bible tells me?
“I was dead in sin.”
There is a difference between being hopeless in the moment and then being offered a hope in that state of hopelessness
Being on this side of faith (already a Christian) and retrospectively seeing hopelessness
When you’re hopeless and all of a sudden you are given hope it changes you. Dramatically.
It changes the way you think, live, act.
When you don’t really see yourself as hopeless BEFORE Christ, and you are then looking on your life as hopeless retrospectively, then all you are doing is comprehending hopelessness with a head knowledge, not feeling the hopelessness in your heart.
When you grow up like me, in the faith, and you believe in Christ in other of family values or you heard a “Turn or Burn” message, you never really saw yourself as all that hopeless. It was more of a process that came later, when someone had to tell you that you were hopeless.
So the hope that you are told that you have isn’t really all that transformational anymore.
Maybe you try to sin less.
Maybe you give more.
Maybe you become a nicer person.
But is all of that really TRANSFORMATION?
Is your faith really built on HOPE?
So I ask again, what do you hope for?
Many of you would say that your hope is in an eternity in heaven with God and Jesus.
I would challenge that thinking.
Did Jesus go around preaching that message? Was his “good news” that we could all stop worrying about life after death because our hope is that we can now spend forever in heaven?
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…”
I don’t see that message here. A message of “hope for the afterlife” is really not a message of hope at all.
“Don’t worry, it’ll all get better when you die…that is…if you’re a Christian.”
Is that really the message Jesus brought?
“I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.”
That’s about hope for LIFE.
Right here. Right now.
I recently wrote a review of “Love Wins” on my blog. I won’t spend any time talking about the review itself, only what I learned subsequently from it.
In my blog I asked my readers to think about some of the fundamental doctrines of faith – primarily those on Hell and Salvation. I asked my readers to analyze and consider a different view on these topics than what is normally accepted as orthodox in hopes that they might ultimately come to fuller understanding of their stance on these subjects.
The results hit me hard.
I had some people comment on the post with some firm and strong words. These folks clearly did some thinking about the topic and their responses all came to the conclusion that:
1. Hell is an eternal conscious torture.
2. Heaven is only gained by belief in Jesus
I don’t think anyone would argue against those points, nor would I disagree with those views. But my problem then becomes this:
If we really believe what we say there, how are we doing almost nothing (or perhaps nothing at all) about it?
Billions of people will die and have died without Christ. If you believe those two statements above, then you believe that 5/6 of the world’s population will spend an eternity in Hell.
Does that bother you?
How come each of us don’t have 100 friends and neighbors here with us today because they’ve accepted Christ due to our witness to them?
How could we justify going ONE HOUR without telling someone about this eternal torture they are facing if they don’t turn to Christ?
I’ll tell you why we don’t:
We’ve bought into a Turn or Burn gospel. There is no hope in the Turn or Burn gospel. Let me give you an example:
I had a 13 year old boy ask me: “Am I going to hell?”
According to my belief system, yes he is. So I told him bluntly, that “Yes, I believe you are.”
He asked: “Well how do I not go to hell?”
I replied: “You have to believe in Jesus.”
He responded: “Well I believe in Jesus.”
I said: “Well, it’s not just believing and then living the same life. You have to change. You have to become a real disciple.
That conversation is not uncommon when we witness to people. This is common thinking among Christians today.
But last time I checked, the Bible said that “we are saved by grace and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – NOT FROM WORKS.” (Eph 2:8)
Yet we tell people that they need to do some stuff to receive that grace:
Become a TRUE follower
Change your life
The reason we don’t feel any urgency to tell people about Christ is twofold:
1. Turn or Burn offers a “golden ticket” to a heaven up in the sky. Once you have that ticket, you only think about yourself and your eternity. If someone else can find it too – that’s great for them. But YOU are taken care of.
2. There is no hope in that message – and the “good news” – the “hope for the world” is lost.
Hope doesn’t transform us with Turn or Burn
We see hopelessness retrospectively
“That was before I had my ticket to heaven…”
If we are going to have a true impact for the kingdom of God as a Church, we need to regain our hope.
We need to understand that Jesus came to spread a REAL, TANGIBLE HOPE to the world that has it’s impact the lives of people while they are living HERE AND NOW.
Over the next 3 weeks we will be exploring this subject of hope and how this hope TRANSFORMS the world.
We will be hearing from Todd Bush, a missionary to Mozambique through Children’s Relief International about how the Hope of Christ is impacting the world, both in India and in Mozambique.
People’s lives are literally being transformed on a daily basis.
They become completely changed by hope.
Jesus came to establish the Kingdom of God on earth and it’s a hope that this broken world will be redeemed. That God’s will shall be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Todd will tell us first hand accounts of how this hope has changed lives and how God is working globally to spread hope to the hopeless.
The following week we will hear from Kristen Hoffman, Young Life Area Director for Syracuse North. She is going to talk about how YL is bringing hope to high school students around the country, and right here in Baldwinsville. She is going to talk about how hope has changed her life, and how hope is transforming the lives of HS students right here. I will give a short message on “Realizing Hope” after her testimony.
On Resurrection Sunday we will talk about the hope we have in the Resurrection and the hope we have for the future. We will talk about how that hope impacts us moving forward on a daily basis.
This is a journey. It’s not meant to be a one and done deal where we all of a sudden comprehend how great hope really is.
But this is an invitation to evaluate your life, your faith, and what you hope for.
By the end my prayer for you is that you will regain your sense of hope and that together we can joyfully share this hope will the world.