Four Gifts of Christmas – HOPE

Pastor Dan – transcription:
Well as we said from the outset, here at Kirkmont we are in our Advent preaching series… a four week series addressing the topics of PEACE and JOY and HOPE and LOVE and we’ve addressed the topic of Peace a couple of weeks ago the topic of Joy last week and now we’re dressing the subject of HOPE this morning.

But we’re doing a little bit different, at least at the beginning of the message time …because what we’re doing is in order to light our candles here that we have on our Advent Wreath,  what I’ve decided to do is take my testimony, and if that’s of a term that’s unfamiliar to you… it’s my story about how I’ve come to faith in Jesus Christ.

I’ve divided into sort of four chapters, if you will, and and share a chapter each week and then light the candle pertaining to that subject.

So, a couple weeks ago I shared part of it and then we lit a candle and so on.

And so I want to recap for those of you who might be visiting with us  or you just skipped church for last couple of weeks for some reason (Laughter).

A couple weeks ago only we introduced a chapter one of my testimony; we talked about the subject of PEACE .  And it was sort of an ironic way because we ended it in a very un-peaceful time in my life.

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I shared with the group that I grew up in an UNCHURCHED HOME, and not a Christian home, in fact in many ways it was the opposite of of a churched home.

My father I learned, as I was getting older I became aware that he was abusive to my mother often when they would get in arguments with each other.

And then when I was in fifth grade, my life really sort of fell apart when I learned that my father had been abusive to my two older sisters as well.  But in a more private and secretive way if you will.

And so that sort of tore our family apart and my mom and sisters and I moved out of the house immediately… and then after my dad moved out, we moved back into our home.

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And then last week though we talked about the subject of JOY, and I was able to share, it was while I was in fifth grade;  and while my family was separated right in the midst of the darkest time of my life, that unbeknownst to me my mom had become a follower of Jesus Christ.

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And one evening we sat down together and she told me about Jesus Christ.  She told me that God created me to be in a relationship with Him; that my sin keeps me from being in a relationship with Him.  But that God loves me so much he sent his Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for my sin… and that by trusting in Him I could have a relationship with God once again.

By the time the night was over, my mother and I were kneeling beside each other and praying for me to accept Christ in my life; and my life has been very different since then… I knew then that something happened.

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But I also learned very quickly that being a follower of Christ doesn’t mean that God is going to make everything just right in your life.

And so my mom for obvious reasons kept my sisters from visiting my dad that year that they were separated.

But she misunderstood the abuse that existed… and so she continued to allow me to visit my father.

And it was during my parents’ separation and during one of the times that my mom let me visit my father that I experienced the same abuse that my two older sisters had experienced between my father and myself.

And it was one time, and it certainly wasn’t as severe as what they experienced, but as you can imagine it was still life altering, sort of life shattering for at least a period of time.

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Today we get to though light the candle of HOPE… because I went through that experience with a relationship with Jesus Christ… and it made it very different.

And not only that, but there was HOPE in my in my days ahead.

First it got a little bit darker if you will… about a year after they separated, my mom having not realized what happened to me because I was unwilling to share it with anyone, she eventually let my father back in the house. And so a year after she found out about my sisters’ abuse, she let him back in the home.

And so you can imagine my sisters and I were not very happy about that and it created a lot of tension and things in the household.  And so things were difficult and dark for several years.

And then this ray of hope sort of burst into our family life.

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My sister was invited on a date by a gentleman… and you know where he asked her out for their very first date?  But he asked her to go to church with him.

And my sister went to church.  And our family hadn’t been to church a years and years and years.  And I remember her calling up my mom and talking to her about it and saying. “I went to this church.  You’re not going to believe what I experienced; it is very different than anything I expected.”

And my mom eventually started going with her.  And then eventually my other sister and I started going.

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And see I had been a Christian for several years but I hadn’t been to church, I wasn’t going to Bible studies, no one was helping me in my faith or anything.

And I remember walking into this church and just experiencing the JOY and the fellowship of the church; and Pastor Rob was his name… and how God was using his messages to speak to me and to cultivate my relationship with Christ.

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And so there was incredible HOPE  in the midst of this darkness because God was redeeming our family.  He was redeeming our household.

And I learned early on that no matter what it is we go through.  We don’t need to resent it… we don’t need to regret it, because we serve a God who is capable of redeeming all those circumstances.

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So this morning it is a real privilege to be able to talk with you about HOPE … but I better light the candle first.

And yes I realize that I was supposed to light the other two candles before the service. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I get an “F” in my annual review around here for “Liturgy and tradition”.

But hopefully my testimony is helping you to graciously understand why.

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So I want to talk to you about HOPE.

As we talk about hope I want to talk to you about it in these three categories, as we put up this outline for you…sort of three questions if you will.

1. What is Biblical hope?
2. Where is it found? and
3. When can we have it?

What is Biblical hope?  Where is it found? And when can we have it?

First, what is Biblical  Hope?

You know when we think of hope we tend to think of it in terms of of chance or wishful thinking don’t we?  We think of hope in a sense of it’s like a chance or wishful thinking.

We think of it as a last Vegas term it’s gambling.  

  • “I really hope that the wheel stops on red and not black.”
  • “I really hope the total number of the dice is even and not odd”.
  • “The quarterback from my favorite football team has just thrown a Hail Mary pass as time expired.  I really hope that one of the receivers from our team catches the ball”.
  • “My favorite team has just launched a half court shot.  And I really hope that they make the basket”.

We think about in terms of wishful thinking as well:

  • “I really hope that the fifty percent off sale at my favorite store is still going on.”
  • And some of you really hoped that the boy that you liked would like you back.

We have a sense of hope as being nothing more than wishful thinking or chance.

And with this understanding of hope prevailing in our culture it’s no wonder then it’s not a very valuable thing.  “What’s the big deal about hope… it’s nothing more than wishful thinking or chance”.

It’s no surprise then that perhaps some of you, if you were honest, would say I’m not very excited about a message about HOPE.  I mean after all what does hope have to do with Jesus’ birth? What does Jesus’ birth have anything to do with hope?

I don’t need Jesus to have ‘chance’.  I don’t need Jesus to have “wishful thinking”… I can do those things_on_my_own.

But Biblical hope is far greater than what we think of it in the world.

Biblical hope has a far greater sense of certainty.  Let’s look at our first passage.  First Corinthians 13:13, under

“What is Biblical Hope?”

Now some of you if you’ve ever been to a wedding before you recognize this chapter is the ‘Luvvv Chapter’ in First Corinthians chapter thirteen… “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it’s not proud, it’s not rude, it’s not self-seeking… you want me to keep going…?  I was just…  anyways.  All right.  (we’re all smiling on top of a low congregation chuckle)

Transcriber Note: Pastor Dan is so “cute”… he has such an endearing way of relating to his congregation, so personal; sometimes it’s almost like you could have a conversation with him from the pulpit. The above paragraph ending is something that needs the audio to hear the volume, tone and inflection necessary to pick up the nuances in his adorable personality. Anyway (haha) you get the idea… “he’s not just another pretty face” and we love him.  

And so anyways, that’s the whole description at the very end of it.  Here’s what he says,

1 Corinthians 13:13
“And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love.  But the greatest of these is love.”

You know, I called this passage in because I was thinking… I want to I want to show you how the Bible elevates HOPE.

We might think of it not being a real big deal, as being just chance or wishful thinking, but here’s the Bible saying, “No, Biblical hope is being mentioned in light of “terms of faith and love… as one of the three things that remain: these three remain FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE.

In fact there’s a relationship between HOPE and the word FAITH.  If that’s the Love Chapter, there’s also a Faith Chapter in the Bible.  Does anybody remember where the faith chapter’s found?

The book of…  Hebrews… OK, look at Hebrews chapter eleven verse one.  The scripture begins by defining what faith is

Hebrews 11:1,
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

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You see the connection again between faith and hope.

And also you see these terms like being sure of something and certain of something.  I’m hoping you start to see that the Bible elevates what Biblical hope really is.

The Scripture goes on in Proverbs twenty four verse fourteen.  It tells us this.  And the entire book of Proverbs is just wisdom from God to you and I and he says this.

Proverbs 24:14,
“Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul.  If you find it.  There is a future hope for you and your hope will_not_be_cut_off.”

So here’s the Bible connecting the term HOPE to the idea of WISDOM.

You know we don’t think of HOPE necessarily as being a very wise thing… wishful thinking and chance?  I mean going to Vegas is that very wise?

But HOPE, Biblical hope, is connected to wisdom.

And then in the New Testament the Bible says this in Titus chapter one verses one through two says,

Titus 1:1-2
“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— a faith and a knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,”

Just leave that verse up there for a second.  The Scripture says.  The faith of God’s elect, and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. 

So before, Hope was connected to wisdom… and now we see HOPE being connected to knowledge, to Godliness.

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So, Biblical Hope is very different than chance… Biblical Hope is very different than wishful thinking.

 

I want you to think of Biblical hope and these terms.  These four “C’s”

Certainty that Christ will Change your Circumstances

Having the certainty that Christ will change your circumstances, is what I believe is a decent summary of Biblical HOPE. 

That doesn’t mean that Christ will change your circumstances the way that you want… right?  It doesn’t mean that that’s what God’s promise always is.

We shouldn’t be certain that Christ will always change the circumstances the way we want; if that’s the case we will be disappointed often.

We shouldn’t even be certain that Christ will change the circumstances WHEN we want… if that’s the case we might often be disappointed.

But we can have certainty that Christ will change our circumstances.  I believe that’s a great summary of what Biblical Hope is.

He might not always remove the battle, or the difficulty that’s in our life.  He might not even change the enemy that we’re up against.  But… he may equip you to get through the battle that you’re going through.

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But that’s a change of circumstance isn’t it? … if you’re fighting a battle and you have a knife and then God gives you a gun and says Go fight the same battle that’s a change of circumstance (Low rumbling Laughter).

He doesn’t always remove our battles.  He doesn’t always remove or change or enemy.  But he may give you what it takes to be equipped to go through the thing that you need to get through.  That’s a change of circumstance.

So I want to suggest to you that Biblical Hope is having certainty that Christ will change your circumstances.
DividingLine_829d5babc99647ff972ae861ed33ab77Now I just want to ask you from the outset this morning …  

Are you living with that kind of hope? 

I’m under no illusion that some of you aren’t going through very difficult times right now.  That some of you have relationships that are completely falling apart.  That some of you, this Christmas season is extremely stressful for you because of either family, or finances, or faith crises… whatever it might be.DividingLine_829d5babc99647ff972ae861ed33ab77And I just want to ask you… are you going through life with that kind of hope… or when you think of things being better… are you merely doing so with wishful thinking and chance?

  • “BOY be great if my marriage was better next year”.
  • “It be great if I finally got the career I wanted.

Are you just approaching those things with wishful thinking or chance?  Or do you have BIBLICAL HOPE…

Certainty that Christ can Change your Circumstances

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Well if Biblical Hope is intriguing to us, the natural question would be,

2. Where is Biblical Hope found?

Let’s look there at our second question.  Where is it found?

In the book of Romans Chapter fifteen verse thirteen …by the way, if you want to read one book in the whole Bible and you just sort of struggling with hope and you want to take this sermon and just apply it to your life this week and reinforce it.  Read the Book of Romans. 

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s leave that verse up there.

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So what we see from the very beginning, is that God is defined as being the God of Hope; and it ends with saying that we might have “hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

So I think the first place that we ought to realize that we find Biblical hope is through our relationship with God.

In particular here, it says the Holy Spirit.

For those of you were with us last week we looked at a book of the Bible, in Galatians chapter five… where we talk about the Fruits of the Spirit.  Meaning when we have God’s Spirit living inside of us it produces certain characteristics and we said “among those are things like peace, and joy, and goodness, and gentleness, and love, and self-control, and all these kinds of things.”

And I argued that HOPE was ‘probably’ included in the list as well because it’s not an exhaustive list.

But here we see specifically that HOPE is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit — it comes from God’s Spirit living inside of us.

You see the power is that when we transfer our trust from ourselves to Jesus Christ, what happens to our sin is it’s immediately removed, and God takes up residence inside of us through the power of the Holy Spirit.  And these things begin to come alive in our life:
HOPE
JOY
PEACE
PATIENCE
GENTLENESS
SELF-CONTROL… all of those things.

So if we want to find Biblical Hope,

a)  It is found in our relationship with God.

And specifically, Jesus Christ… that’s why we’re doing this for Advent.

In first Peter one, three it reminds us of that.

1 Peter 1:3
 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Friends our relationship with Jesus Christ, when we’re invited into relationship with him we’re invited into a living_Hope.

b) And then the Scriptures provide a source of hope for us as well.

In Romans fifteen verse four the Scripture says this,

Romans 15:4
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 

See we were meant to pick up the Scriptures — the very foundation of our relationship with God and read about people who have been in despairing situations like you and I have been or will go through.

We’re meant to read about them in the Bible and to see how God is sovereign in all of their circumstances; how he redeems them from the miry pit;  how he redeems them from all of life’s circumstances and brings them full circle and has a plan in their life.

We were meant to read the scripture and see how God has worked in people’s lives in the past… realizing he’s the same yesterday, today, and forever, and understand that’s the same God who works in our life today is well.

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And we have a better perspective than some of the people even in the Bible did… because the truth of the matter is that some of the people in the Bible they had despairing situations… and God redeemed them from them but they never lived to learn the point — they never lived long enough to get to see why God let them go through what he did.

There are some people who certainly experienced why God let them go through what he did in their lifetime, but many people don’t.

But when we read the Bible from our perspective we get to see how God redeems all of those circumstances.

And then finally we experience hope… where again is it found? Not only from our relationship with God, through the Scriptures, but then also through our sufferings.

c) We experience HOPE through our SUFFERINGS

Scripture tells us in Romans five, this is talking about Jesus,

Romans 5:2-4
through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

I always found it quite interesting that he begins down this road of saying, “Here’s how God redeems suffering in our lives — it produces all these things.”  He could have gone so many different directions.  This could have ended in so many different ways but it ends with HOPE.

The end result of suffering, He says is ultimately HOPE… and HOPE, not chance, not wishful thinking… but true Biblical hope does_not_disappoint_us…

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

DividingLine_829d5babc99647ff972ae861ed33ab77Friends are things that you can go through in your life today, that you might not have been able to go through ten years ago or twenty years ago.  And one of the reasons for that is because God has, through your suffering through your difficulties, He has matured you.

And one of the areas he’s matured you is in the area of HOPE.

You had to learn to have hope through a certain level of suffering and difficulties.  And now you’ve seen how God redeemed that situation and now you can have hope in even more difficult circumstances.

So one of the ways that we discover true Biblical HOPE is through suffering… 1) through our relationship with God, 2) through Scripture, and 3) through suffering.

So let me ask you this then…

Where are you looking for hope?

If these are the places that were supposed to find it,  where do we find it? … or least where do we look for it?

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What I think often happens as people get so fixated on the problem that they end up looking for hope in the problem.

They’re forgetting that that’s the problem not the solution.

Let me give you an example.

Let’s just say someone’s here this morning, and your marriage relationship is completely unfulfilling to you.  It’s unsatisfying…  your husband is not who you want him to be; your wife is not who you want her to be. 

And you have the sort of wishful thinking, this, this desire of course for things to be different, but, but to you it’s all wrapped up in the fact that they become someone else–be someone different. 

And so you start focusing on them.  And you’re hoping that they would become different

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And we get tunnel vision when it comes to our difficult times like this, and before long we realize that our hope is actually in the person. 

If they would just change then we would be better off.  But they’re not where our hope should liethey are the problem if you will. 

Our hope should be in Christ Jesus and in our relationship with him and in the truth of His Word. 

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The same could be with the stack of bills or the Health Report that you received whatever might be… we can get tunnel vision in locked in on the problem and it ends up being that our hope is actually in that … and it’s no wonder that a fails us. 

Our hope should be in our relationship with Christ

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Finally then…

3. When can we have HOPE?

What is difficult?  Where is it found?  and When can we have it?

You know I think the first thing the Bible teaches us is that we can have hope, true Biblical Hope in all of our life circumstances. 

You know in Romans 8:28 the Scripture tells us this… this is the first and only verse we’re going to use that doesn’t have the word HOPE in it, but I think you’ll find it applies; it says,

Romans 8:28
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who
 have been called according to his purpose.”

 So the Scripture is teaching us, that no matter what happens to us in our life, God has the ability of redeeming that, of the using it, working it for our good. 

That’s how sovereign God is… that’s how wise he is above all of our circumstances… whether he’s caused it to happen to you, or someone else has had it happen to you… either way he’s let it happen to you, but he say he can redeem it… He can make it for your good. 

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You know, as I think about my personal story of my personal testimony, this verse has come true, it’s become alive for me. 

You’ve heard about what happened to my mother, and what happened to my sisters, what happened to myself… and I can honestly say, now, that because this verse is real and it’s alive. .. that I don’t have any regret about what happened.  I don’t resent any of it. 

I don’t wish that God would have made things different in my family… because I’ve seen how he was able to take all of that, for the good. 

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Now… perhaps one exception is I guess… to be totally transparent and vulnerable with you… when I tell people about what happened to me… some people immediately just think well the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree… and I have sensed people be… skeptical of me, because of what happened to me as a child. 

And that’s bothersome I guess.

But beyond that… in general… I have seen more ministry opportunities arrive because of what God allowed to happen to me. 

Perhaps my testimony in the last few weeks have connected with some of you.  That wouldn’t be the case if God wouldn’t have allowed what happened to me to happen to me. 

I don’t regret or resent anything about my childhood because Romans eight has come alive in my life. 

DividingLine_829d5babc99647ff972ae861ed33ab77But I want to ask you … it’s not about me, I want to ask you… “Is there anything that has happened to you in your life, or that is happening right now… that you haven’t gotten to the point where you can say you know what God I don’t resent that… I don’t regret it… I’m at peace with what you allowed to happen because I know that you can work all things for the good.”
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If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us will probably find something that we still need to give over to God and say “God, will you graciously show me why you let this happen?”. 

And even if you don’t… that’s why FAITH and HOPE are connected… that you might say to God, “I have the faith to hope in you regardless.”

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And some might say to me well.  “Yeah pastor you know… that’s great all for circumstances like yours, but I mean let’s just ramp it up a notch. 

We preached a whole sermon series here called Kirkmont Cares where we exposed ourselves to the difficulties of the world.  We learned that:

  • there are ten million people in the world who don’t have access to safe drinking water. 
  • there are twenty five million people in the world who are victims of human trafficking. 
  • there are a hundred fifty million orphans in the world…

I mean come on what about them?  What about the mother who cries over her child, prays for healing, and and never gets it?  

Where is Christ changing their circumstance?

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We must end when it comes the subject of HOPE on this note: in First Corinthians fifteen, nineteen, the Scripture tells us this. 

1 Corinthians 15:19
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, then we are to be pitied more than all other people.

If the only source of our hope… if our hope is limited to and confined to the things that we can see in our life, the Bible says, “We are to be pitied more than all others”. 

If the most hopeful thing we can long for is something that this world has to offer us…  we’re to be pitied more than anyone because God has something so much greater in store for us.  

If we can only hope for the things that we can SEE and GRASP then we are to be pitied more than anyone, because God has so much more in store for us. 

I want to ask you as we close this morning then…

“Has something happened in your life that God is just simply not going to restore that circumstance… in this life?

Some if you have lost a loved one… a child… another family member, a spouse… and the despair of that loss is not going to be redeemed by God on this side of redemption.

You will live with it for the years to come.  But… your hope is not only in the things which are seen.  We have hope for that which is eternal for the place which God has in store for us for all of eternity. 

Some of you have reached a point in your health where there’s no going back.  You want us to pray for you and we will, but for all practical purposes you realize that your health is now declining, and it’s not going to get better…

that Christ is not going to change that circumstance here on Earth. 

Thanks be to God …because your hope doesn’t end with that which is SEEN… you have the hope of that which is UNSEEN … and the HOPE that which is ETERNAL as well.

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We invite our praise team to come forward as we sing our closing song together this morning.  Thank you for your patience and listening to me a little bit longer than normal this morning

Why don’t the rest of us pray as they get set up, and we’ll sing together.  

Let’s pray:

Gracious father.  We thank you for the truth of your Word as always. We come before you this morning and we ask that we might live with Biblical hope that comes from our relationship with you first and foremost. 

And we pray that, God…  by your grace and mercy You would show us how you’re capable of redeeming deeming all of our life circumstances…  perhaps either here now in this life, or at least give us the HOPE in the reminder of the promise of eternity.  We ask these things now in Christ’s name. 

Amen.

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Kirkmont Composite PicKirkmont Closing Pic Combo

  Link to Kirkmont Presbyterian Church Website
http://www.kirkmont.org/

Listen to recent sermons
http://www.kirkmont.org/listen-to-recent-sermons/

 

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