Hold on to the hope you have in Jesus

February 25, 2018

Pastor Gunnar Ledermann

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5:1-11

Hope for change makes them very bold. When people see the possibility of a better future, they will hold on to anything that might get them there. For some, the hope for a better future even leads them to give up their lives. Such a strong description of people living in such difficult times, who see hope for a better future, who hold so firmly to their beliefs that they are willing to go against the grain, against the authorities and even give up their lives can only refer to one event…actually no, this description fits many events. In fact, movements like this have characterized human history.

Today, students are speaking out against gun laws, in just over a month we will remember the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. who died during the civil rights movement for equality, in November we will remember the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I when the great powers of the world faced off against one another hoping to end all wars, a few months ago in October we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in which people fought to return the gospel to the church and there are many more events we could recall that people were willing to die for based on the hope of a better future. Two things are true for all events like these, one, there will be more of them, and two, they all happen because we lost our relationship with God.

When we lost our relationship with God, our world fell apart. In the beginning, God created a paradise for his first people, Adam and Eve. They had everything they could ever want in life; food, water, shelter, good weather, companionship, love, purpose and peace. Then, the devil told them God had not given them everything and they believed him. The devil told them to eat from the one tree in God’s paradise God had told Adam and Eve not to eat from. They turned away from God, hoping that by eating the forbidden fruit they would find what God had hidden from them, but instead of finding more, they found that without God there is nothing. In other words, God had hidden nothing from them. Instead, their choice to disobey him cost Adam and Eve their lives. You and I will also die someday, but we don’t have to die without everything God wanted us to have. There is hope that our relationship with God can be restored. Today Paul encourages us from Romans 5 to Hold on to the Hope you have in Jesus.

Paul knew what it meant to lead one of these movements to make the world a better place. He was from the coastal city of Tarsus, a free city in the Roman Empire, giving Paul Roman citizenship, the best citizenship of the day. Tarsus was also a center for trade, commerce, culture and education giving Paul every advantage. Plus, Paul was a Jew and worked his way up to becoming a Pharisee, the prominent order of the Jewish religious leadership. Paul had a lot going for him, so becoming one of the leaders in a campaign to change the world was not out of his wheel house. Unfortunately, the movement he chose was committed to wiping out the memory of Jesus and anyone who believed he was the promised Savior of the Jews and the world.

Fortunately, Paul was not able to see this movement succeed and in fact switched sides. By God’s grace, Jesus appeared to Paul one day, while he was on the march to the city of Damascus to find and kill more Christians. Jesus told Paul he was the one he had been fighting against and to continue on to Damascus where he would get new marching orders. Once in Damascus, a man named Ananias found Paul and said,

“the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 9

In Damascus, Paul came to believe in Jesus, was baptized and later returned to Jerusalem where he met with Jesus’ disciples. As Paul grew in his faith, he couldn’t help sharing the good news of Jesus, but that also meant facing opposition from the very movement he had once defended. In Acts 9, we read that

he talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him.

After he came to faith, Paul soon realized that peace with Jesus, meant war with the world. In our lesson from Romans 5, Paul wrote,

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Paul had been lost in the world, fighting to rid the world of Jesus. Paul believed his religious crusade and strict adherence to the laws of the Pharisees would bring him God’s favor, but only Jesus could bring him peace with God.

Jesus is the only one who could bring the reconciliation between God and mankind. Reconciliation, put plainly, is fixing a broken relationship. The relationship with God that Adam and Eve lost in the beginning, could only be fixed through Jesus. Adam and Eve could not fix their relationship with God because they had nothing to offer him. Remember, God had given them everything, life, food, shelter, companionship, love, etc. then they threw it all away hoping to find something better by believing the devil’s lie. Mankind could not give God anything because he is the Creator and we are his creatures.

Any person who tries to fix their relationship with God is like a little boy who breaks the window in his room after his dad told him not to play with his baseball inside. The son feels bad for breaking the window and not listening to his dad, even though it seemed like his dad was being unfair to tell him only to play with his baseball outside, so the little boy gets his allowance together and offers it to his dad to fix the window. The dad understands the gesture is done out of guilt, hoping it will pay for the window and provide a reconciliation between him and his father, but his dad is disappointed that he didn’t listen, plus the allowance money is nowhere near enough for the window and the allowance money was his dad’s money in the first place.

And so, it was with Adam and Eve, they could not fix what they had lost with God, neither could Paul and neither can we, instead, Paul wrote,

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

Jesus came to save us when we were powerless having nothing to offer him for our sins. He came as both the Son of Man and the Son of God. He became one of us and was also better than all of us. Paul continued,

7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We were unlovable, but God’s love brought us Jesus who saved us.

Jesus saved us through his suffering, death and resurrection. Jesus suffered like all of us. He had to live in a world that no longer gets all the good things God intended for us to have. Instead, we have to make plans, work and sometimes even fight for the basic necessities of life like food, water, shelter and safety. Sometimes we go without things that now seem to be luxuries like companionship, love and peace. Jesus also died like all of us. He faced the pain of death, but unlike us, he had already seen what was on the other side. And unlike us, he was not afraid to face God’s judgment on the other side because he had done nothing wrong. Jesus did not deserve to die because he had not broken his relationship with God nor committed any sins. His life was then counted as a peace offering to God. He exchanged his good, innocent life as the perfect Son of God for all of us broken sinners. And his sacrifice was accepted, as Paul wrote,

we have now been justified by his blood…we are saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 …we were God’s enemies,

but our relationship with God was fixed through the death of his Son, and in addition to our fixed relationship that saves us from death, we are also saved through his life!

We hold on to Jesus as our only hope for eternal life with God in heaven, but not only for our future glory in heaven. Until we reach heaven, we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Suffering in the life of a Christian can take many forms. For Paul, it was easy to see what suffering he had to endure because of his faith. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul goes on for many verses about all he had to endure for his faith, here are some highlights,

“I have…been in prison more frequently…beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea…in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers…often gone without sleep…known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food…been cold and naked.”

I want to pray your life of suffering is not like Paul’s, but then again, Paul points out that suffering for our faith is good for a believer.

Paul wrote

we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

The English word ‘know’ in verse three comes from the Greek word οιδα. This is the Greek term for just knowing something, it’s instinctual, rather than knowledge that is learned from experience, which comes from the Greek work γνοσκω. Paul says that Christians will instinctually know that their suffering produces perseverance.

The suffering and perseverance Paul spoke of used two opposing Greek words. Sufferings is the word for things that push down and the word for perseverance is the word for pushing up. So, things that push against your faith give you the chance to push back. And after pushing back over and over, you build character. This English word ‘character’ comes from the Greek word δοκιμή, which was sometimes used as the word “coin.” Coins are precious metals that we give value to and those precious metals are made by mining ore out of the ground, then burning in intense flames or refining that ore until only the precious metal is left. Our sufferings then are the things in our lives that try to take away our faith and as we push back against them ridding them from our lives, we are left characterized as a person of faith. And finally, as people of faith, we have hope. Not hope that we can avoid suffering on earth, not faith in our strength to push back, not hope that we can be perfect in all we do this side of heaven but hope in Jesus.

5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Until Jesus comes back to take us home to heaven, two things are true. One, people will die hoping they can succeed in making this world better. Two, the only way to die in peace is with faith in Jesus. As you face suffering in your life Hold on to the Hope you have in Jesus and you will see better days in heaven. Amen.

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