Tuesday, June 20, 2017

5 God's Heroes Have Hope

Introduction
            There is a wonderful hymn we like to sing at church that goes:

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness!
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name!
 
            These are great lyrics and it's a wonderful tune people love to sing, but I wonder if our attitudes and actions really live up to these beautiful sentiments.  I think they often do not.  Unfortunately, we put our hope in all the wrong things.  If we are honest, we would admit our actions sing a different tune.  Something like: 
 
My hope is in the game I play, my big high scores will make a way!
Or
My hope is in the girl I love! She makes me feel so high above!
My hope is in my cool boyfriend, he says his love will never end!
Or
My hope is my bank account! I have such a large amount!
Or
My hope is in the grade I make! I will succeed for goodness sake!
Or
My hope is in my the work I do!  It shows that I am worthy too!
Or
My hope is in the way I look! If people stare, then I am good!

            We must never forget, Our only hope is in Christ!!  God's heroes have heart, courage, power, wisdom and God’s Heroes Have Hope.  Jesus teaches that we can have hope because good things are coming.  Let's look at one of Jesus' most famous sermons, The Sermon on the Mount.  In it, Jesus teaches how we have hope, not despite the troubles we face, but because of them.  I want to read the passage and share some comments as we go through it together.

Matthew 4:23 – 5:12
23 Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 24 News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all. 25 Large crowds followed him wherever he went—people from Galilee, the Ten Towns, Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River.

·       The people of Jesus’ day were filled with despair.  Most lived impoverished, lives and struggled to make it through each day. In addition to these, many struggled with health problems (as we often do today, but without the benefit of modern healthcare).  Jesus fame as someone who could offer hope spread far and wide and people came to Jesus desperate for help.  It is often that our greatest hope is revealed when we realize we are in desperate need.
 
5 One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them.
·        Jesus decides to teach what real hope is.  The greatest hope comes not from the miraculous healings and feedings and exorcisms. The greatest hope is found in some unlikely blessings we call "beatitudes."  Beatitudes is just a fancy word that means "supreme blessings."  These supreme blessings or beatitudes are admired by people the world over--even by non-Christians.  Let's examine each beatitude very briefly, one by one.
“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,  
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.        
·       This is the key to understanding all of the beatitudes.  Each Beatitude trades current troubles for a future blessings, but it all starts with the idea of poverty.  Traditional translations render this poor in spirit, but I think the NLT makes it more clear (even if it is more wordy).  It's not talking about poverty in the sense of not having enough money.  What we are saying is those who realize how spiritually impoverished they are are blessed.  Do you realize how desperately you need?  Do you realize that without God you are absolutely lost?  I had a friend who served as a missionary for 3 years in a third world country where they didn't have adequate food safety and refrigeration.  It helped her realize that when she said the blessing for her food, she was literally asking God to bless it so it didn't kill her, but would nourish her.  Do you realize that we are the same?  Yes, we have adequate food safety and refrigeration in the USA.  However, all of that means noting unless God blesses the food to nourish us and not harm us.  We are blessed when we realize that we are utterly at the mercy of God.  It is the beginning of all other blessings.
God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
·       This is not about mounring for those who have died.  God blesses those who mourn for their sin.  Are you broken hearted for your sin?  Do you realize that all the evil that has occurred since Genesis is in part a result of your sin?  Does it break your heart to think of how you have wasted the beautiful gift of life God granted us?  If so, you are blessed, because it may lead you to the next blessing:
God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth.
·       When we realize our utter desperation for God's mercy and mourn for our sin, we are blessed when we humble ourself and repent.  This is what it means to become a Christian believer.   We fall down on our knees and humble ourselves before God and ask for mercy.  "Lord," we cry out, "Forgive me!  I have sinned against you!  And my sin and selfishness have damaged, destroyed, and brought evil into the world.  Forgive me!"  And those who truly repent like this in their heart will begin--with the help of the Holy Spirit--to live a righteous life.  And then a new blessing is available as verse 6 explains.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
    for they will be satisfied.
·       Once you are a Christian, you truly hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Now many may try to do good--even non-Christians.  But Christian righteousness is more than philanthropy.  It is hunger and thirst for righteousness that is deeper than the way we hunger and thirst for food.  It it is a hopeful yearning, because we know it will be fulfilled when God makes all things right in the end.
·       We often dream about heaven and what it will be like.  We like to dream of how wonderful it will be.  But what kind of reward will eternal life really be if you do not hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Maybe you are thinking heaven will be a place where all your selfish desires are finally fulfilled.  But if that is your deepest dream, you will be greatly disappointed.  Eternal life will be where God's plans for righteousness are completely fulfilled.  And then,all those who now hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied.  And those who hungered and thirsted for something else...  well, they just might find that heaven is a lot more like hell than they expected…
God blesses those who are merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
·       We are so thankful God forgives us our Great Sin.  Yet we also must remember what Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord's Prayer:  "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”  And we remember he also said those who refuse to forgive others will not be forgiven.  So we are blessed when we show mercy to others, for then we shall also receive mercy.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
    for they will see God.
·       Christ has saved us by his blood shed on the cross, but that's not the end of it.  Now we must grow towards perfection.  Christian perfection is something we strive for--not just in the afterlife, but--now!  Christian perfection doesn't mean we will never make a mistake.  However, as we enable the Holy Spirit to work with us and as we grow and mature in our faith, we hope to come to a place where every thing  we do is purely motivated by love.  And God blesses us to the degree that our actions are motivated by love.  For the more we love, the more we see God.
God blesses those who work for peace,
    for they will be called the children of God.
·       So often when we think of peace, we think just of everyone getting along.  Maybe, in our world, peace means everyone gets along because everything stays the way it is--the status quo.  But it most certainly is God's will to take things as they are right now and shake them up quite a bit in order to get us to a place where true peace is possible.  No, God's peace is not the status quo.  God’s peace equals inner peace, assurance, and resolve; it is an unshakable state that persistence within us despite the storms and trials and troubles that rage around us.  I think of the disciple named Stephen who was martyred in the 7th chapter of Acts.  He was at peace--even when the Jews stoned him to death for sharing his testimony about Jesus Christ.  As the stoned were crashing down upon him, he looked up and saw Jesus and in heaven and commended his spirit to him, even as he prayed for God to forgive his murderers.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
·      Jesus promises the more you are persecuted, the more blessed you will be.  When we truly follow Jesus with our whole heart, we will face resistance--perhaps even down right persecution.  If you are not facing any persecution, resistance, trouble, you may not really be living as a Christian or are not pushing hard enough.   Jesus said in John 16:33 – “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  If you are not having trouble, it may be that you are not pushing hard enough.
11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

Where Do You Find Hope?
            In superhero stories, the superhero always seems shows just when all is lost.  Perhaps a bus full of school children is about to fall off the bridge and then it falls, but at the last minute Superman catches it and flies it to safety.  You may feel like you’re about to fall off a bridge (or you are already falling).  Do you believe and are you certain Jesus will save you?
            Jesus gives us hope.  And the hope we have is more than wishful thinking; it is the assurance that Jesus Christ will save the day.  We sing a great hymn that reminds us of the certainty of our hope.  We sing:

 
O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home!
Under the shadow of thy throne, still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone, and our defense is sure

            God made the heavens and the earth.  When you look up at the night sky and see the stars, do you realize they are thousands of light-years away?  (In other words, it would take you thousands of years to travel to them if you could travel at 186,000 miles per second).  And there are morse stars in the sky than we can even count.  God made all of that and more!
            Has this incredible God not been our help in the past?  can you not think of ways He has helped you?  I you cannot, I can tell you that you would not even be able to read these words if it had not been for God.  He formed you in your mother's womb and put breathe in your lungs and sustained you all your life.  You are here today because of Him; every breath you take is a gift.  And my God gives you hope for the future through Jesus Christ.  Even the difficulties of life are turned into reasons for hope.   

Invitation
            I invite you to put your hope in Christ today.  Start by recognizing how spiritually poor you are and in desperate need of God's help through Jesus.  Mourn because of the ways you have turned your back on God and sinned.  And humble yourself before God.  Fall on your knees ask God to forgive you and save you.  And then cooperate with the Holy Spirit so that you may grow in Christ--seeking righteousness, offering mercy, living and serving with a pure heart, working for peace, and enduring whatever hardships come your way while always hoping in Christ Jesus our Lord.