This last Sunday (Oct 16, 2016) I preached from Romans 8:18-39 on the subject of hope. (Interested in accessing the message? Click here and scroll down to the sermon from Oct 16, 2016.)
I'm a firm believer that hope can be on the distinguishing features of Christians (cf. 1 Peter 3:15), and so I loved the chance to spotlight what Christians are hoping FOR and who we're hoping IN. As we tally these things up, we see that knowing Jesus offers incomparable hope. This is why we can say, along with Paul: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).
Here's a summary of these points of my sermon (what Christians are hoping for, and who we're hoping in). Allow these to reinforce the incomparable hope knowing Jesus offers in your own life.
Incomparable hope: What WE're Hoping FOR
A lot of people THINK the ultimate Christian hope is some version of heaven where we’re sitting on clouds playing harps for eternity. But Paul shows us in Romans 8 that’s not it! Paul would agree with a lot of us that think that other version of hope sounds boring! We see instead that our hope is in a very physical, restored creation where everything is as it’s supposed to be! Our hope is so much BIGGER than what we often think!
Check it out in Romans 8:19-23:
19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
There's clear emphasis here on the renewal of all creation - the physical world. Four times in those short verses, Paul very clearly draws our attention to all of creation. That's how big our hope is!
And then as we keep reading into vv. 22-23, we see more and more that this hope for a renewed creation also means something for us as individuals. The words Paul is piling up to describe our future bodies are great - he uses words like freedom and glory and the redemption of our bodies! All of this language is Paul’s way of saying that a day is coming when our bodies won’t deteriorate with age or be plagued by sickness. Our bodies will BE strong and healthy, and they'll STAY strong and healthy!
Or a little further down in v. 29, Paul points us forward to the time when we’ll be fully conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. No longer will our desires be torn between doing what God wants and our own struggle with sin. We’ll love like Jesus loved and want the things He wants.
That's BIG hope!
INCOMPARABLE HOPE: Who WE'RE HOPING IN
And the thing that we cannot miss about this hope is that it’s not just some “cross your fingers” hope that’s just wishful thinking. We don’t have to worry that this hope is going to let us down. This incomparable hope is secure! And the reason we can know this so confidently is because of Who Paul shows us we’re hoping in.
Look closely at Romans 8, and you’ll see Paul talking about God the Father, about God the Son (Jesus Christ), and about God the Holy Spirit. Paul roots our hope in the triune God! There's a whole lot here (way more than I'll get to in this post), but let me just highlight three things briefly:
1. We find hope in the presence of the Holy Spirit
In Romans 8 we learn the Holy Spirit is given to us as a guarantee that God’s promises will be fulfilled. The language Paul uses in v. 23 is the Spirit is the “first fruits” - anyone who farms or who grew up on a farm knows that the first fruits are the first samples you get of whatever crop you planted. You know more is coming! In the same way, everything the Spirit does for us now - changing us from the inside out and giving us assurance of God’s great love for us and everything else - that’s all a great glimpse of even more to come!
The Spirit also comes alongside of us in our helplessness. I love that Romans 8 mentions this, because even while we struggle to maintain hope, there are also times we feel so helpless. But the Spirit doesn’t abandon us when we feel helpless! Look at how he comes alongside of us in vv. 26-27: "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God."
The Spirit helps you when you feel helpless - that’s the God we have hope in!
2. We find hope in the plan of God the Father
God’s plan is all over this passage, but the place I’m going to focus our attention this morning is on vv. 31-32: "...If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?"
We see here that we can have such strong hope in the future God has planned for us because of what He’s already done for us in the past - sending His Son and giving Him up for us all! If God has done that, we know He’s going to see things through to the end! That’s hope!
3. We find hope in the love of Jesus
The end of Romans 8 is one of the greatest passages in the Bible highlighting the strength of Jesus’ love for us. Let these first sink in as you read them:
Romans 8:35, 37-39: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ....No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
This passages crushes any questions we may have about the strength of Jesus’ love to hold on to us and see us through to the end. Nothing can separate us from this love that has already been shown to us, in Jesus coming to earth and dying for us on the cross!
Remember what everything we’re talking about here points to: We have hope in what God says because we can trust who God is!
When we put all this together, then, we see that as followers of Jesus Christ, we have so much to hope for. And as followers of Jesus Christ, we have so much to hope in! What we’ve seen is true: Knowing Jesus offers incomparable hope.
Interested in more? Check out the full sermon by clicking here, and then scrolling through to find the message I preached on October 16, 2016.
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